05/27/2015 12:56 pm ET Updated May 26, 2016

Hiring Generation Z: The Second Wave Millennials

Before Hiring, Be Very Very Selective

The whole point of crafting a compelling recruiting message is to attract a sufficiently large applicant pool from which you can choose selectively. The biggest mistake hiring managers make is continuing the "attraction campaign" until the job candidate has accepted the job and sometimes until the new employee is already at work. We call this "selling candidates all the way in the door." Why is this a problem? Because in an effort to sell, sell, sell their job to a candidate, sometimes companies make promises they can't keep--or sell the job to the wrong candidate.

The result of selling candidates all the way in the door is often that many new employees quickly begin to experience a form of buyer's remorse: "This job is not what they sold me!" They may be disappointed and unhappy and yet remain in the job, sometimes for months on end. And this is the number one cause of early voluntary departures for Gen Zers.

In a tightening labor market, the pressure to hire also leads to hard selling a job to a candidate, even if that person is not ideal for the job. In fact, so many employers are so starved for young talent that they just can't bear to turn potential employees away, even in the face of huge red flags telling them, "DON'T HIRE THIS PERSON!"

The first rule of selection is: It is better to leave a position unfilled than to fill it with the wrong person. When job candidates display failings in the job selection process that would make them bad employees, these are red flags. Pay attention to red flags! They don't have to disqualify an applicant, but they should shift your presumption away from hiring that person. You should require a lot of hard evidence to overcome red flags.

The second rule of selection is: Remember, you are not the only one selecting. The employee is selecting you too. Even after you've sold the job and the organization to a candidate with your recruiting message, the selection process is the key to closing the deal for both of you. No matter how much you may decide you want the person, if you don't make the selection process fast, you will lose a lot of very good potential Gen Z employees. The hard part is that in addition to being fast, you must be rigorous. There are several ways to make your selection process fast and rigorous:

Scare Them Away

Eliminate the Gen Z job candidates who only think they are serious. How? After you are done selling them up to the door, try to scare them away. Tell them all the downsides of the job in clear and honest terms.


Whoever is left after you've tried to scare them away is worth testing. Whatever testing method you use, try to devise a fast and penetrating test that goes quickly to the heart of the basic tasks and responsibilities the person will be expected to do if hired. If you are hiring people to do data entry, ask them to enter a bunch of data. If you are hiring people to stack boxes, ask them to stack a bunch of boxes. This doesn't mean that applicants have to know everything--or anything, for that matter--about how to do the job before they are hired. Simply asking several applicants to complete the same job-related test will give you a good idea of where they stand in relation to each other.

The Behavioral Job Interview

Then comes the job interview, the one employment selection process almost every manager does, but very few do well. When it comes to interviewing, the best practice is behavioral interviewing. Although there are entire courses taught in behavioral interviewing, I often teach it to managers in my seminars in three minutes. Behavioral interviewing simply means asking applicants to tell you a story and then listening to their story: "Tell me a story about a time you solved a problem at work." Or, "Tell me a story about a conflict you had with another employee at work. How did you solve it?"

The Realistic Job Preview

When the Gen Zer you hire finally walks in your front door for the first day of work, I promise you she has a particular idea in her head of what that job is going to be like. The question is: Does that idea bear any resemblance to the real job she is going to face?
There are many ways to provide accurate job previews, including these:

  • A probationary hiring period. This can be a few weeks in which you can try out the employee, and the employee can try out the job.
  • A realistic internship. Make sure to assign them real tasks that mirror the actual tasks, responsibilities, and projects they will be asked to do if they accept the job. Make sure to include the grunt work.
  • A "job shadow" or "tag along" with another person in your organization who is doing the same job this person will be doing if hired.
  • Create a print document that is the opposite of a recruiting brochure. Instead of trying to sell the job, explain exactly how a person with this job will spend his day moment by moment.
  • Sometimes the best thing you can do to create a realistic job preview is encourage your employees to engage in very frank discussions with applicants in which they are not trying to sell the job but are actively trying to give a clear picture of what the job really is like.

Be Rigorous, But Close the Deal Fast

Sometimes employers do a good job attracting qualified Gen Zers into their applicant pool, but then create huge delays in the selection process. So please allow me to offer--one more time--you must do all of this selection work very fast. If you move too slowly, you will lose a lot of great hiring prospects. The two watchwords of your selection process should be rigorous and fast.

Getting young talent interested in and sold on the job you're offering is only half of the equation! Be sure to not just highlight the positives of the position and your organization, but to balance this message with the real expectations, daily tasks, and even the downsides that a potential hire should know about before they commit.