Generation Z has arrived: The data you need for more strategic recruiting

August 28, 2019 | SkillSurvey | HCI
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Sixty-one million strong in the U.S. alone, Generation Z will comprise 30% of the workforce by 2030. They are more diverse, more educated, and more technologically adept than any previous generation. Entrepreneurial, pragmatic, and increasingly dedicated to work that matters, GenZ will drive transformation--at your organization and across the workplace. Finding new ways to engage this emerging cohort will be critical to the success of your organization.

Recruiters today are navigating how to attract, engage, and retain an entirely new generation entering the workforce with new experiences and different expectations. GenZ has grown up saturated in technology. Technology is less a tool than it is an extension of themselves. They are also self-directed, preferring YouTube over textbooks, but they seek out the opinions of their parents, friends, and influencers.

Shaped by recession, GenZers tend to be realistic about their prospects. Their experience that life can change on a dime has made them more inclined to plan for the future, designing majors that will help them be career-ready and using internships to gain experience. A recent study found that more would choose to attend a community college that guaranteed them a good-paying job after college than attend an Ivy League university that didn’t.

And although they expect to work hard and be promoted quickly, a considerable number of GenZers believe they don’t have the necessary skills—particularly soft skills—for the jobs they want. That anxiety might explain their desire for on-the-job professional development and mentoring, both of which rank high in survey after survey.

With GenZ participating in more internships and college work experiences, feedback from their references can help recruiters identify and measure the soft skills their GenZ candidates will need to succeed. This is valuable data that helps recruiters match the right candidate to the right job, onboard new hires more quickly, and provide the kind of targeted training and mentorship that GenZers crave.

Data from references analyzed by SkillSurvey’s Analytics Team finds that communication skills and decision-making skills continue to be key areas of professional growth for entry-level job candidates.  For example, below are the top areas for improvement cited by references across key roles:

Customer service       

  • Attention to detail
  • Making high-quality decisions
  • Communicating clearly


  • Staying up to date
  • Explaining financial concepts and information
  • Using financial data to make decisions


  • Staying up to date
  • Software proficiency
  • Independently making decisions

Sales/Business Development (sales “hunter”)

  • Presenting information
  • Negotiating with others to achieve an acceptable outcome
  • Attention to detail

So how can higher education institutions better prepare their graduates for the workplace? SkillSurvey has been working with the NACE Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition, to help institutions assess students in eight key competencies, as defined by NACE in conjunction with over 100 member institutions as part of The Career Readiness Project. Using the same scientifically validated solution that thousands of HR departments have come to rely on for reference checking, institutions are measuring and verifying student competencies, gaining new insight into how their skills compare to a national sample of other students and real entry-level candidates in similar roles.

Science-based surveys, available in SkillSurvey Reference® designed by skilled industrial psychologists, uncover feedback on precisely what soft skills are most needed to succeed in a specific role. A tech-enabled reference checking process provides a quick and easy way for recruiters to gather the specific data they need to understand just how well a candidate has mastered those skills. For GenZers, the process is fast, easy, and—crucially--social. Candidates and their references can receive requests via email or text message.  Within hours, recruiters have honest, objective feedback about a candidate’s past performance—a key predictors of future success.

When over a third of employers say that the soft skills gap is getting worse at their organizations, identifying competencies like problem solving, communication skills, and leadership potential is a priority.  Start by figuring out to what’s important to your organization and the roles you're trying to fill. The soft skills a candidate needs to thrive—whether in an entry level job and beyond—vary from role to role.

To engage GenZ, recruiters won’t just need to identify their favorite social platforms. They will need to understand who they are and what they are capable of achieving. They will need to have tech-enabled hiring process that maintain personal engagement with GenZ job candidates. And they will need a way to measure this generation’s skills and competencies to match them successfully to jobs we are only starting to imagine.