Recruiting, Talent

Generational Hiring: Wants, Needs, and Everything in Between

Gen Zs, Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers—these are the generations that make up the modern workplace. Each generation is unique in its own way, and because of this, you must make sure your recruiting strategies are designed to attract the talent you need to get the job done.


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Keep in mind that there is no “one size fits all” approach, but common similarities exist among all generations. When creating and deploying your recruiting strategies, start by identifying the talent you’re trying to recruit. Then, you can cater your messaging to the target audiences based on their unique needs, what they want out of an employer, and other information that will get these candidates to accept your offer.

Recruiting Baby Boomers

The Baby Boomer generation is the oldest in the workforce! Boomers are experienced, hardworking, and staying in the workforce a lot longer than those of previous generations.

What Do Boomers Want?

  • Flexible hours or part-time work—Boomers may want part-time options or flexible hours as they get older or get ready to retire. This working arrangement can benefit both parties, as Boomers can pick up different shifts as needed while still maintaining an income before leaving the workforce for good.
  • Stability—Like most workers, Boomers want to feel secure in their role as they approach retirement. This generation was most impacted by the Great Recession, so offering a stable work environment will appeal to them the most.
  • Healthcare benefits—As this group ages, healthcare options are increasingly valuable. On the flip side, retirement benefits may not appeal to those of this generation, as they may already have their full retirement savings from decades of work.

Recruiting Tactics to Try

  • Traditional and technological tactics—Unlike other generations, Boomers have a long history with offline media such as print or radio. These mediums are still trusted sources, but don’t rule out technology either. In 2019, 68% of Boomers owned a smartphone, and 59% were active on social media.
  • Don’t beat around the bush—While company culture is important for overall experience, Boomers prefer to learn more about the day-to-day aspects of a role you’re recruiting for. When reaching out, get to the point about what the job will be like and how Boomers are a good fit for the role.
  • Offer opportunities for partnership—As Boomers get ready to retire, they may not necessarily want to leave the workforce altogether. Try promoting ways they can contribute to the growth and maintenance of the organization, which includes giving them the opportunity to partner with the organization once they’ve decided to retire.

Recruiting Generation X

Gen X, or the “forgotten generation,” is like the middle child. All the buzz about Millennials has left many forgetting that there was a generation between Boomers and the young crowd. Because Gen Xers are next in line to “inherit the throne,” you should be focusing on how you’ll help build their careers.

What Does Gen X Want?

  • Growth opportunities—At this stage in their career, Gen Xers are looking for growth and the ability to be contributors.
  • Work/life balance—Gen X is that middle generation that’s stuck caring for aging parents and adult children, so offering work/life balance that meets these needs is vital.
  • Company values—What your company does is important to Gen X; although it’s probably not as important as it is to Gen Zs, Gen Xers still want to work for an employer that aligns with their beliefs.
  • Training and development (T&D)—As Gen Xers continue to evolve into workplace leaders, offering them T&D will be a surefire way to get them in the door.
  • Mentoring programs—As these new leaders, Gen Xers want to share their knowledge with the younger generations. Offering Gen X the ability to mentor Millennials and Gen Zs will also help pass along the institutional knowledge this experienced generation has.
  • Strong benefits packages—Unlike Boomers, Gen Xers are still planning and saving for their retirement, so offering such benefits is vital. This generation will also require a great healthcare package, flexibility to care for aging parents, and student loan repayment assistance. Yes, you read that right: The members of this generation have their own student loan debt and now the burden of paying for their children’s loans, as well.
  • Formal career path development—Gen Xers have been in the workforce for a while, and they know what they want from their careers. While not all Gen Xers are in leadership roles, offering them the ability to develop their careers into leadership roles will allow you to attract Gen Xers who are looking to advance but don’t have the opportunity at their current companies.

Recruiting Tactics to Try

  • Technology tactics only—This age group knows how to utilize online sources and turn to them frequently. In 2019, 90% of Gen Xers owned a smartphone, and 76% were active on social media. Be sure to make your application process mobile-friendly, and try connecting with these candidates via social media sites.
  • Connected via mobile—Text and e-mails are strong communication methods for this age group.
  • Promote a combination of company culture and “day to day” of the role.

Recruiting Millennials

Despite preconceived notions, Millennials aren’t “entitled” or “lazy.” In fact, over half (59%) of Millennials would call themselves “competitive” compared with just 50% of Boomers. While competition may not be a defining factor of “laziness,” these statistics show that Millennials are just as hardworking as their older-generation counterparts.

What Do Millennials Want?

  • The ability to grow—Many Millennials are a few years into their careers and are already looking toward the future. Unlike Gen Xers, though, Millennials may not be as interested in upward mobility and instead may prefer job training over leadership development. In any case, development opportunities of every kind will be a valuable offering for Millennial workers.
  • Mentorships—They have been in the workplace long enough to recognize what they can gain from more experienced peers, and as mentioned above, the ability to grow is extremely important. Mentorships are a cost alternative for offering more formalized training programs.
  • Flexibility—Millennials want work/life balance, as more and more are seeking out unique working approaches (remote working, custom hours, pet-friendly offices, gig work, etc.). Also keep in mind that this generation is growing up, and offering flexible arrangements will help them care for their families.
  • Technology—As digital native pioneers, this age group is looking for technology-forward companies. Be prepared to offer Millennials technology to make them more productive and more collaborative.

Recruiting Tactics to Try

  • Technology tactics only—As mentioned, Millennials are digital pioneers and are “glued to their phones.” E-mails, text messages, and social media sites are the best ways to connect with this age group. When connecting with Millennials via tech avenues, try using GIFs, memes, and emoji to pique their interest.
  • Company culture—Emphasize the company as a whole, not just the role Millennials are applying for. Millennials want to work for organizations that also share the same beliefs as they do, so consider adopting a corporate social responsibility initiative that aligns with your company’s mission for maximum effect.
  • Robust benefits—Healthcare and financial planning benefits are a must-have for Millennials, especially when you consider the fact that the oldest Millennials are in their early 40s. This generation is growing up and will require benefits that meet the life-changing milestones that come with age. Student loan repayment assistance is also a coveted perk for this age group, as Millennials have the highest student loan balances of any generation.

Recruiting Generation Z

Gen Zs just entered the workforce, and they’re taking the employment world by storm! These young adults are driven, passionate, diverse, and more technically adept than any generation the world has ever seen.

What Does Generation Z Want?

  • Learning opportunities—Technology skills roughly last 5 years, and this generation doesn’t want to get left in the dust. In order to keep them happy, make sure you offer Gen Zs the ability to learn new skills and grow into leadership roles over time.
  • Mentorships—Similar to those in other generations, Gen Zs will value mentorship, and at this stage in their careers, they will look toward mentors for guidance.
  • Flexibility—Gen Z is disrupting traditional work models by opting for gig work. Attract Gen Zs by offering them the ability to work wherever they want, whenever they want.
  • Technology at their fingertips—If Millennials are digital pioneers, Gen Zs are digital natives. They demand their employer have the tech they’re familiar with in order to be successful throughout their careers.
  • Offer purpose-driven work—Gen Zs are purpose-driven, motivated, and proactive, which means they’ll want to visualize their trajectory in the role. Be sure to communicate the role effectively and emphasize a clear career map that caters to their desire for growth.

Recruiting Tactics to Try

  • Technology tactics only—Use personalized, proactive outreach via e-mail, text, and social media. Keep in mind where you’ll find this generation, though. You’re likely to reach Gen Z more on Instagram and Snapchat than on Facebook and Twitter. *Good luck working that Snapchat filter description into your applicant tracking software.*
  • Promote unique benefits—Go beyond just a 401(k) and health package; Gen Z doesn’t really care about those yet. Instead, focus on the unique perks and benefits you offer, such as “Flex Fridays” or company outings and picnics.
  • Highlight core values—This generation is the most diverse workforce in history, and its members want to work for employers that embrace and value this diversity. Your organization’s hiring practices should reflect a genuine commitment to equity.

As you continue to win the war for talent, keep in mind that while every generation is different in terms of wants, needs, and career stages, they all have some common similarities. From flexible work to career development, candidates and employees want to learn, they want to grow, and they want an employer that’s willing to accommodate their uniqueness. When recruiting candidates from every generation, be sure to emphasize how your company will help its workers throughout their careers.

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