Talent Acquisition

How to Recruit Gen Z Through Employer Branding

Marketers are changing their focus from Gen Y (aka Millennials) to Gen Z—anyone born around 1995 or later. In addition to marketers, recruiting professionals are also shifting towards Gen Z, all those college students who are about to graduate in the next five years. But how to recruit Gen Z?

Even more, how can employers market their brand to effectively recruit Gen Z?

Karen Paginton, specialist in recruiting Gen Z in the UK, reveals some very helpful talking points. During a recent conversation with Karen Paginton, she shared those talking points to me. As a millennial, I’m only one generation away from Gen Z, so I can relate to them a little more than my Gen X predecessors. No on has the golden ticket, but Paginton, who’s recruited for KPMG and BP, offered to me her top three pieces of advice for recruiting from Gen Z.

She advised employers to:

  1. Know your market
  2. Utilize authentic storytelling
  3. Be innovative and utilize tech effectively

My primary takeaway from the conversation? Employers need to move from a generalized approach to a personalized approach to recruiting those in Gen Z.

Q: What’s the greatest challenge in recruiting college students right now?

Karen Paginton: “It’s about trying to connect with the best candidates early. As an organization you really need to move your activity from a generalized approach to a much more personalized approach. So it’s really about talent spotting and connecting with the best talent.

“Pushing content out through authentic storytelling and really building a talent pool of strong candidates that you can connect with and start to have a conversation with that will lead you to hiring that very strong talent.

Q: How do you authentically tell your company story?

KP: “It’s blogs; it’s social media. It’s about allowing the students to see themselves in the organization. So definitely use Instagram. Particularly for Gen Z, they use it all the time; it’s the way that they communicate. It’s where their important conversations exist.

“If you’re an intern, you’re posting pictures of yourself being with a client, networking with other interns, perhaps going to a dinner or at a learning event —I think those things really resonate and really help that content to feel real.”

Q: How do you differentiate between Gen Y and Gen Z?

KP: “Gen Z is anybody born around 2000. Those people who will be coming up to just finishing school, hitting the workforce in the next five years. Gen Y are those people who are already in the workforce— anybody under 35. I think there’s a difference between the way those people think and the way they interact with organizations and their experience.

“There’s been more research about Gen Z being more about that balanced approach and much more about wanting to engage with communities, authenticity with the brand, and about giving back, money is less important than career development and community engagement.

Q: What are your top three pieces of advice for recruiting college students for entry level positions?

KP: “The first thing I would say is know your market. Where are the people that you want to recruit. You have to be very targeted; you can’t just say I’m going to XYZ university and you can’t use the same approach at all those universities. You have to make it personalized. That’s difficult when you might be recruiting a lot of people, but I truly believe that’s what makes a successful entry level talent strategy.

“The other is authentic storytelling. Know who your role models are; identify your social media champions; use a blended approach. Really think about the messages you’re trying to get across and what you’re saying and how that will resonate with the audience you are trying to reach. Gen z uses social media as a means of social validation and inclusion but want to differentiate themselves professionally.

“I suppose, lastly, it would be be bold and innovative and embrace new tech to help you engage with the right candidates and provide an outstanding candidate experience. Using social networks such as Bright Networks (in the UK) or utilising apps that are just starting to make an impact in this space are going to make a difference and will be the future of student recruiting.”

Q: When you’re reaching out to college students, what’s the next step after you have initial contact?

KP: “Email them, invite them to come to an on campus event, on on campus dinner,  connect them with a senior leader in the organization, where they could start to have a conversation, and start to build that relationship. We might drive them to an event such as a skills session and provide some coaching.

“One of the issues that organisations are starting to face is that people don’t react very well to emails. One way messaging gets taken out in the noise of social media and is ineffective. Students  don’t necessarily want to interact with an email from an employer. Pushing content out via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and face-to-face through the use of alumni and student brand ambassadors is more effective.

“In the UK there have been some new products coming onto the market, particularly in the last few months. There’s been a job matching app, which is about connecting employers and students, and that’s really about gamification and content around games to connect students and employers. I think that’s really exciting and I think that resonates well with Gen Z.”

A last word

“Student recruiting’s been done the same way for 20 years. The people that we’re recruiting are changing. They’re interacting in a very, very different way. They want a personalized, authentic candidate experience. They want to engage with an organisation and its values and see themselves reflected in the talent pool of an organisation.

“Something has to change. It’s been done the same way for a very long time data enables organizations to  know more about their audience, technology is changing—you have to embrace that, because that’s what this audience embraces. If you don’t do that, you’re going to be kind of left behind and you will not be able to hire the right talent for your organisation to drive innovation and profitability.”

Here’s one practical takeaway that companies can implement when branding themselves specifically to Gen Z: Find stories of employees in your company (start with one), and tell those stories in an authentic way. How? Don’t leave out some of the “bad” parts; tell the good parts of the story and the parts that show a little dirt too. Gen Z wants to know you’re real; it builds trust.

Then, tell those stories through a blog, a tweet, and even an Instagram pic. If you’re curious about social storying in particular, check out how Humans of New York tells stories through pictures and words; they’ve nailed it. Instead of a city to brand, you’ve got a company to brand, so get going and build momentum toward recruiting the next generation by speaking their language.

[Top Image Credit:  Shutterstock]

By Chad Harrington

Chad Harrington is the Content Director for Relode, the human-powered job posting with the affordability of a job posting and the precision of a headhunter, for whom he writes about hiring. Contact him through email: chad [at] relode [dot] com.