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How to attract Gen Z talent

We look at how companies can make themselves an appealing employer to Gen Z

By Miriam Partington in Berlin

Gen Zers are highly coveted in the tech talent market, as they’re hungry, energetic, curious, willing to learn — and bring fresh perspectives to fast-growing companies. Companies looking to hire them need to learn how to communicate with Gen Z and understand what they value in a working environment. 

In our Startup Life newsletter we asked Thomas Kohler, founder of talent acquisition management company pplwise — who has helped companies such as emobility provider Tier and digital tax accountant TaxFix hire Gen Z tech talent — to hear his top tips for attracting this age group. 

Stand for something

Gen Z are not a homogenous group, but research shows that the majority of this generation want to work for companies that care about sustainability and social impact — and they too want to feel like they’re making a difference.

Make sure your company has a compelling mission statement that shows intent to do good in the world, and highlight any activities you do for good causes: whether it’s contributing to charities or organising volunteering days at the local homeless shelter. Gen Z has a strong sense of social responsibility and enjoys collaboration — so whatever “impact” work you’re doing, they’ll want to know about it. 

In job descriptions, highlight the impact of the role

Instead of writing a traditional job description, which describes a rigid set of tasks or responsibilities for the role, focus on the outcomes and impact of the role. In other words, how will this particular role contribute to the company’s overall execution of its mission?

Tier’s currently hiring a product designer, and the job spec describes how the candidate will help the team of designers accelerate the company’s growth through product iteration and experimentation. It also shows how the product designer will work with the product, research and data teams to better understand the market and customers — so the candidate can see how the role fits into the wider organisation. 

Offer long-term compensation

It goes without saying that paying a competitive market rate is essential for attracting talent. But Gen Zers are typically looking for more than just cash up front. Many want to be involved in building up a company’s success and being compensated for that later down the line — instead of working hard to hit short-term targets and receiving annual bonuses. Offering long-term incentives — for example, stock options, or long-term cash incentives (non-equity based) — can help entice Gen Z candidates in, but it also ensures they stick around. 

Showcase career development opportunities

Demonstrate to candidates that you have a clear framework which shows level by level how they can develop in the organisation — and what they have to do to rise up the ranks. One of the best career frameworks I saw was in the operations function at Uber. Each role had 18 different stages (from entry level to VP level) and for each stage, a list of key competencies and skills required for the role was given. They also included how performance would be assessed and how they would offer feedback.

Clear progression frameworks are particularly key to retaining young talent: without them, employees can get frustrated with the lack of focus on their development and drop out of the organisation. In Uber’s case, the company has been known for being an aggressive environment to work in, but employees tend to stay there for up to four years sometimes because they have a clear path to seniority. 

Recruit based on values

Having part of your recruitment process dedicated to an assessment of values can be effective for capturing Gen Z’s attention. Gen Zs want to be assessed on more than just their CV — and are keen to work for organisations whose principles align with their own.

Decide before you advertise for a role what values or qualities you are looking for in a candidate. At Tier, they look for an entrepreneurial, “get things done” mentality — as well as empathy and a collaborative attitude. HR tech Personio also has a stage in its interview process where it assesses candidates based on its values such as customer empathy, transparency and collaborative spirit, which are listed on its website.

Recruiting based on values makes the whole process feel like a two-way street as both employer and candidate assess each other for cultural fit. It can also help to streamline the interviewing process — you can score candidates based on how many of the desired attributes they have and then decline the applicants early on that don’t fit the criteria. 

On the subject of … hiring Gen Z talent

💨 Speed is key. You won’t win the hearts of Gen Z with a long, drawn-out recruitment process. 60% of Gen Z say the job application alone should take less than 15 minutes. 

🤔 What motivates Gen Z? They want to know that your company cares about the environment, is digitally savvy and has a good social media presence — and that it offers good development opportunities.If these are things your company possesses, make sure to stress them in interviews.

🧠 Don’t skimp on mental health support. Gen Z may have been weaned on technology, but they still require real  human connection. To keep your Gen Z employees, put mental health front and centre, support them with coaching and make onboarding a community building exercise.

🫥 Consider transparent salaries. It’s becoming one of the “easiest ways” to attract Gen Z talent, some say. Gen Z wants to work for fair and diverse companies that reflect their values — and they want transparency from organisations to prove it. 

👂 Listen to their needs. Asana’s recent report investigates what Gen Z needs from their leaders right now, after years of pandemic, isolation and the upheaval of the professional working world.

Miriam Partington is Sifted’s DACH correspondent. She also covers future of work, coauthors Sifted’s Startup Life newsletter and tweets from @mparts_

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