Evelyn McMullenToday, on the RecruitingDaily Podcast, we speak with Evelyn McMullen about effectively recruiting Gen Z in a post-pandemic world.

Evelyn is the research manager at Nucleus Research, the leading provider of investigative information technology research and advisory services. The company delivers insight and guidance to help clients make the best decisions.  Evelyn covers global ROI strategy in talent management, project management and enterprise content management.

The hard questions today: How does Gen Z vary from the millennial generation in terms of expectations from employers, benefits, and the candidate experience?  What does Gen Z want more of in the workplace?  Does Gen Z really hate to communicate face-to-face?

Of course, there’s more, but you have to tune in to find out.

Listening Time: 28 minutes


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William:  00:33
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Evelyn on from Nucleus Research, and we’re going to be talking about effectively recruiting Gen Z in a post-pandemic world. And I can’t wait. I’ve been looking forward to this call all day long just because I just can’t wait to learn. And Evelyn’s a researcher, so she’s going to be able to school us in some things. So Evelyn, do us a favor, do the audience a favor, me a favor, and introduce both yourself and Nucleus Research.

Evelyn:  01:05
Sure. So, as you put it, I’m Evelyn. I work for Nucleus Research, which is a technology analyst firm. And we’re unique in that we focus less on the technical parts of software and more on the financial value that it delivers. I am a research manager and I lead a team of analysts.

And I actually started as an analyst under the HCM umbrella in the talent space, particularly in recruiting, onboarding, learning and development, all that fun stuff. And then over the course of the pandemic, I’ve seen recruiting become more and more important given the changed employee landscape, especially when it pertains to Gen Z and capturing those quality Gen Z candidates.

William:  01:46
So, I love your background. And so, you’ve studied this a couple different ways for years now. Let’s just start with Gen Z. Tell the audience what you learn, what you know about Gen Z so far.

Evelyn:  02:06
Well, of course, I have the personal perspective being that I am technically on the cusp of Millennial and Gen Z. So. I thought, how can I leverage this perspective to gain insight into what Gen Z is thinking specifically as it pertains to recruiting technology? So, I started a survey, and I started sending it to friends, to colleagues, to people on LinkedIn, anyone that I was connected with, because I really wanted to see what was working and what wasn’t.

Evelyn:  02:36
Because I think that when I was on the scene, there was a big problem with candidate ghosting. And of course, that’s been solved by automation. But I think that the problem is that automation has taken a front seat and maybe given the recruiter more of an excuse to be hands-off and not include those human touchpoints that are so important to Gen Z candidates.

William:  02:58
So, the difference between… So, I studied Millennials from a hiring perspective, and it was really fascinating. And again, whenever you deal with generations, you’re going to be dealing with generalizations at the same time. So, not everybody in a generation does exact same thing. But when I studied Millennials, one of the things I found is they ask three questions. “What’s next? How are you going to make me better? And how are you going to praise me?” They use different words.

William:  03:37
At the time, these were hardcore HR questions. They were asking sourcers and recruiters and hiring managers HR questions. What’s next is an internal mobility question. How are you going to make me better is training and development, skills development, et cetera. And how are you going to praise me is rewards and recognition, or at least historically thought of.

William:  04:00
And the recruiters that I interacted with while I was doing the study, they were challenged to create great answers. Because that line of demarcation between once someone’s hired, you throw them into onboarding, now they’re an employee, the recruiters’ lost sight of them because they’re doing other things. It was hard for them to give them great answers, and so they lost out on talent because they couldn’t answer those questions.

William:  04:30
So, first thing is, and I know you’ve studied Millennials as well, did you see anything different there? And then the juxtaposition with Gen Z. What types of questions do they care about? What are the things that they care about in the recruiting process?

Evelyn:  04:51
I’d say that it’s pretty on par with Millennials in that they care about the benefits that the employer is going to offer them, they care about career growth and development. But I think it’s important to highlight that you can’t really answer those questions through a chatbot. And not to say that a chatbot is not helpful for those canned general questions, but yeah.

William:  05:18
Do you see Gen Z asking or wanting more? And again, I’m not trying to lead you or anything, but values, culture, ethics, morality. Do you see them caring more about those things or about the same as previous generations?

Evelyn:  05:36
Probably about the same, maybe a little bit more. I think that diversity equity inclusion had a very important aspect of hiring, and candidates want to know what these kinds of initiatives are before they come onto a company.

William:  05:56
First of all, I think you’re… I mean, I know you’re right. #metoo, Love is Love, and Black Lives Matter, these societal things that have gone on that they’ve seen on TV and/or been a part of in some way or another, it’s impacted them clearly.

And so, they’re asking about that. But what in particular do they want to know? Do they want to know transparency, annual reports, actions? What are some of the things that you’re discovering about what they really want to know about DEI?

Evelyn:  06:28
I think actions above everything. Obviously, nothing is kept secret on the internet. This can easily go to Glassdoor. They can go to LinkedIn. If you ever want some light rating, and go to the Recruiting Hell subreddit on Reddit, where people will post just horrible experiences with going through an application and hiring process.

So, like I said, action above all, but I think transparency in those actions, and of course, laying out what the policies are. What have we done to align ourselves with these new important aspects of DEI, et cetera, et cetera.

William:  07:15
So, [inaudible 00:07:16] put out a report, and they put it out every year, but it’s basically the class of 2021. Right? And in one of the data points in there that I found fascinating is that fresh grads want to go to an office. And of course, that’s the farthest thing from my mind, but I just found it odd.

And we talked about it on the podcast, but it was really interesting because I’m like, why? Why would you want to go to the office? And they reminded me like, your first job. You want to get dressed up. You want to go to Ann Taylor. You want to do this bit. You want to go meet people.

Evelyn:  07:54

William:  07:55
And there’s the whole socialization part of this. First of all, does that resonate with you?

Evelyn:  08:04
It does. And like you said earlier, it’s difficult to generalize an entire generation, especially one so broad as Gen Z. But I actually listened to that episode, and I can totally see where candidates want to get back into the office, because it is that experience.

William:  08:21
Right. Yeah. You know what? I can see it after they explained it to me. Now, of course, it makes sense. Because yeah, again, you want to be able to experience the culture and the company and leadership and all these other things that maybe in a COVID world, maybe you couldn’t.

William:  08:44
So let me ask you what you learned during… We’re still technically in a pandemic, I get that. But during the worst parts of the pandemic, what do you think Gen Z learned about themselves or learned about work and working differently or working similarly? What did they learn during that traumatic experience?

Evelyn:  09:06
I think they learned to be more discerning of hiring processes, and seeing how organizations adjusted to completely operating remotely, and seeing where the human touchpoints were, for example. The people I surveyed, the majority of them said they wouldn’t be comfortable doing a recorded interview that was then assessed by AI.

And off of that, I would say overall they’ve just been very, very picky. And I think they know that they’re in the driver’s seat. They know that they have the power in this situation. So, they are going to make sure that whatever company they do join is taking the time to really make things as normal as possible and really get their culture across.

William:  09:55
I think what’s great about that. First of all, I completely concur. And one of the things that when I studied the difference between Millennials and Gen Z, one of the things that came out was attention span. And at first, people looked at that, and there’s a lot of negative blow back like, “Oh my God, they have a six-second attention span.” And really, what I’ve found about that is it’s discerning.

William:  10:24
It’s not that they can’t pay attention. It’s that they make decisions quicker. And so, in recruiting, in HR in general, you’ve got to be able to convey your value proposition, then you’ve got to be able to back it up. And you know what? They’re going to make judgments, and they’re going to make judgments quickly. That’s not a bad thing once you get used to it.

Evelyn:  10:50
Yeah, exactly.

William:  10:53
That’s a great thing.

Evelyn:  10:54
Yeah. And especially in this age of information where coming into this recruiting process probably already knowing every bit of general information about the company.

William:  11:06
A hundred percent.

Evelyn:  11:07

William:  11:08
Well, they’ve grown up in a world. Again, Gen Z defined by digital natives. They’ve never known a world without the internet. So, they’ve grown up… Both my sons are Gen Z. They’ve had iPads in their hands since they could hold an iPad.

Evelyn:  11:26

William:  11:27
And so, the internet, it’s not a foreign concept. Asking Alexa questions and doing your homework with Siri or Alexa or whatever, that’s normal. That’s table stakes.

Evelyn:  11:38
Exactly. And that’s what’s made the human touchpoint so important. Because yes, Gen Z is super tech savvy, but that’s not to say that they don’t appreciate actually talking to someone.

William:  11:53
A hundred percent, a hundred percent. I think that’s one of the things we might get wrong in recruiting and is the rush to automation is great for those that want the automation and those that need it. But for those that want it, it’s almost like you pick your own destination. If you want more of a human experience as a candidate, you should be able to have a more human experience.

Evelyn:  12:17

William:  12:19
Again, if you’re totally comfortable with a conversational chatbot, and you want that, then that’s fine, too. It shouldn’t be forced.

Evelyn:  12:28
Yeah. That’s a really good point. And I think maybe it should be a choose your own adventure of process, because everyone is different. It goes back to not generalizing this huge group of people.

William:  12:39
I think it could be job to job, or I’m looking at this. I’m kind of interested. I’m not a hundred percent. Let me do that automated. Let me not waste a lot of their time, my time, et cetera. Let me do that in a real automated way just to find out is it really even something I should even think about.

Evelyn:  13:00

William:  13:00
But if I’m really serious, I’ve done my research, I’ve done all the things that you would do to research and stalk a firm, I know everything about them and I’m serious, yeah, I probably want to have a more human experience.

Evelyn:  13:14
Right. And that’s not to say that you can’t automate some things. [crosstalk 00:13:21] processes that I don’t think anyone would care if it were taken over by a human, say, interview scheduling. I think that benefits everyone.

William:  13:30
Yeah. If we go back and forth on email over when’s a good time and what time zone and all [crosstalk 00:13:40]. Like seriously, a dolphin dies every time someone does that. We should just let that just go. But let me ask you about email for just a second. My gut tells me that Gen Z uses email and has used email for school and other things. I don’t really love email. I’m not sure any generation actually technically loves email.

William:  14:07
But in the cases where I’ve interacted with candidates, texting is both more appropriate, and it’s easier. And it’s hard to have a very long conversation. But again, for short answers, things like that, I found that I’ve found that texting or WhatsApp is just much easier for candidates. In your research, what do you think about the mediums of communication?

Evelyn:  14:38
This is something that actually surprised me a lot, because over half of my respondents said that email was their preferred form of contact from an employer. [inaudible 00:14:48] conversations I’ve had, the reason for that is that they don’t really want to blur the line between their work life and their personal life, which obviously has been even more blurred by the pandemic. Yeah. Phone call scored above candidate texting, which was super surprising to me because obviously candidate texting has been super hot right now.

William:  15:12
Right, right.

Evelyn:  15:14

William:  15:16
First of all, that’s fascinating because counter-intuitive. You would think, especially with the pandemic, but even pre-pandemic, you would think that… For me, I’m not huge on texting. Right? So, when I get a text, it’s someone I know. Right? I don’t get unsolicited texts. I block everything else. So, I would definitely look at it as someone impinged across that line, invisible line. Right?

Evelyn:  15:45

William:  15:48
But it’s really interesting. I love this. I love that you found that they want to have these conversations from a company, a corporation.

Evelyn:  15:56
Right. Yep.

William:  15:58

Evelyn:  15:59 Some of the people I talked to actually had separate email accounts set up so they could hold their corporate communications through that email. I think obviously anything employment related… And my sister’s a younger Gen Z. I mean, you look at their phone and they’ve gotten 150 texts notifications. I’m like, where did those come from?

William:  16:15
Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Evelyn:  16:18
They’ve got a lot going on.

William:  16:19
Oh yeah. Yeah. Well, turns out everything has a notification. You can turn all that stuff off, but most people don’t. Right? And so, you get all those notifications. And again, I think, again, I love the fact that you found something counterintuitive. When you looked at the data, you probably cocked your head to the right and went, “What?”

Evelyn:  16:39
I did, yeah, even from my perspective, because I really expected SMS to take the cake with this one. And I’m wondering if this was brought on by the pandemic, because I started my research around this era where everyone’s just readjusting, and maybe there was some fatigue involved with the already blurred line between work and life.

William:  17:04
Right. And some of that’s great. Like from an HR perspective, I can see your cats. I know your children. There’s all this empathy and all this stuff that’s interesting, far more interesting than just having walls up. However, some of those walls are needed and required.

Evelyn:  17:28
Yes. I agree.

William:  17:28
So, we’re going to learn. I mean, especially on the return to work and hybrid models and all this other stuff that goes on in the future, it is going to be really interesting to see how we think about… how companies think of personal professional.

Evelyn:  17:42
A hundred percent.

William:  17:43
So, let’s flip this on the other side and think of the way that recruiters and hiring managers, how should they interact with Gen Z? What’s your best advice in interacting with Gen Z? What are some of the do’s and don’ts, if you can think of it that way?

Evelyn:  18:02
I would say do interact with the candidate, but I would say don’t overdo it. And I think that’s where the marriage between automation and recruiter touch comes into play. And like I said earlier, I think having different avenues based on the individual will be really helpful going forward, whether they want to… They’ve done all their research.

They know all there is to know. They’ve looked at the Glassdoor. They know people at the organization, and they just want to boom, boom, boom, be done. Whereas maybe there’s someone who wants to get a little bit more insight and wants to have more recruiter contact.

William:  18:45
Yeah. For me, I think some of that comes down to consent. It’s asking. Like what do you want out of this process? Do you want to know more about our DEI? Do you want to know more about internal mobility? What do you want this process to be like? Do you want to do it over email? Again, you’re asking for consent as a recruiter and a hiring manager. You’re asking a candidate. And it’s a small thing. This isn’t rocket science.

Evelyn:  19:14

William:  19:14
You’re just asking them how they would like for this process to roll.

Evelyn:  19:18
Yeah. And it’s quite easy, actually, if you think about it.

William:  19:23
Well, it’s easy for you and I.

Evelyn:  19:25

William:  19:26
Right? It’s more difficult for a gal or a guy that’s been recruiting for 20 years.

Evelyn:  19:31
Of course.

William:  19:32
But the talent has changed. And I think those that adapt to the talent changing are going to win as opposed to those that keep forcing a model. Whatever the model is, the force on a model on candidates, they’re going to lose that ability to then recruit that talent.

Evelyn:  19:48
Absolutely. And that’s why I think that candidate feedback is critical more now than ever.

William:  19:57
So, let’s talk a little bit about… Let’s go deeper into feedback for a second.

Evelyn:  20:01

William:  20:01
With candidates in particular, asking them feedback from the recruiter from their first interview, from group interview, if they go onsite. It’s almost like having a finger on the pulse of the candidate.

Evelyn:  20:16

William:  20:17
What is Gen Z? Again, what’s intrusive? What’s too much. And what do you think that they like?

Evelyn:  20:25
Would you mind adding a bit more onto that? So, what specific area?

William:  20:33
Well, when, again, you’re approaching a new job, and you’re going through this process for the first time, it’s all brand new, it’s all shiny objects.

Evelyn:  20:43

William:  20:44
But the company cares about getting your feedback, because they want to make sure that their experience, their candidate experience in general, is working or works well.

Evelyn:  20:53

William:  20:54
What questions should they ask of candidates, and what’s the frequency in which they should be communicating with Gen Z as candidates?

Evelyn:  21:06
Well, I want to start by saying I think that it’s important to collect feedback not just from the candidates that make it through the entire process, but maybe those that don’t even make it to the interview. And I think that there should be some liberty as to what they can write. I don’t think it should be a survey with yes or no questions. I think that there should be some open-endedness to it.

William:  21:33

Evelyn:  21:33
What did you like? What didn’t you like? Would you refer a friend to this position if you thought that they were good for it?

William:  21:43
I love that you brought in the folks that didn’t make it through the process. Because I think, by and large, I think firms do a relatively decent job of those that accept the offer.

Evelyn:  21:55
Oh, of course. Yeah, because they’re there.

William:  21:57

Evelyn:  21:57
They’re already here.

William:  22:00
“Thank you. By the way, how did everything go?” “Well, it went fantastic because I got the job.”

Evelyn:  22:04
Exactly. Kind of a skewed answer.

William:  22:06
Shocking, not shocking. However, asking the people, I really liked the way that you position it, because ask everybody. Those that didn’t make it to the first interview, like, okay, hey, how was your experience? What did you learn about us? Would you apply to a job with us again?

Evelyn:  22:24

William:  22:25
That’s an NPS like question. Are we referenceable? Yeah, you didn’t get the job. Got it. [inaudible 00:22:33]. But would you consider us again?

Evelyn:  22:36

And I also think that feedback from the employer to the candidate is also important.

William:  22:45

Evelyn:  22:45
[crosstalk 00:22:45] recruiter friend that they will email someone who maybe didn’t make it through, they made it to an interview or they didn’t even make it to the interview, and they give feedback.

William:  22:54
I think that’s critical.

Evelyn:  22:59
It is.

William:  22:59
Oh yeah, I think that’s critical. I think that, again, we can actually go through generations and blow through some of this. Yeah, I think if you just apply to a job regardless of your age or anything else, you want to know. If I didn’t get it, just, okay, you wanted a second master’s degree or you wanted someone that had 10 years’ of experience. Whatever the bid is, that’s fine. I’m okay with that, but I’d just like to know that.

Evelyn:  23:25
Oh, it’s so much better than just sitting there racking your brain because [crosstalk 00:23:28] there.

William:  23:30
Yep. We all have. We all have, I mean, that’s part of the human condition. We’ve all been in that wastebasket of not knowing exactly where you stand with a company.

Evelyn:  23:41

William:  23:41
Let me ask comp. When it comes to your comp and benefits, if you think of it like that, what’s Gen Z, what do they care about there? What do they ask questions? What do you see them caring more about as it relates to money?

Evelyn:  23:58
Yeah. As with comp, I think on par with the Millennials, once again it’s the most important thing. But I think the benefits have been more important. Like what kind of vacation days are you getting? What kind of health insurance coverage? And I think that these are things that should be covered in the job description straight off the bat, because it seems a little disingenuous when you pull someone in and then you have that conversation.

William:  24:25
Couldn’t agree with you more. And it’s too easy. It’s too easy to then be able to say, “This job pays $85,000.”

Evelyn:  24:32

William:  24:32
“Okay, if you like the job, you liked all the things, and you’ve done your research, and it makes sense for you, apply. There’s no guesswork.

Evelyn:  24:43

William:  24:43
I think that’s where pay inequities live is where people don’t, and then they negotiate. And then the back end, it creates inequities for people either that couldn’t negotiate really well or that they didn’t standardize what the pay is. So, I love that. First of all, I love that they are asking more about benefits, both health benefits, mental health, wellbeing, financial wellness.

The pandemic has probably helped with some of that, because they’re thinking about benefits in a little bit different direction. What’s your parting advice for folks? Because I know you’re going to be doing more studies around Gen Z.

Evelyn:  25:30
Oh, definitely.

William:  25:30
So, this isn’t your only study. You’re just starting your learning process with Gen Z.

Evelyn:  25:37
We’ve just begun.

William:  25:38
Just begun. So, first of all, what advice would you give people about Gen Z, just basic recruiting and HR?

Evelyn:  25:51
Let’s see. I’d say don’t overdo it. Don’t oversell a position. I think that Gen Z candidates are a lot sharper than people may think. You’ve got a job description that’s like we’re looking for a superhero coder with 10 years of experience for an entry level position. They’re going to be like, no, thank you. Just be honest with them. And that’s going back to giving feedback about the hiring process, whether or not they get through. They’re looking for a lot more transparency. So, I’d say just be more transparent.

William:  26:25
I think what I gather out of that is the authenticity. It’s not a nice to have. They’re going to suss you out.

Evelyn:  26:34
Oh, they know. Yeah.

William:  26:37
And they’re going to get there quicker than previous generations because they can call BS on something.

Evelyn:  26:44
They can.

William:  26:44
And what folks I think misunderstand about that is they’re they’re not going to try and fix you. They’re just going to move on to someone that gets it. So, you’re going to lose that talent and you won’t even know you lost it.

Evelyn:  26:57
I know. That’s the worst part.

William:  26:59
Right. [crosstalk 00:27:00]

Evelyn:  27:00
[crosstalk 00:27:00] have the power once again. They know they’re in the driver’s seat.

William:  27:03
Good, good.

Evelyn:  27:04
They see it everywhere.

William:  27:06
Well, I like that because I think, first of all, I think that’s how we improve. When we’re in an employer driven market, people tend to act badly.

Evelyn:  27:17

William:  27:17
But when you’re in a candidate driven market, because there’s a real fight, then you see some of the best of people. So, I like it like this. Last thing out, what’s your next research project?

Evelyn:  27:33
So, I focused on the recruiting aspect of Gen Z hiring. I really want to focus on onboarding next.

William:  27:40
Oh, cool. And successful onboarding.

Evelyn:  27:41
Successful onboarding, yes.

William:  27:44
Ooh, I can’t wait. Please email me once you have that done because we’ll do a show on that, because I want to know how that gets done.

Evelyn:  27:50
Yeah, definitely. I’ll keep you [crosstalk 00:27:52].

William:  27:53
Well, Evelyn, thank you so much for coming on the RecruitingDaily Podcast. I’ve absolutely had so much fun.

Evelyn:  28:00
Oh, me too. Thank you for having me.

William:  28:00
And just thanks for carving out time for us.

Evelyn:  28:05
Oh, thank you.

William:  28:07
And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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