We’ve heard it all before – students are considered lazy, demanding and impatient, and it’s notoriously difficult to prize their phones from their paws. When we take a look at what’s driving these perceived behaviours though, we see a generation influenced by the digital landscape they have been thrust into. One where instant gratification is encouraged and there are multiple ways to manage tasks more efficiently to squeeze more in to a constantly evolving lifestyle. The sacred smartphone has become instrumental in making all this happen and connecting Gen Z with their network, so it’s little wonder then that it’s treated like an extra limb! What all of this equates to is a generation that responds differently to people ‘selling’ things to them – be that burgers or jobs. And for recruiters to keep up they need to evolve their attraction and selection techniques accordingly.

Students have busy lives and they have the luxury of choice, so the first thing we need to recognise is what spaces the student contingent are already occupying and join the conversation there, where appropriate. That could be on YouTube, currently the number one social media platform amongst 16-24s, or by offering the opportunity to ask pre-application questions on WhatsApp, as opposed to a dated email inbox.

When speaking to candidates in their domain it’s important to also speak to them in their own language – they’ll see through the corporate ‘everything is rosy’ rhetoric so try to include as much peer-to-peer user generated content as possible (it’s more than 50% more trusted than any other media source according to IPSOS). We adopted a similar approach with the engineering firm Thales when helping them to set up a Snapchat channel; their own cohort of engineers posted day-in-the-life experiences on a rota, receiving great engagement rates. In some cases as many as 28% of followers responded to challenges set too.

Students will engage if they can see what value they will get from an employer - for example, instead of the expected ‘employer presentation’ why not try a thought leadership talk on a relevant topic? We’ve worked with Accenture to deliver a series of these sessions in a roadshow format, garnering impressive feedback. Another way to add value is to offer a way for students to learn new skills, as we know this is an audience keen to better themselves. We worked with Thales to develop a workshop delivered by graduates for graduates, about how to use an Arduino – the need for some coding experience acted as a filtering mechanism and we had some excellent YouTube content generated from the projects. Starting as a localised project this has now blossomed into a global contest, proving that the ‘value-add’ rather than sales approach is universally recognised.

This audience is heavily influenced by role models. Delivering workshops and talks via employee representatives - for example, senior females to demonstrate opportunities for all genders - can send a powerful message. 

Once they’re interested enough to go to the website and apply we implement the Shazam model to everything we do. What do I mean by that? Shazam is focussed on consumer experience throughout – serving not just a song name to the user but also relevant content beside it, such as lyrics, links to download/share songs, and ads related to the artist. We think it should be the same for jobs. Our heat mapping research tells us that most candidates bypass the website content and go straight to the jobs to see if an employer can offer them the right opportunities. 9/10 times in recruitment, that’ll lead them to a vanilla JD in a vanilla ATS which puts them off. Your richest content should be served at this point – if a student is interested in a job in accounting, show them a video of a graduate accountant, tell them about the day-to-day, what benefits they will get etc and give them a map of the local facilities next to the job. That’s what we do in over 300 instances for employers using TalentBrew, our propriety software which excels in providing relevant content at those all-important moments. 

Sadly, the work is not done once students apply, or even after offer. The luxury of choice means employers are being judged right up until day one and beyond. Keep warm activity is now more important than ever – keeping the dialogue going via online chat facilities is vital in giving the process a human ‘face’. Anything during the selection process which makes you memorable is key to stickiness – for example, a virtual reality piece at assessment centre or interactive games to test potential vs the standard competency based questions. Once offered make them feel like part of the team. We’ve adopted techniques like sending goody packs to new starters with contents to get them off to a flying start and ice breaker competitions to get them talking with the rest of their cohort.

They key message throughout here is that we all like that feeling of being valued and students are no different. Ask yourself at every stage of your process, is this memorable? Would I be happy if I was a consumer and this was the experience I received? Do I feel special? If the answer is ‘yes’, you’re probably on the right track!


Future Talent Strategist

Alex is attuned to the needs and interests of school leavers and graduates. She’s on their wavelength, which makes her the perfect person to craft the strategies that intrigue, inspire and engage these audiences across a range of global clients. Indeed, she has contributed to a swathe of award-winning work for clients across all sectors.