With the unemployment rate at historic lows, and with more and more baby boomers entering retirement, the need to recruit early talent is greater than ever. This generation of early career hires is comprised mostly of Gen Z—those born after 1996—who are tech-savvy, entrepreneurial, and true digital natives.

To effectively engage with this sought-after cohort of job-seekers, organizations will need to evolve their recruitment methods to be more authentic, digital, and proactive.

Who is Early Talent?

Early talent means, quite simply, those with less than three years of work experience. This group is typically comprised of students who are about to graduate from college or recent graduates, and tends to fill general or technical entry-level roles.

The early talent you hire helps define your company culture for years to come, so it’s important to prioritize a diverse pool of candidates with the right qualifications and skills at the very top of your funnel and throughout your hiring process. 

Profile of Today’s Candidates

Today’s early talent differs vastly from Gen Xers, millennials, and previous generations due to their digital upbringing. Here’s how:

  • The rise of the internet happened in the ‘90s, when many Gen Zs were born. They grew up immersed in digital culture, which is why this group is so tech-savvy.
  • Today’s students were raised with WiFi and readily available internet connectivity, making on-the-go communication increasingly common—and almost a requirement.
  • Mobile phones became smartphones. This group was emailing, accessing social media, and connecting with others, all from their phone, from nearly any location, and earlier than any other generation.
  • The creation of cloud technology gave this new generation an introduction into a huge variety of software (there’s an app for that!)—another reason they’re considered true digital natives.

With the forward-thinking skills required to lead employers through digital transformation, this group is increasingly valuable to modern-day businesses. Early talent’s obvious affinity for technology and comfort with the digital landscape can help companies boost ROI through digital innovation, provide invaluable insights on what current generations want from companies, and generate winning ideas that come from a diverse group.

The business case for recruiting early talent is a strong one.

Bringing the Workforce up to Speed

A recent study conducted by Robert Half indicates that 83% of senior managers (of the 2,800 employers in the study) plan to hire recent college grads. With a number like that, there has to be a reason employers want to hire today’s students and alumni, but what is it?

Aside from their obvious digital expertise, today’s early talent has so much to offer. Industry research indicates that this includes a desire for autonomy, a strong work ethic, a competitive mindset, a desire for purpose, and a flexible, open mind (with a strong focus on diversity and inclusion).

Gen Z workers are:

  • Autonomous: Early talent grew up with quick access to infinite knowledge (thanks to the internet and smartphones), so they’re used to proactively Googling something or watching a YouTube video to figure it out. They have a scrappy, can-do attitude, so they’ll likely ask for help only after they’ve tried to solve the problem on their own.
  • Career-driven: This group doesn’t mind competing with one another to get what they want. Growing up in the 2008 recession, many up-and-coming candidates from this generation witnessed loved ones struggle with un- or under-employment firsthand. They’re willing to work hard and have a growth mindset that propels them towards upward mobility.
  • Purposeful: Those kick-starting their careers are driven by purpose, which as Forbes explains, makes them highly motivated to perform.
  • Open-minded: This generation of early talent is not only the most diverse one yet, but their experiences are also marked by diversity milestones.

    They welcomed the first African-American president in the US, witnessed the legalization of gay marriage, and many have contributed to movements around equality, gender identity, sexual harassment, and more. As a result, they are more open-minded and values-focused than previous generations, leading to creative solutions and—as MIT research has proven—higher profitability.
  • Digital natives: Having grown up with technology, this group can provide invaluable skills to companies looking to innovate and stay ahead. They may advocate for new software that scales processes, write content that engages consumers on social media, or tabulate data to improve business outcomes. 

Reasons to Recruit Early Talent

The ability to train these new hires into the type of employee you want and need has wide appeal. Students and recent grads who are just starting their careers tend to be amenable, as opposed to older talent, who might be set in their ways. In addition, this tech-savvy group may not require extensive training with technology. Employers also have an opportunity to build this cohort’s soft skills through apprenticeship, internship, or rotational programs.

Early career hires don’t come with a lot of preconceived ideas about how things should be done, a common trait among experienced professionals. And recruiting early talent is mutually rewarding: young professionals develop their careers and grow their skillsets, while companies benefit from their hard work.

Plus, these candidates have the digital expertise and experience to move your company forward, and are often already knowledgeable of the systems many businesses use, including video conferencing platforms, cloud storage, and collaborative tools such as Asana and Slack. 

Your company will only benefit by hiring early career talent that can quickly learn new technologies, share ideas on how to reach consumers in the digital sphere, and use technology to innovate.

When you add these motivations to early talent’s drive to succeed, the ability to navigate technologies, and our ever-evolving digital world, it’s no surprise that top companies like Hubspot, M&T Bank, and SAS are already pursuing innovative recruiting tactics to hire from this competitive pool.

How to Recruit Early Talent

Successfully recruiting today’s generation of early career talent requires an understanding of their attributes, an empathy for their values, and the development of a recruiting process that engages their interests and preferences.

If you can provide a stable environment, you’re also more likely to retain early talent. According to industry research, 40% of Gen Zs cite their top career goal as working in a job where they feel stable. This comes from their aversion to risk and growing up in a recession. The same study revealed that 69% prefer stability over passion, so if your company can provide that, these hires may stay longer.

Another motivating factor is technology. In fact, 91% of secondary and post-secondary students say that the technology an employer offers would impact their decision to work there, according to a Gen Z survey by Dell.

Ultimately, personalization is key—treat early talent as individuals, and not as a faceless, collective group. Embracing their technological expertise, strong work ethic, and dedication to diversity may make these candidates more receptive to your recruiting outreach. Engage this new generation by connecting with them via personalized technology—like Handshake’s individual student messaging or Premium Campaigns—and take full advantage of all the benefits that early talent has to offer.