There is a certain amount of friction between employers and young, Gen Z jobseekers, and there's also a debate amongst employers: how much does the workplace actually need to adapt to the expectations of this generation?
The diverse needs of individual businesses and entire industries means there is no hard and fast answer. But some general principles remain the same across the board and can be a useful starting point for those who are hiring, managing, or working with young employees. People Matters picked up some tips from Chew Siew Mee, Managing Director of JobStreet Singapore.
What people are looking for in younger candidates
“Today's world has a lot of uncertainties that everyone needs to be able to deal with. So employers are looking for candidates who are strong, adaptable, and able to upskill constantly in order to catch up with the pace of technological change,” Chew told us.
But that's only one half of the equation. Attitude is critical, she said; employers need proactive and flexible people who are progressive and resourceful in their thinking. “They are not going to want employees who wait to be spoon fed. Candidates have to be willing to ask questions and find solutions to problems. This is a very important part of any evaluation.”
Beyond that, of course, employers look at the skill set; since fresh graduates will not have much experience, the focus goes to communication skills, critical thinking, and problem solving.
“And I want to bring up one more thing that may be overlooked by candidates who are new to the workforce,” Chew added.
“In the eyes of employers, behaviours that show commitment and flexible thinking, and support collaboration and teamwork, are essential qualities for the workplace.”
What young candidates themselves are looking for
Today, many job seekers are eager to progress faster than what has been historically expected or practiced, Chew said. But a gap opens up there. “Employers still tend to prefer that young people remain practical and grounded, and stay in one role for a specific period of time before pursuing career progression.”
As a result, an increasing number of employers are communicating a clear career progression up front – clarifying expectations and requirements beforehand, in a bid to retain new hires and also to reduce friction further down the line.
This is quickly becoming a necessity rather than a luxury, since in Singapore, at least, and especially in the tech sector, it is now a job seekers' market. Chew estimated that most young job seekers are able to secure employment within three months of graduating, and those with skills relevant to in-demand roles such as software developer, cybersecurity, or AI-related roles may even have secured jobs before finishing their studies.
The #1 thing jobseekers need to be careful about
Most Gen Z employees do not like to stay in the same job for long, because they are keen to build a more holistic T-shaped portfolio of skills and experience. At the same time, changing jobs has long been the best way to increase salary, and to obtain more workplace flexibility and work-life balance.
But this brings an element of risk, warned Chew: the more frequently someone changes jobs, and the less time they spend within any single job – moving twice within two years, for example – the more reluctant employers will be to consider that candidate.
“Changing jobs to get higher pay is not wrong,” she said. “But job seekers also must be aware that it does not look good if you do it too often. There is a fine balance when you do such things and it comes down to how you will be perceived by employers.”
The #1 thing employers need to be careful about
Employers headhunting Gen Z candidates need to be careful – not about those candidates, but about disparities between generations in the workplace. The salary starting point for new workforce entrants today is far higher than it was for older generations, Chew pointed out. Unsurprisingly, older candidates and employees are also expecting more as a result.
“We have seen around seven in ten companies increasing pay progressively across all levels in order to retain people. Employers are taking a more aggressive approach to retention by offering very attractive arrangements around workplace flexibility, incentive design, and other key drivers to make sure employees remain happy.”
And the selling point of those initiatives: they are made equitably available to all employees, regardless of how long they have been with the company or their own starting point.