4 Ways to Hire the Best Grads from the Class of 2019

Survey data from National Association of Colleges and Employers indicate that employers plan to hire 16.6% more members of the class of 2019 than were hired from last year’s graduating class, making the forecast the best hiring outlook since 2007.

That’s good news for graduating seniors entering the workforce and for the employers who can put these candidates’ vibrant minds and tremendous work ethic to good use.

Members of Generation Z, or those born between 1997 and 2012, made up 5% of the workforce in 2017, but by 2022 they’re expected to represent one-fifth of American workers. This generation’s distinctive ethos combines perpetual hustle with a flair for multitasking and a native understanding of technology. So how can you identify the top candidates from the class of 2019?

Gen Z at Work

The job market — and nearly every industry — has changed substantially over the past decade. Companies now have the opportunity to hire employees who grew up in this new world. When hiring members of Gen Z, there are a few key skills and characteristics to look for.

The students of the class of 2019 are graduating with, on average, more internship experience and coursework directly related to their chosen professions than previous classes have had. Their firsthand exposure to the workplace has led them to align their majors and electives more closely with future jobs. Because of this they’re graduating with more confidence in their career choices.

Gen Z’s career decisions tend to be tied in with their passion for improving the world. When evaluating jobs, these children of the recession value salary and financial health. However, an empowering culture and a company with strong core values are even more important to them.

An empowering culture includes the availability of mentors and access to senior leaders. In fact, Gen Z ranks mentorship on par with health insurance as the most important benefit a company can offer. It’s a generation that craves regular feedback, values social connection and is keen to develop the gaps in their soft skills. As 40% expect to interact with their bosses on a daily basis, they will welcome the direction senior leaders can provide in these areas.

This generation also seeks out jobs that require them to perform different tasks and varying functions. They’ve never known a time without a constant connection to the internet, including social media, so multitasking is their resting state. While not every Gen Z candidate is a master multitasker, employers should seek out those who are.

Even with these valuable traits, you still want new hires who can hit the ground running. That means selecting applicants who have appropriate experience; who display strong communication skills, including body language, eye contact and voice modulation; and who embrace teamwork to collaborate well with others.

Finding Your Hires

Identifying the best potential hires and wooing them with their career priorities will benefit all players. Here’s how to recruit the class of 2019 and determine which candidates possess the valuable traits that set their generation apart.

1. Establish Key Attributes of Successful Candidates

When you hire graduating seniors, you’re looking more for potential and fit than for experience. As you write the job description and long before you meet candidates face-to-face, figure out the precise attributes you need in the position. To start, figure out what top performers in the role have in common: What is it about them that leads to success in the job? Do they have something in common from their prior work experience or similar coursework in college? While you don’t want to recruit carbon copies, finding candidates with certain commonalities to your star talent means a higher chance of success.

When evaluating resumes, keep an eye out for the experiences that indicate the skills you’ve identified. Are there similar jobs or internships that indicate excellence in communication? What about collaboration on school projects, such as case competitions? Do any experiences indicate problem-solving abilities? Don’t just ask about a candidate’s previous experience; analyze it for the attributes you need. That will allow you to look past a college senior’s lack of work experience to home in on capabilities.

2. Ask References the Right Questions

As you check references, standardize the questions to get further insights into the candidate’s fit for your job. Most references don’t know each other, so you want to look for consistency in their responses about the candidate.

To assess whether a Gen Z candidate will find your workplace sufficiently lively and empowering, ask about the type of culture the candidate thrives in to determine whether that ideal environment is similar to what they’d find at your company. Ask references which words they’d use to describe the candidate and assess whether you consistently hear words that describe someone you want for the job.

What about the types of problems the candidate solved? Are they at the right level for your position? Do they exhibit the multitasking and creative capabilities that set Gen Z employees apart? Ask for examples of collaboration and teamwork, and inquire after the candidate’s leadership style. Does it fit with your needs?

3. Evaluate Real-Time Problem Solving

Present candidates with an actual problem they’d have to solve on the job and ask them to walk you through how to solve it. Do they understand the problem? Did they ask any clarifying questions before jumping in with solutions? Do they understand the root cause, or are they offering only a short-term solution? Does their answer make sense relative to the position? With Gen Z, look for them to think beyond their own narrow experiences of the world to evaluate the problem from multiple perspectives.

4. Switch Up the Context

Instead of a single in-office meeting, conduct multiple interviews in multiple settings, including via Skype, in person and with peer groups. This will show you how a Gen Z candidate connects to peers and supervisors via communication technologies and how they can put their passion for change to use. Equally important, it will indicate whether a candidate’s communication skills and collaboration remain consistent even as the setting changes.

Finally, even in this generation, common courtesies like a thank-you note still indicate a collaborative team player. It may be extreme to immediately dismiss candidates who don’t send thank-you notes, but those who do send them tend to be thoughtful and mindful employees who take the extra step.

Recruiting Gen Z employees will mean retrenching some parts of the hiring playbook and reimagining others. Retaining them will make a significant impact on your workplace.