The Generation Game: Attracting X, Y & Z Candidates

The Generation Game Attracting X Y Z Candidates

As a recruiter, across your career, you will inevitably recruit for a multitude of varied roles that will attract a diverse range of candidates. But how often do you write your job ads based on the differing generation traits of your intended audience?

Although generations are, for all intents and purposes, fictional representations of specific age groups, they can be very helpful for this very purpose. Generations are based on “people within a delineated population who experience the same significant events within a given period of time”.

This means that they will often share similar personality traits, motivations, communication and work preferences. By using these generation guidelines, you can tailor your jobs ads and content strategies to appeal to the right candidates, advertise in the most lucrative places and receive more, higher quality applications. So what are these generational similarities?

Generation X (1965 -1979)

Personality: Talented, adventurous, innovative and resilient
Motivations: Independence, responsibility, stability.
Rewards: Freedom and real life fun.
Communication Preference: Direct – tailored email, telephone, networking
Career Path: Loyal, stable.

The often overlooked “middle child” generation are now reaching their early 40s to mid 50s. Research suggests that Generation X candidates are more productive and easily trainable compared to the earlier Baby Boomer generation. They are tech literate and use it in their work life but do not need it to exist like their younger Generation Y (Millennial) and Generation Z colleagues.

They usually seek a work/life balance and although they are highly motivated as a workforce, they need to be financially compensated because they have significant outgoings such as a mortgage and children.

This generation began their job search by looking through newspapers and job directories but they are now well versed with online job sites and LinkedIn. However, the higher quality candidates of this generation expect to hear about an opportunity either through their current contacts or to be contacted in person due to their level of experience. This highlights the importance of a well crafted introductory email or building relationships with Gen X candidates in person at related events.

Want to know the benefits of building a passive candidate pipeline? Read our blog.

Generation Y (1980 – 1994)

Personality: Tenacious, multi-tasking, creative and transparent.
Motivations: Making a difference, career growth, collaboration.
Rewards: Recognition, work/life balance, training and experience over salary.
Communication Preference: Email and social media.
Career Path: Always looking for the next challenge.

The well documented rise of the Generation Y, or millennial workforce, has dominated blog streams over the last 5 years as it has been forecasted that they will become the largest working generation by 2019, eclipsing Baby Boomers (1945-1965). These digital pioneers are significantly different to their Gen X colleagues because of the exponential growth technology has experienced in the past 15 years. They are currently at the forefront, testing and creating new technology and pushing the horizons.

They are smart, want to make a difference with their career and short term focused. They aren’t afraid to jump ship if they don’t see a future in their current role. In fact, they view moving on every 3-5 years as “the way” to progress quickly. The want their ideas to be recognised and to be a part of the strategic decisions, even if they aren’t responsible for making the final call.

They use social media on a daily basis because it has become where they consume their news – through Facebook and Twitter streams. Designing standout adverts or writing engaging content that will get shared on these channels is a sure-fire to get in front of Generation Y.

Generation Z (1995 – 2012)

Personality: Multi-talented, entrepreneurial, realistic, sceptical.
Motivations: Salary, creative license, progressive culture.
Rewards: Flexibility, material gain over experience.
Communication Preference: Mobile centric, video, social media.
Career Path: Job hopping in search of perfection.

The youngest and least researched generation is Generation Z or iGen, who are slowly infiltrating the global workforce, the oldest having just turned 23. Compared to their millennial colleagues, they are digital natives and barely remember a time where they didn’t have a mobile phone in their hand, connecting with their friends on a variety of social media channels.

They are data literate, analytical and less idealistic than Generation Y candidates. This may be because their parents experienced a damaging recession at the peak of their working years and they are cautious not to be left financially vulnerable. This means that they are motivated by salary but also expect a progressive working culture where they can express their creativity.

With a shorter attention span than older generations, their social life is dominated by virtual relationships; sharing videos, images and memes. Because of this, their standards of creativity are high. To attract Generation Z candidates, you must command their attention immediately with innovative ideas that are visually compelling, such as video jobs ads.

Learn how 5 leading companies are using video marketing for their candidate attraction strategy in our blog.


Understanding the target audience for the roles you’re recruiting for is an important step in deciding how to attract the desired candidates you’re searching for. By having clear picture of what motivates them and on what channels they are most active, you can devote your time to creating ads and content that will have a significant impact in candidate attraction.

74% of recruitment agencies identified finding talent as the top challenge for their recruiters in 2018. To find out more industry insights as predicted by recruitment professionals, download our free guide.

2018 recruitment and technology trends – UK and Ireland eBook