How to Attract and Hire This Year’s College Grads

The race for Gen Z talent has definitely commenced.

Defined as those born anytime from the late 1990s to early 2000s, this cohort (also known as the iGen or post-Millennials) is either graduating from college this month or they’re just a few years away.

This is the first time in post-Industrial Revolution history that we’ll have five generations in the workplace: Silents (some of whom still haven’t retired), Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. So it makes sense that there’s been lots of discussion around the generational differences in the workplace. (See Dice’s recent article on the differences between recruiting Gen Z vs. Millennials.)

This particular article is a roadmap to what these new college grads want from companies, and methods you can use to attract them. But we do need a standard caveat up front: It’s impossible to generalize about millions of people. While some members of Gen Z may resemble Baby Boomer attitudes, we’re speaking to the average here.

So with that said, let’s start by addressing the big elephant in the room: 

Your Social Media Recruiting Budget

The social breakdown for Gen Z is typically:

  • Facebook: No
  • LinkedIn: No
  • Twitter: Somewhat
  • Instagram: Yes
  • Snapchat: Yes
  • Pinterest: Yes (heavily female)

The problem on the recruiting side for Gen Z is that many organizations have talent acquisition time and resources pointed at Facebook and LinkedIn, but those channels aren’t going to get you much with Gen Z.

You need to reach them with Snapchat and Instagram, such as McDonald’s did with Snaplications. (The company just brought back Snaplications in late 2017.)

How do you get more budget for Snap or Instagram SMM (social media marketing)? Ideally, you need to prove why it matters. That means you need real data on:

  • Amount of recruitment marketing done on those platforms.
  • Engagement rates.
  • ROI (direct applications from links in profile, etc.).
  • Broader industry data on how competitors are successfully using Snap and Instagram.
  • A 3-, 6-, and 12-month plan to share with your current social media marketing team and talent acquisition decision-makers.

No one wants to spend money in areas without impact. Most marketing budgets in midsize to enterprise companies are currently targeted at Facebook, and with logical reason: that social network’s reach exceeds anything else. But in recruiting Gen Z, Facebook won’t have the largest impact; if you can show the numbers to decision-makers, you can get spend to move away from that platform and toward Instagram.

Once You’ve Got That budget, Start Early

According to a Universum study of nearly 50,000 high school graduates, Gen Z is thinking about entering the workforce now. Around 47 percent said they would consider a job right out of high school, and 60 percent said they would welcome offers from employers that provide education in lieu of a college degree (more on this in a second). The takeaway: Today is the day to build out your post-Millennial recruitment strategy.

Community, Niche Job Boards and the Résumé Black Hole

Gen Z is the first generation that had full-scale tech access from the time they were in the womb. They are generally going to get it. They know how to find what they need online.

The same goes for job boards. If they see big players such as LinkedIn and Indeed as impersonal résumé black holes (which they are to many applicants), they will find another way to connect with the company, which ultimately will be content.

Just as traditional marketing practices have been pushed aside, so too will traditional recruitment activities. The theme here is that your candidates want to learn—and it’s your job to provide them with the opportunity to do so.

Your next-step: Study the STEM programs of Ford and the content plays of Etsy, Whole Foods and REI. All of these have married employer, consumer and recruitment brands into one easy-to-love digestible media site.

Rotational Programs, Competitions and Training

At our HRTX DC event, we hosted a panel on new approaches to university recruiting. A TA professional from AKQA talked about the “Future Lions” program, which is a global student competition to attract the best talent possible. The winners receive an offer to any AKQA office in the world and an apartment for a year.

Most companies admittedly cannot do this on the same scale as AKQA, but there is potential for local hackathons or problem-solving competitions (i.e., case study competitions) to draw out some of the best talent in your area, including from local colleges.

Let’s look at learning. Some Gen Z are going to consider trading conventional higher education (i.e., college) for on-the-job training. In fact, at our HRTX event in Atlanta, recruiters from Home Depot were telling us they see this regularly. They’re increasingly interviewing 21-year-olds with “insane Excel skills” (a quote from one of the recruiters) but no official higher education background that a recruiter would normally gravitate towards. Maybe it’s worth creating an incubation-style program for 17-to-20-year-olds where you drill crucial workplace skills by function and take the best of the best into full-time roles?

Another idea from Home Depot: implement rotational programs. Both Home Depot and Georgia Pacific have done just that because they understand that their new recruits have an attention span of about seven months. Both are seeing that active movement in the organization, learning and meaningful projects have taken precedence over other perks.

Focus on the Individual, Intentionalize Diversity and Drive Growth

The idea is simple: You don’t recruit to the masses. You recruit to the one if you’re doing it right. Understand what that candidate needs, assuming you think they can bring you something in return. Most people, regardless of age, want the same factors from a job:

  • The opportunity to work on projects of interest.
  • Compensation they perceive as fair.

If you’ve got a focus on true 1:1 recruiting and you’re providing these three things, you can capture a new college grad just as easily as a Millennial. Also consider how the organization can intentionalize diversity to drive the points listed above. Skip the metrics and recruit based on skill.

Value Communication

The candidate black hole really needed to end two generations ago, but for sure it needs to end now. Move swiftly in your communications, positive or negative, and you’ll see that trust will be built. Understand that the new college grad you just pushed off will be interviewed by another company and will for sure be surveyed by their university on their recent interviewing experience. Don’t get caught on the naughty list, or you’ll find yourself lacking the ability to recruit from certain universities and colleges.

Respect the Attention Span

Attention span is declining from somewhere around the Millennial’s 11 seconds to Generation Z’s 8. So tailor your outreach and employment marketing efforts to videos, pictures and stories that can be consumed in the span of, you guessed it, a snap. (Notice the two sentences on this topic.)

Listen to Entrepreneurial Ideas

They grew up seeing people such as Mark Zuckerberg make billions off a relatively simple idea, so if they’re going to go the corporate route, they want to know they can iterate and experiment. Address this (and make sure they feel heard), especially during the recruitment process.

What else have you seen work around Gen Z talent acquisition? Let us know!

Ryan Leary helps create the processes, ideas and innovation that drives RecruitingDaily. He’s RecruitingDaily’s in-house expert for anything related to sourcing, tools or technology. A lead generation and brand buzz building machine, he has built superior funnel systems for some of the industry’s top HR Tech and Recruitment brands. He is a veteran of the online community and a partner at RecruitingDaily.

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