What Generation Z Expects from the Candidate Experience

Generation Z is moving into the workforce, causing more disruption in the job market. They’ve arrived during record-low unemployment and when the search for talent at all levels is extremely competitive.

These workers, the oldest of whom were born in the mid-1990s, may be the first digital natives your company hires, and the role of technology during their candidate experience will be crucial. It’s also something that many employers get wrong.

“When thinking about what Gen Z expects from the candidate experience, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘not much,’ ” says Kendall Hill, co-founder of Job Society. “I know that sounds kind of odd because we’re told that they hope for a lot and expect a lot. But what they’ve experienced so far is telling them to set their bar very low.”

The impersonal reality that these candidates are facing is the opposite of what they’re asking for when it comes to applying for open positions.

Struggling with Application Tech

One chief concern is the overabundance of automation in the application process. A reliance on keyword filters, extensive lists of requirements and other elements that treat applicants like a checklist are making the process feel unwelcoming.

“We see this across generations, from boomers to Gen Z candidates,” says Stephanie Ranno, director of enterprise business development at TorchLight Hire. “When you’re applying online using an applicant tracking system or going through an aggregator, it’s easy to apply to massive amounts of jobs and even easier to hear nothing back.”

Unfortunately, some of Generation Z’s tech expectations can compound this concern. This generation mostly grew up with a smartphone or tablet in their hands, so they expect the application process and the candidate experience will be mobile-friendly.

Looking for Connection and Confirmation

As with applicants from previous generations, members of Generation Z are hoping to hear from a live human within the first few steps of an application. As the process drags on to multiple rounds of emails — or recent trends like having candidates record a video of themselves answering interview questions — Gen Z candidates can get frustrated and drop out of the running for that position.

“I’ve talked with candidates who have applied to more than 100 jobs in a few weeks, but they only hear back from two. The fact that they’re excited just to get an auto-response is telling of how employers are treating job seekers,” Hill says.

This desire for personal interaction speaks to the values that members of Gen Z hold and of what they want from an employer.

“They want to believe in your company’s mission and find the work meaningful,” Ranno says. “More than catered lunches and more than foosball tables, Gen Z is asking ‘What do I get as a person and how will I receive it from my employer?’ ”

Interviewing You Too

In past tight job markets, recruiters and staffing agencies were often able to place candidates sight-unseen. Companies needed help and candidates were just happy to have found work. While the market is hot today, Gen Z candidates are pushing back against this trend.

“They’re not willing to take just any position, even temporary assignments, without having a vote and evaluating the company just as much as the company is evaluating them,” Hill says. “They don’t want to be treated like a commodity.”

That shift is found across demographics and is viewed as a reaction to the employer-driven candidate experience of the past recession. However, for many members of Generation Z, it’s the only job environment they’ve known.

“Gen Z is used to Yelping everything. Do their friends like something? Do strangers like it? What do past employees say? They’re reference-checking you during the job hunt,” Ranno says.

Learning About Paying Their Dues

According to Pew research, Generation Z is on a path to being the most diverse and best-educated generation ever. That’s already bleeding into the workplace in a way that can frustrate both job seekers and employers.

“This might be limited to Washington, D.C., and other major markets, but we see many in Gen Z move here with unrealistic expectations about what roles their education can allow them to take right away,” Hill says. “Education isn’t a golden ticket to the best job a company has, and we need to teach Gen Z that it’s OK to walk in and secure a more entry-level position.”

These perspectives build interestingly on Glassdoor’s list of the jobs that Gen Z is applying to most:
1. Software engineer
2. Software developer
3. Sales associate
4. Mechanical engineer
5. Data analyst
6. Business analyst
7. Engineer
8. Receptionist
9. Investment banking analyst
10. Financial analyst

The majority of these positions require significant education qualifications, even in entry-level positions. Employers may need to work with job seekers and justify the reason for intense requirements in job descriptions or during the interview process. However, that type of discussion and reasoning could be a positive way for a company to create the personal connection applicants desire.

Finding Respect Together

The underlying theme of Generation Z’s expectations for the candidate experience is also something that hiring managers seek out during the hiring process: respect.

“Gen Z candidates want a little more, and look for a mutual relationship,” Ranno says. “Social media defines the way they interact, and companies need to recognize this. The customer-facing work they do also shows what kind of employees they want and sets how these employees expect to be treated.”

One of the most significant hurdles facing both employer and applicant is learning how to be respectful in a changing business setting, Hill says. “Many Gen Z workers are still learning professionalism, office etiquette and what makes a professional email different than a text message. Employers need to be willing to help educate and support them as they get over these hurdles,” he says.

How to Win Candidates Over (Before They Even Apply)

The recruitment process has become increasingly impersonal for both candidates and recruiters – and neither side is satisfied with the experience. It’s become clear that it’s time to get back to basics. The good news? As an employer or recruiter, you have a unique opportunity to change the experience candidates have with your company and your application process.

And let’s be honest – you can’t really afford not to, as CareerBuilder’s 2016 Candidate Behavior Study shows that 76 percent of full-time employed workers are either actively looking for or open to new job opportunities. As an employer, that number should concern you – and as someone who is actively hiring, it should excite you.

The first step? Put yourself out there. And not just haphazardly, either: First impressions count. By approaching candidates in the right way, you’ll be able to make your employer brand shine, while getting a better caliber of candidates applying to your jobs.

Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to being more approachable:

  • Make it easier to spark a conversation before candidates apply. Job seekers and employers both agree that job postings can be very impersonal, and they sometimes miss key information about what the role entails.
  • Listen to what candidates want to know about a job. Pay attention to what candidates feel is missing from job descriptions and other hiring tools – and work to fill in the gaps. Providing the most useful information will only help you get better people. And more often than not, candidates want the same thing you do.
  • Realize job seekers want to ask questions, too. 81 percent would like the contact information of the person who posted the job before they apply; 72 percent want to talk to a recruiter or hiring manager.
  • Stop avoiding salary. The top feature candidates would like to see in job postings is salary/compensation (74 percent).

Get more tips on how to get out of your comfort zone when it comes to reaching out to candidates: See more findings from CareerBuilder’s 2016 Candidate Behavior Study.

CareerBuilder is a TalentCulture client. For more content like this, follow CareerBuilder on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and SlideShare.

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Make The Hiring Manager Your Recruiting Partner

With all the focus on sourcing, the candidate experience, mobile access and employer branding, the hiring manager experience can be a low priority within organizations. Why is the hiring manager experience something that warrants attention and cultivating? Simply, the hiring manager plays a pivotal role in the talent acquisition process. The decision to hire usually rests with them, so ensuring they have all the needed information and technology-enabled tools at their disposal is a start in the right direction.

Is It Really Us vs. Them?

This question is a big part of the problem. Until everyone involved in the hiring process realizes all people are key players, there’s going to be an “us vs. them” attitude. Ensuring the hiring manager has access to necessary tools and information creates a consistently efficient process. Technology-enabled communication tools can create an atmosphere for valuable exchanges of dialogue and information that promote proactivity between recruiters and hiring managers, aligning both for greater efficiency.

Prepare On The Front-end

Being prepared ensures that both the hiring manager and candidate have a good experience during the hiring process. This is where good and timely listening skills come into play. Listen to the hiring manager, and step up to get the needed information to begin a strategy. It’s a waste of everyone’s time if information the hiring manager needs is provided after candidates are presented, or worse after candidates have interviewed. Fine tuning the strategy on the front-end is a sound recruiting practice.

Some of the basic questions recruiters should ask the hiring  manager upfront are:

  • Do I have all the information about the job duties and what are the priority skills?
  • Do you have specific qualifying questions you want me to ask?
  • Within what timeframe are you looking to hire?
  • Are there any knock-out questions you want me to ask the candidates?
  • What qualities have you noticed as being essential to the success of this position?
  • What traits did the last person in this role have that made him/her a good cultural fit for the position?
  • Are there any past interviewees you want contacted?
  • Are you open to paying relocation?
  • Do you want the team members to meet the finalists?

Recruiter Expertise

For the recruiter, being the subject-matter expert on the practice of recruiting enables the fundamentals to support his/her success to kick into action. Keep in mind, the hiring manager is an expert in his/her field of work, and understands the team’s culture, as well. A good hiring manager will rely on the knowledgeable advice of the recruiter to help steer the process and keep it running efficiently. Have a plan-of-action in place and make recommendations so you both know how the course of events will progress, and develop a flexible mind-set to revisit the plan-of-action. This can, often times, help keep everything moving forward and help everyone involved to weather hiccups that may occur.

Keep Calm And Carry On

Not all positions are easy to fill; knowing this upfront helps the recruiter plan a solid strategy and reduce stress for everyone. If you’re an inexperienced recruiter, be sure to share your strategy with the hiring manager. They may have prior knowledge with filling the position and can share what has and hasn’t worked in the past. Incorporating keen listening skills and being flexible to accept this advice can create better efficiencies. Consider all courses of action and any direction provided by the hiring manager, then evaluate which are best.

Keep in mind, not all positions can be sourced using the same strategy. Some positions will be high touch and others a matter of using your pipeline to generate leads. Of course the more inclusive the strategy, the better chance recruiters have for sourcing and recruiting highly qualified candidates. Use technology to help with communications and networking, but remember, technology is there to streamline the process and not to eliminate the need for human intervention. Listening well and utilizing technology-enabled communications are basics needed by the talented recruiter.

Hiring is a team effort which requires exemplary communications between all the stakeholders involved. It really does take a village to hire.

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Screening And Onboarding: The “Yin and Yang” Of Hiring

I’m frequently asked why TalentWise offers two seemingly different services—screening and onboarding —as one. What do they have to do with one another? My answer: Everything. They are the two primary components of hiring, the process of moving a candidate from job offer to day one, and must be considered collectively when creating this mission-critical process and making associated technology decisions. Doing so will reduce inefficiency for Human Resources, the hiring manager, and most importantly, the new hire.

The Yin

Pre-employment screening is a high touch service. It involves online and offline research, personal contact, and significant manual processing. Increasingly, the industry is finding new and better ways to automate, but it’s still very reliant upon people and the service they deliver. Organizations will typically select a screening provider based on the combination of service, turnaround time, accuracy, and cost. Screening is often perceived as a necessary evil, a hurdle to overcome as quickly as possible, with very little thought going into the overarching hiring process and how it should be structured to administer screening in a more efficient and consistent way.

The Yang

Onboarding, on the other hand, is entirely a software-driven experience, where process design, employment branding, forms automation and socialization come into play. It’s all about ease of use, workflow compliance, and the new hire’s time to productivity. It is where HR understandably spends more of their time, as they work diligently to bring on top talent quickly and efficiently. HR needs to set up new employees for success, and hopefully, a long and productive career with their organization. Technology shines here, solving workflow and compliance complexities.

The Yin and Yang of Hiring

When considering the relationship between screening and onboarding, it is easier to explore from the perspective of the candidate. Screening and onboarding interactions are his or her first contact with the new employer. These interactions are, in effect, the first real experience with the corporate culture. Where recruiting is quite often a sales and marketing exercise, with a primary focus on attracting and closing top talent, the hiring process at most companies (job offer to day one) is where reality sets in. It is very complex, administrative in nature, and can either be cobbled together through an array of point solutions or optimized under a single technology and service platform. With a single platform comes workflows that are considerate of the entire process—from offer letter approval and issuance, to background screening authorizations and disputes, to employment eligibility verification (yes, E-Verify as well). A single platform brings a single candidate experience, a process without any paper or fax, with zero redundant data entry, a single support team, and total focus on the desired outcome of minimal hassle and faster time to engagement and productivity.

Take a look at the first step in the hiring process—the offer letter. Most companies issue an offer contingent upon a successful background screen and/or drug test. Background screening requires an FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) disclosure, a signed authorization, and often some personal information that may not have been collected during the recruiting process (date of birth, SSN, etc). This critical step, the process of extending a job offer, is quite complex. A smart hiring process is considerate of this complexity, uniting these tasks behind a single, secure, mobile-friendly login. It should be a convenient offer process that increases the likelihood that the offer is accepted, followed immediately by the electronic disclosure and authorizations necessary to begin the background screening process. Fast and easy—good!  Slow and disconnected—not good! What may feel like a check-in-the-box for HR when the screening report is returned can be far more onerous for the candidate, and filled with administration, logistics (think drug testing), phone calls, faxes, emails and multiple logins.

Once the offer is signed and screening is complete, the company is presumably ready to move forward with the onboarding process involving new hire forms, workspace and IT requisitions, employment eligibility verification and more. Once again, more complex than it may seem. A smart hiring process is considerate of this, uniting these tasks seamlessly behind a single, secure, mobile-friendly login. A candidate should expect to sign the I-9 form in the same system and at the same time as the W4, state tax forms, and the rest of the company new hire forms. Yet because there is a tendency to manage the hiring process in a piecemeal fashion, companies procure and cobble together point solutions, taking a checklist approach to digitizing and automating the steps of a process without thinking about the process as a whole and the outcomes desired. While there are endless HR technology solutions for discrete pieces of the hiring process, each marking a box on a checklist, a comprehensive approach to process design and technology selection is needed to create a positive and differentiated hiring experience.

A Closer Look…

Take a close look at your organization’s hiring process from the perspective of your new hire. Count the number of interactions you require of him or her. How many separate logins, emails and notifications are there, from the minute you send the offer letter until the new hire is fully productive and enrolled in benefits, payroll and your other corporate systems? It’s probably more than you think. Look for bottlenecks where the hiring process comes to a screeching halt while you wait for the candidate, an employee, or a point solution vendor to respond. Then imagine what a smart hiring process could bring, reducing the number of interactions, the amount of data entry and the bottlenecks, while allowing the process to flow seamlessly and in accordance with your pre-defined corporate policies.

Screening and onboarding go together, because for the candidate, they are linked. HR needs a hiring process that is the perfect marriage of service and technology, of stellar human interactions and flawless technology experiences, to differentiate themselves as an employer. Disrupt the traditional hiring checklist. Transform your process. Create a superior experience for your new hires and set them up for a short road to productivity and a long road with your organization.

(About the Author: Todd Owens is the President and Chief Operating Officer at TalentWise and has been with the company since 2006. Todd previously held senior Product Management and Business Development roles at both Wind River Systems and Siebel Systems. Early in his career, Todd was a United States Navy submarine officer serving aboard the USS Pogy (SSN 647) and on the Third Fleet staff.  He has twice been recognized as a “Superstar for outsourcing innovation in support of HR organizations” by HRO Today magazine.  Todd holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy and a Masters in Business Administration from the Harvard Business School.) 

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Employment Triad Equates to Acknowledgement & Closure. #TChat Recap

The job transaction is a triad. There is applicant, candidate and employer.

During last night’s #TChat Employer Black Holes and the Candidate Experience, it was question #4 that differentiated and clarified things for me:

Q4: Should the candidate experience apply to applicants?  When does an applicant become a ‘candidate?’

The answer to that is when you’re qualified and you make the “short list.”  Because until that point you’re not qualified, and in today’s market, there’s a lot more of you out there looking for work who aren’t.

Even with the volume of career applicants today, there’s a lot that be done to “humanize” the process and at the very least auto-acknowledge folks thanking them for applying to your job openings.

So I’ll repeat some of what I shared in my post the other day – The Employer/Applicant Transaction: Acknowledgement and Closure.

There’s only one job per multiple applicants/candidates, so what has their experience been with American corporations and SMB and startups alike?

Overall, pretty poorly. I mean, it’s not news to know how poor the applicant/candidate experience is and has been for a long, long time.

Businesses do owe applicants and candidates at least two things regardless of the position level being applied for. That’s it. Two things that I’ve done as an employer over the years:

  1. Acknowledgement – simply that you’ve applied and we acknowledge that. Thank you.

  2. Closure – simply that you are or are not qualified for the position, that you are or are not getting the job, there are or are not other opportunities with us, and we acknowledge all these things in a consistent and timely manner. Thank you.

There were a lot of other nicer sentiments for how employers should treat their applicants/candidates, but it’s still simply these two things.  And you sure better do it with your short list of candidates regardless of industry or position. It’s best practice for your workplace culture brand.

You can read the transcript from last night here, and these were the questions posed to everyone:

  • Q1: Is the applicant ‘black hole’ experience real when applying for a job?  If so, why does it exist?
  • Q2: How does candidate/applicant experience impact employment brand or company culture?
  • Q3: At a minimum, what should job seekers expect from employers to which they apply?
  • Q4: Should the candidate experience apply to applicants?  When does an applicant become a ‘candidate?’
  • Q5: What are some creative ways job seekers can get through the black hole or recruiters can handle the applicant tsunami?
  • Q6: Job seekers: What has your candidate experience been like during your most recent job hunt?
  • Q7: Employers: what are you doing to improve candidate experience?
Thank you everyone for joining us last night!  A special thanks to Matt Charney for helping me steer the ship.
We’ll see you next week where our topic will be:
Managing virtual teams and dispersed global organizations while maintaining workplace culture.  Is it possible?