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Who’s Applying? A Guide to the Working Generations

In Sourcing — by Recruiterbox

Every day, the workforce shifts a single notch. With over 10,000 people retiring every day , recruiters have to think about whom they’re targeting with each job they post. Some shifts in the workforce are easier to account for: the 70% of women 25-34 in the workforce, versus the 90% of men in that age range? Hopefully, recruiters can amp up their postings to appeal to more women.

But generational shifts are little harder to wrap your head around. What do recruiters do, for example, about the 32% of retired baby boomers who still want a job ? Or the 17% of Gen Z folks who want to start up their own business ? The best way to understand how to adapt your approach to appeal to specific generations is to know them better, so we have a rundown of all four working generations to help you target the right candidates for the jobs you need filled.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964): Not Quite Done Working

There’s lots of stereotypes about boomers, like they don’t know their way around technology, and they just can’t get kids off their lawns fast enough. Research on the latter is hard to come by, but the former isn’t as true as we think: 48% of baby boomers know enough about technology to use mobile devices to search for jobs . While it’s not as high a priority for them as it is for Gen X-ers or Millennials (71% and 73% of them search using mobile, respectively), they’re still looking for work online. And with most of them fitting into the 32% of retired workers looking for work, recruiters underestimate the skills, expertise and loyalty common to boomers at their own peril.

If you want to harness the skills and knowledge of this group, you may want to think like a marketer. We subscribe to this thinking with Millennials, but remember that Boomers were the original “Me” generation . As such, personalized recruiting that makes boomers feel important without making them feel old will work wonders, as will letting them know about the employee loyalty programs and pensions that will help them ease into retirement.

Generation X (1965-1976): Forgotten But Not Gone

The narrative of conflict between generations centers around Boomers versus Millennials, and people forget that people were born between those two times. Gen X-ers are some of the best candidates out there today, with 70% of managers saying workers from this generation are their best ones, and 40% of these employees being more content with management. Tara Sinc, an Associate Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Gear Washington University, describes them as the right balance of skilled and connected.

“Gen Xers are often neglected in the discussion about today’s generations, but in some ways, they may emerge as the ideal candidates for many hard-to-fill roles. They’re nearly as mobile as millennials, show more interest in computer and mathematical occupations than the younger set, and will have the experience to fill management occupations as baby boomers retire.” — Tara Sinclair, ( @TaraSinc )

Gen X-ers are stuck between the loyal and experienced Boomers and the passionate and fickle Millennials. What they want out of a job is also somewhere in between; they’re looking for autonomy in jobs , but want a large degree of career growth as well. Let them know you won’t be looking over their shoulder but are committed to keeping them around and they’ll bring their assets to the table.

Generation Y, or Millennials (1976-1994): Connected and Specialized

Millennials want to make the world a better place , be their own boss, have flex-time, and achieve better work-life integration. The exchange for these seemingly high demands is that while they’re not as experienced or skillful as the generations that preceded them, 52% of them have more in-depth knowledge of specific areas , and 68% are among the most passionate employees at their organizations. Millennials are eager to work, but need to work in the right place to turn that passion into a work ethic.

If you want to reach Millennials, you’re going to have to appeal to mobile devices. No way around it. 87% of them use between two and three devices at least once every day, and they’re only going to get more connected to the web as time goes on. They’re currently around 30% of the workforce , and analysts predict they’ll be 75% of it by 2025. Attracting Millennials also means future-proofing your recruiting process, so there’s no better time to get a mobile and social experience going.

Generation Z (1995- ) and Beyond

Looking ahead to the future of the workforce, we’re only going to get more connected. Gen Z-ers are going to be the most digitally native workers yet, but they’ll need to learn digital literacy before they can fully integrate into the workforce. They’re perhaps not ready to begin their careers just yet (the oldest of them are likely still in college), but by the time they are, recruiters will have to ready for them.

As for recruiters themselves, the candidate market is going to continue changing, and while one approach may not work for all generations, one thing is clear: these generations are not as different as we thought, with Boomers more connected and Millennials more willing to work than we’ve given them credit for. Boomers want to feel as special as Millennials do, Millennials want to let loose their obscure knowledge, and Gen X-ers want the freedom and growth afforded to both.

Regardless of who you want to appeal to, don’t underestimate your target, find out what makes them tick and what they want. If you do, you’re bound to find the candidate that works best for you, no matter how young or old they might be.

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