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How informal conversations drive meaningful relationships

Give Gen Z access to quick, informal, opportunities to connect with the people they want to meet.

Every new generation faces its own challenges and carries with it its own goals, needs, and preferences for the workplace. Gen Z is no different.

By 2030, Gen Z will make up 30% of the workforce. And because this generation has been fundamentally transformed by technology and the global pandemic’s impact on the talent market, recruiting Gen Z will require different strategies from their predecessors—one where personal, informal connections are the most valuable currency.

With US job openings at record highs and “The Great Resignation” seeing huge waves of young people quitting their jobs across the country, employers must recognize this paradigm shift and begin prioritizing building digital relationships with young talent in order to attract and retain them in increasingly remote-first, distributed work environments.

What does that shift look like?

  • Meeting with Gen Z on their terms. Nearly 7 in 10 Gen Z candidates believe meeting in-person is now completely unnecessary to form a professional connection.
  • Providing valuable opportunities for students to connect. According to a Handshake survey to over 1,000 students and alumni, early career job-seekers rank informal chats as the most valuable way for them to learn about employers.
  • Building confidence in the power of digital connections. Eighty percent of Gen Z candidates say it’s easier for them to make a wider range of professional connections than it was for their parents.
  • Pairing Gen Z with who they want to speak with. Early talent prefers to speak to hiring managers, current employees in the same role, and alumni from their school in the same role over recruiters.

The key to building a sustainable talent pipeline over the next decade will require facilitating and enabling informal connections—quickly, easily, and with the people Gen Z wants to meet.

How Gen Z prefers to build relationships with employers

While in-person career fairs and face-to-face interviews may have been the standard for years, Gen Z overwhelmingly favors forging digital connections with potential employers.

Virtual recruiting eliminates many of the bandwidth and scheduling limitations that prevent qualified talent from connecting with employers, creating more connections and enabling more early talent relationships to blossom. Three in four Gen Z students say virtual recruiting provides flexibility, and 2 in 3 say virtual recruiting makes the job search process more convenient.

When it comes to making diversity and inclusion important fundamental aspects of your recruiting culture, creating organic spaces for one-on-one connections grants more opportunities for women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups at your company. And Since Gen Z is the most diverse generation yet, a strong digital recruiting foundation will be critical to engaging, recruiting, (and ultimately hiring) the next generation of early talent.

Think of 1-to-1 connections as your way to blow the doors off the “old boy network” that historically rewarded men and disadvantaged women, allowing you to tap into talent the rest of the industry may be missing.

Why is virtual recruiting leveling the playing field? Virtual recruiting eliminates some of the largest and most socioeconomically inequitable roadblocks that candidates from underrepresented backgrounds face in traditional recruiting: barriers to access, flexibility, and opportunity. Creating a space where one-on-one connections can not only happen but are encouraged to happen is how you engage with this next generation of changemakers.

But while conventional in-person recruiting events make it difficult to compete for meaningful face-time with a company, have rigid or limited hours, and perpetuate inaccessibility to students who may be neurodiverse and find in-person events overwhelming, virtual recruiting makes it easy to connect quickly, informally, and without the baggage of old-school recruiting.

That’s why more than 7 out of 10 Gen Z students say virtual recruiting is a less intimidating environment in which to learn about jobs, and an additional 60% prefer how easy it makes preparing to meet with employers.

Spark early talent relationships and drive DEI with a message

Handshake gives employers tools to eliminate the barriers to engaging with Gen Z. The easiest way to start building one-on-one relationships with students is by sending a message.

Employers message qualified students for any number of reasons: to invite them to apply to jobs, RSVP to virtual events or career fairs, to educate them about the company or the position, and so forth. If you’d like to learn more about how to write effective recruiting messages to students, we’ve got you covered with these tips and templates for personalizing your outreach.

To digitally-native Gen Z, messages are ubiquitous in their lives. They feel natural. They’re informal and ideally personal, yet still offer an appropriate and expected channel for employers and recruiters to reach out and introduce students to their brand. That’s why more than 8 in 10 Gen Z job-seekers firmly believe that digital messages lead to job opportunities.

Sending a recruiting message to initiate conversations and connections with students is also a powerful tool to help overcome the well-documented confidence gap that exists between women and their contemporaries. Studies show women are less likely to apply for certain jobs and pursue promotions because they have been conditioned to underestimate their own abilities or doubt their own qualifications.

Reaching out to candidates and signaling your desire to informally meet creates a more equitable power dynamic. In fact, the majority of women (55%), Black (58%), Latine (57%), and Asian (53%) students prefer virtual interviews. For early talent, personal one-on-one virtual interactions represent a more fair screening process than the jostling, disruptions, and snap judgments they may have experienced while fighting for a recruiter’s attention at in-person networking events.

To facilitate these messaging connections, employers can now Attach Contacts to Jobs on Handshake, making it easy for students to reach out to you, your team, or anyone you want to represent your brand.

And while messages are powerful, they are no substitute for live, real-time, one-on-one conversations. That’s where Virtual Info Chats come in.

Create more authentic connections with Virtual Info Chats

Virtual Info Chats on Handshake let employers put a real, friendly face to your brand quickly and easily. They give employers the flexibility to hop on 15-minute Handshake video calls to connect one-on-one with students—whenever they prefer, whenever you’re available, and without the need to apply to a job first.

Employers simply set their availability calendar for, say, Thursdays during lunch. Or maybe Tuesdays between meetings. Or maybe every Friday morning after the gym. The point is, Virtual Info Chats let you make yourself available to students 15 minutes at-a-time in a casual, informal way—the type of way that Gen Z prefers, that creates a lasting personal connection and is fully integrated within Handshake for simplicity.

To set your availability, begin by navigating to the “Scheduling” tab located under “Meetings” on the left-hand-side bar. From there, select the "Availability calendar" schedule type to assign your availability:

To assign your availability, navigate to "Scheduling" and select "Availability calendar". Users with an Owner, Admin, or Recruiter account type can assign a schedule for themselves or their team.

Once you've added in basic information and clicked "Next," you can then schedule your one-time or recurring availability to participate in Virtual Info Chats.

All job posters on Handshake can now include their availability calendars to let students book Virtual Info Chats—directly from the job post. This creates an active, engaged source of talent for your pipeline and removes the barriers to building relationships with more students who may be considering your jobs.

Handshake Premium employer partners can also include their availability for Virtual Info Chats in bulk messages. This feature enables more personal, interactive experiences for high-priority candidates, and delivers operational benefits like improved pipeline quality and accelerated time-to-hire.

In fact, our studies have shown that students who engage one-on-one with employers are 36% more likely to apply to that employer’s jobs.

Building relationships with students requires you to be intentional about the value you can offer. In your outreach to invite students to your Virtual Info Chats, we recommend encouraging students to come with any questions they’d like, and even suggesting some questions to get the conversation started, like:

  • Am I qualified for this role or program?
  • What skills or coursework should I pursue to succeed in this role?
  • What’s the process for applying; what happens after and what if I don’t get selected?

Further relationships by pairing early talent with the people they want to speak with. With Virtual Info Chats, Handshake Premium employers can assign availability to folks on their team who Gen Z may be more inclined to speak with, including hiring managers, alumni ambassadors, other employees who have held the position, and team members they would be working with—the possibilities for creating authentic connections are limitless.

The bottom line

Thanks to Virtual Info Chats, employers on Handshake now have a scalable, easy-to-use way to create meaningful connections and build transparent relationships with diverse and exceptional Gen Z talent. So keep it casual. Keep it authentic. And set your availability—it’s just a chat.

For more on why and how to build relationships with early talent, check out the Pathfinders course on Activating Meaningful Relationships.

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