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Inside the mind of a Gen Z candidate

5 min read.



Employer Branding

Traditional marketing approaches are off the table when it comes to Gen Z, a generation perhaps more discerning and craving of authenticity than any other. A recent marketing report outlined what recruitment marketers and employer branders need to know...

In today's digital era, where social media platforms dominate the landscape, Gen Z adults have emerged as a formidable force in influencing consumer trends and behaviours and are also having the strongest influence on reshaping the world of work.

Nearly all of the workplace trends we hear of – quiet quitting/hiring/firing, lazygirl jobs and so on – are the product of a generation that have entered a vastly different post-lockdown workplace and are rewriting the rules on work\life balance, culture, diversity, expectation and behaviour.

Who do they think they are, right? Well, most likely, not the same thing you think they are. They value authenticity, diversity, professional development, work-life balance and somewhat unsurprisingly are the most tech-savvy demographic out there.

“Gen Z are the most switched-on audience and hold so much influence and power,” says Ph Creative Social Media Manager, Erin Cullinan.

With their innate digital savviness and penchant for authenticity, Gen Z individuals have revolutionised the way brands approach consumer marketing. Understanding how they utilise social media and other mediums to make purchasing decisions not only sheds light on their consumer behaviour but also offers invaluable insights applicable to various decision-making processes, including job hunting and employer branding.

The Influence of Social Media on Gen Z

For Gen Z adults, social media serves as a primary source of inspiration, particularly for consumer purchases. According to research by Archrival on behalf of Vogue Business, 30% of Gen Z individuals rely on social media platforms to discover trends and products, surpassing other generations by an impressive 11%. Platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram reign supreme, offering a plethora of content ranging from style inspiration to product reviews.

In a digital landscape filled with content and advertisements, Gen Z consumers face a constant barrage of information. Despite the inundation, they have great ability to discern what makes for quality content amidst the noise.

Rather than feeling overwhelmed, Gen Z individuals are proactive in using social media to seek out inspiration and discovery, considering it foundational to their online experience. Subsequently it presents a challenge for brands to deliver content that resonates authentically and captures their attention at the right moment. For recruitment marketers that’s the social media challenge they need to be able to meet.

As we say at Ph “Always sell the truth”. Gen Z values transparency and authenticity in both consumer and employment experiences. Employers should prioritise authenticity in their branding efforts, showcasing company culture, values, and real employee experiences accurately.

Influencers play a pivotal role in shaping Gen Z's purchasing decisions, with 51% attributing the creation of new trends to social media influencers, according to the same research. Celebrities also wield significant influence, with 21% of Gen Z individuals acknowledging their role in trendsetting. The power of such influencers lies in their ability to connect authentically with their audience, fostering a sense of trust and credibility.

“Creating content on IG, YT & TikTok, means keeping authenticity top of mind,” adds Cullinan. “This audience know when they are being sold to and overly branded content will not perform as well as authentically shot content featuring people. Think 'day in the life' content, TikTok style content shot on a smartphone, behind the scenes, realistic content featuring realities rather than a highlight reel of 'best moments'.”

Their reliance on algorithms to curate content for them further underscores their digital fluency. With 50% trusting algorithms to understand their preferences better even than their parents and 49% relying on algorithms to serve relevant content and products, Gen Z consumers expect personalised experiences tailored to their interests and tastes. Their reliance on algorithms highlights the importance of data-driven strategies for brands aiming to capture Gen Z's attention.

Once those algorithms have put you in front of their eyes make sure you provide them with unique, user-generated content that can surprise and delight. In the so-called “Sea of Sameness” make sure you create a point of difference for your talent audience that separates you from your competition and embrace technology in your recruitment processes with a content rich, cutting-edge, mobile-first career site.

The role of meaningful experiences

Despite their digital awareness, and love of screen time, Gen Z consumers still value in-person experiences. Bricks-and-mortar stores remain an essential component of their consumer journey, with 73% preferring to make purchases in-store. It stems from a desire to try products before buying, emphasising the importance of tangible experiences in building trust and confidence in a brand.

Essentially, they want meaningful experiences, so employers that offer opportunities for growth, learning and development, mentorship programs, and other professional development opportunities will always score highly with them.

However, the online realm remains crucial for inspiration and research, with 68% of Gen Z individuals preferring to try before they buy. This hybrid approach highlights the seamless integration of digital and physical channels in Gen Z's consumer journey. Anyone wishing to attract their attention must leverage omnichannel strategies to provide a cohesive and immersive experience that straddles both the online and the offline.

Building brand trust

When in the research phase, Gen Z consumers exhibit a high level of scepticism and discernment. Seventy percent only trust a brand after conducting their own research, reflecting their desire for transparency and authenticity.

For employer branding it underlines the importance of employee review sites and reputation. Comments sections and user-generated content play a significant role in shaping brand perception, as Gen Z seeks validation and peer recommendations before making decisions.

Building communities and fostering loyalty

Beyond transactional interactions, Gen Z crave a sense of belonging and community from the brands they engage with. Fifty-four percent cite their favourite brands as those that make them feel part of a community, emphasising the importance of building meaningful connections beyond product offerings.

Brands that prioritise community-building initiatives and offer unique content and experiences are more likely to earn Gen Z's loyalty and advocacy.

Organisations should foster a sense of belonging and community among employees. Employee resource groups, mentorship programs, and social events can all help create a supportive and inclusive workplace culture.

In addition, Gen Z's definition of brand loyalty extends beyond traditional metrics, with 54% considering telling friends about a brand as a sign of loyalty.

This reciprocal relationship underscores the importance of fostering genuine connections and encouraging brand advocacy among Gen Z consumers. Impress one and you’re likely to be impressing many more of them.

Gen Z – A Bluffer’s Guide

[source: Archrival/Vogue Business]

Gen Z vs. Millennials on Brands/Trends

51% of Gen Z believe influencers create new trends (vs 36% Millennials)

21% of Gen Z and Millennials credit celebrities with creating trends (vs 15% for brands)

Gen Z Trust Algorithms

50% agree "my algorithm knows my tastes better than my parents"

49% trust algorithms to serve desired content/products

45% rely on algorithms to discover new things

Gen Z Like it In-Store 

74% think in-real-life experiences are more important than digital (vs 66% Millennials)

73% prefer making purchases in-store (vs 27% prefer social media)

68% prefer to try products before buying (vs 61% Millennials)

Gen Z Brand Scepticism

70% of Gen Z only trust a brand after own research (69% Millennials)

56% say "brands often lie about products/services" (vs 47% Millennials)

Gen Z and Brand Loyalty

54% say telling friends about a brand shows loyalty (vs 41% Millennials)

40% say simply loving the brand, even without purchasing, is loyalty

29% say following the brand on social media is loyalty

Gen Z Community Cool

54% say their favourite brands make them feel part of a community

84% more likely to purchase from brands they see as "cool"

Want to know more? Download our Cheat Sheet Optimising Gen Z Recruitment - 10 Key Strategies for Success to effectively attract and retain Gen Z talent by aligning with their values and preferences.


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