Generation Z and work: who are today’s under-30s and how to attract them

Generation Z and work: who are today’s under-30s and how to attract them

Generation Z are a constant hot topic, because they are so different from the generations that came before (Millennials and Generation X), because they are a generation of digital natives and because, apparently, this generation embodies a series of values that break away from the traditional vision of the world of work and, more generally, of today’s society.
But, let’s face it, perhaps we are not that well-acquainted with this generation and often refer to it as if it were an empty set, without understanding what characteristics it has and which it could have.

In this article, we try to outline what Generation Z are, how to identify them, what values and expectations they have and what strategies recruiters need to consider when they need to hire them.


What “Generation Z” means

Generation Z refers to the cohort born between 1997 and 2012, that is, the people who today are between 27 and 12 years old, who are defined with the last letter of the alphabet because they actually come after Generation X and Generation Y (Millennials). In Italy, according to the latest data available from ISTAT and Eurostat, about 8.6 million people belong to Generation Z. 

If Gen Zers aged 12 to 19 are boys and girls who are generally still studying, from the age of 20 onwards they are the youngest generation entering the world of work today, who have just finished secondary school or have just graduated from university.

These young men and women, if we think about it, have come of age hearing about climate doom every day, have experienced 3 years of pandemic (obviously like everyone else, but lacking some of the tools necessary to face isolation), have lived and live in a new era of wars and are overwhelmed by fears of an economic collapse.

But not only that: remember that, compared to those who preceded them (i.e. the members of Generation Y, born after 1981), Generation Z are true digital natives, born and raised with the Internet at their fingertips and with a connection that was already quite fast. For these young people, online research is normal, while it is far less so to search for information in a printed encyclopaedia. Many of them grew up together with social networks: for example, Facebook – which Generation Z use little, preferring Instagram and TikTok – was born in 2004, when the oldest people of this generation were 7 years old and many were not yet born. 

Generation Z, therefore, clearly includes a wide spectrum: the oldest have jobs and may already have taken out mortgages or entered rental contracts (3 million of them are already in employment), while the youngest are pre-teens.
According to McKinsey’s research, globally, Generation Z (usually abbreviated as Gen Z) is growing very rapidly and by 2025 it will make up a quarter of the population of the Asia-Pacific region

After putting this phenomenon in context, let’s try to understand what the values and expectations of this generation are.

Characteristics, values and expectations of Generation Z

Help to outline the profile of Gen Z comes from an Ipsos research, which allows us to identify some features.

Attention to environmental issues

According to a widespread belief, this generation are particularly aware of environmental issues, far more than the preceding generations. This is largely true, although climate-related concerns, as highlighted by the Ipsos Global Trends study, is not only the prerogative of the youngest people, but is shared by all generations.

Moreover, as the research highlights, when it comes to taking concrete action to reduce environmental impact, Gen Z do not pay as much attention to waste and buy many fast fashion clothes that, as we know, are not exactly environmentally friendly.
We can therefore say, generalising a little, that environmental issues are among the things Gen Z care about most, in the sense that this generation talk about it, share content on social media, are particularly informed about it – but this does not always actually translate into lifestyle choices.

The relationship with technology

Much more noticeable is the fact that Generation Z are “imbued” with technology: as digital natives, Gen Zers have an intuitive relationship with technology, an understanding that leads them to knowing how to use it in a simple and immediate way. These under 30s have a digital fluency that surely shapes their vision of the world and their approach to work: they are exceptionally skilled at surfing the net, finding opportunities, interacting, adapting to new trends, etc. This means that, compared to people of previous generations, they can easily learn the dynamics of a social network, stand in front of a video and so on.

Technology greatly influences the way they train and gather information: they do so through messaging apps, word of mouth and social media, ignoring (or almost ignoring) traditional information channels; they favour soft news.


When it comes to typical values, Gen Zers strongly believe in authenticity, diversity and social responsibility. This generation are not content with superficial commitments to these ideals: they seek out employers whose actions reflect these values in tangible ways.

At the same time, after experiencing the pandemic, young people are certainly more reflective, but also more despondent and fragile. In addition, many today feel excluded from society.

The approach to the world of work

As for their approach to work, according to Ipsos, this aspect is in sixth place in their list of priorities and is preceded by family, friendship, love but also by having fun and culture. Without doubt, work for many is a source of income, but, as we know, having free time and flexible working hours, followed by autonomy, are also essential to Gen Zers.

Therefore, there is a strong interest in workplaces that promote an authentic culture of inclusivity, celebrate different perspectives and demonstrate a commitment to social and environmental responsibility – all aspects that undoubtedly resonate strongly with young Gen Zers.

Gen Z vs Millennials: the differences

All things considered, there are some major differences between Gen Z and Millennials. We will briefly review them relying on a study by the Piepoli Institute (and other studies):

  • resourcefulness vs waiting: Gen Zers are prepared to do everything to emerge while Millennials generally wait to be discovered;
  • visual vs textual: for Gen Z, the visual dimension matters a lot. Before reading, these people need to see, unlike their predecessors, who prefer texts;
  • pragmatism vs idealism: Gen Zers aim to create and leave their mark, so they are very focused on this aspect. Millennials, who have experienced cultural barriers breaking down thanks to the Internet, are more idealistic;
  • disenchantment vs continuous search for confirmation: people of Generation Z, again according to the Piepoli Institute, tend to be more disenchanted with the future, probably because they grew up in the middle of economic crises. Millennials or Generation Y, having inherited a narcissistic component from their parents, constantly feel the need for immediate and external recognition, which gratifies them instantly on a personal level. This is why Millennials have often been defined as a generation of impatient people;
  • career development: when deciding to accept a job offer, Gen Z consider factors such as salary, duties and work-life balance to be more important. For Millennials, important factors are salary, work-life balance and opportunities for professional growth.

How to attract Generation Z candidates

Considering all the above, what can prospective employers use to attract Gen Z candidates? Essentially it is all about Employer Branding, communicating the Employee Value Proposition, creating an ad hoc recruiting path, improving job advertisements. Let’s look at each aspect individually.

Focusing on Employer Branding

As we have already said, in their professional efforts, Gen Z seek to find meaning and fulfilment, so it is therefore important for their values to be aligned with the ones of the organisation they are part of.

This is why companies must focus on Employer Branding strategies that make them not only a place where anyone would like to work, but where Gen Zers in particular would like to.

Therefore, a prospective employer must activate a communication – on social media, on the company’s website and on all other available channels – that highlights what the company believes in, what extra activities it carries out (e.g. in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility, but not only) and how the company can possibly offer smart working, flexibility and certain benefits. In addition, it is equally important that potential applicants can understand how much room is given to training, learning and so on.

Effectively communicating the EVP

Following the above, it is equally important to highlight the Employee Value Proposition, i.e. the value proposition that a worker will have once they enter the company. Through the company website, but also in the job posting itself, it is essential to highlight some advantages that Gen Zers may benefit from by applying for that particular position. Some advantages can be, for example:

  • Tutoring activities
  • Career paths and internal mobility
  • Recognition and appreciation
  • Flexibility
  • Learning and development
  • Work-life balance
  • Clear, open and continuous feedback system

As job openings continue to evolve, it is important to understand what Gen Z are looking for and be transparent about what will actually be offered to them.
A good starting point could be to compare what other companies offer, see what companies with workers with an average age of just under 30 do, but also “browse” on social networks and forums to understand what these under 30s are discussing and what they care about. 

Customising the candidate experience

We said it: Generation Z are less idealistic, more pragmatic, have a greater propensity for entrepreneurship and want to leave their mark. And they wanted to be treated as such. This means the candidate experience has to be as customised as possible. It is necessary to start with a deep understanding of the preferencesvalues and expectations of these young people.

Beyond that, here are some strategies to customise the candidate experience for Gen Z:

  • Digital engagement: use technology to create an engaging online application process. ATS software such as Inrecruiting can certainly help with this, allowing you to digitise each phase of the recruitment process, and follow it step by step, accompanying candidates throughout the duration of the selection process. An additional option is the integration of tools based on artificial intelligence to answer questions and provide immediate feedback, or to allow registration for a job application with a click (as INDA does).
  • Real Employer Branding: using real employee testimonials, videos and social media to provide an authentic snapshot of the workplace can be a great way to attract and engage Gen Z.
  • Optimising social profiles: as we said, creating content on the platforms these young people use is essential (for example TikTok, Instagram, YouTube). Social recruiting is crucial both to searching and being found.
  • Interactive assessments: it is important to implement interactive assessments or gamification elements in the application process. This keeps Gen Z candidates engaged and helps recruiters assess their skills.
  • Personalised communication: in e-mails and communications in general, it is important to activate direct and personalised communication, calling candidates by their first name, referring to specific aspects of their CV or to elements that emerged during the interview. ATS software can also make a huge contribution here. Avoid generic messages that apply to everyone and build a personalised dialogue.
  • Flexible interviews: interviews do not have to be face-to-face, you can also rely on video interviews, or interview the person asynchronously.
  • Quick and transparent feedback: Gen Z appreciate quick feedback throughout the hiring process. It is important to provide timely updates on the status of the application and offer constructive feedback after interviews, regardless of the outcome.

Reviewing and optimising job postings

It goes hand in hand with what we have said – being clear and transparent in job advertisements. The job description must be well written, so that readers can clearly understand the required professional profile, what tasks the successful applicant will carry out and how they are expected to carry out these tasks. It is also necessary to be specific both regarding the qualifications required and the career path that is offered. Keeping promises is just as critically important.

Do not forget that, when candidates are not satisfied or when their expectations are not met, they tend to communicate this on social media, while at the same time quickly searching for other career opportunities. This has a negative effect on the selection and on the company itself.