The Future of Talent Acquisition: Gen Z and a Culture of Inclusion

By Nicole Wagner posted 07-08-2020 09:18


July 8, 2020

by Nicole Wagner and Rebecca Ahmed

Rebecca Ahmed is a keynote speaker and HR expert. As the founder of Laugh Thru Life, she brings energy and joy to your workplace and life! Nicole Wagner leads a robust national internship program with Chartwells Higher Ed and is committed to advocate for the next generation of the workforce. 


Generation Z is joining the racial justice protests in masses, putting their stamp on history as the nation’s most diverse generation. They constitute a quarter of the population and are just starting to enter the job market. What does this generation’s makeup and stance for humanity mean for the future of workforce? It means a shift in culture where diversity and inclusion will be leading drivers of every business decision. 

How will this cultural shift change the future of talent acquisition? While it’s too soon to tell the full effects of this up-and-coming generation’s influence, one thing is for certain: Organizations will not only seek out diversity of thought, but the future of talent acquisition will embrace an innovative approach to intersectionality. New to the term intersectionality? “Intersectionality is a framework for conceptualizing a person, group of people, or social problem as affected by a number of discriminations and disadvantages. It takes into account people's overlapping identities and experiences in order to understand the complexity of prejudices they face.” 

Looking to get ahead of the curve and dive right in? Here are key takeaways to get you thinking on how to tool up your recruiters and build pipelines incorporating the future leaders of Gen Z. 

Before we jump into action though, let’s do a pulse check… 

Over the past few weeks, organizations around the world have released statements to their clients, customers, and team members, calling for unity, condemning racism, and supporting the landmark decision protecting members of the LGBTQ community from employment discrimination. There is a demand for change and companies are not only responding but reflecting and reevaluating their current practices and workplace. 

Reflect + Reevaluate

The first step toward change always starts by looking inward. Before altering any external practices, organizations must self-reflect and evaluate their internal environment. 

  • How inclusive is your organization?
  • How diverse is your workforce?
  • Does your organization have a diversity and inclusion (D&I) statement?
  • Is your culture reflective of a diverse and inclusive environment?
  • What diversity initiatives are in place throughout your organization?

Once an organization understands their internal makeup and ensures their environment is inclusive, they then can look externally to add talent that further progresses their ecosystem of intersectionality. “What’s essential to the diversity discussion is the concept of intersectionality – how different dimensions of systemic disadvantage impact an individual as a result of interconnected social categorization. The term “Intersectionality” was first coined by American scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, giving a name to the way multiple oppressions can be experienced by an individual and how neglecting this crossover further marginalizes those individuals.” 

These five key takeaways are innovative actions recruiters and hiring managers can include in their toolkits to implement a more targeted approach to the diverse hiring of our future leaders. 

Key Takeaway #1: Update your job descriptions to reflect an inclusive environment to attract diverse candidates. 

Recruiters, how often do you receive feedback from hiring managers that their interviewee was not a good fit, yet no additional context was provided as to why? hiring managers, how often do you interview candidates that aren’t qualified and wonder when you will find your unicorn? 

Finding a unicorn requires a mindset shift of those sourcing and hiring candidates. One way to implement this is by reframing the qualifications for the open position. Aside from the technical credentials, map out the transferable skills that are often overlooked. Not sure what’s transferable? Companies like SkillSmart assist with taking a deep dive into the responsibilities of a role and what it takes to be successful for communities and organizations. 

Once new qualifications are outlined, scrape the job description to include gender-neutral terms and ensure diverse and inclusive verbiage is present. Trendy words like “rockstar” and “captain” may deter applicants due to unconscious biases. Consider using inclusive language such as “go-getter” or “motivated.” While EEOC statements are critical, adding the “how” behind the claim is more powerful. Include the company’s culture, mission statement, and values to highlight exactly how the organization is diverse and inclusive. 

Key Takeaway # 2: Create a standard interview process. 

“Whenever we can replace human judgement by a formula, we should at least consider it.” ~ Dan Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow

Conscious and unconscious biases are already a given in the interview process. To mitigate these biases and risk, create a structured process, and then build out a framework for each step. 

Step 1: Update job descriptions by identifying the important characteristics of the role and responsibilities, ensuring both recruiters and hiring managers are aligned. Refer back to the first key takeaway above on additional recommendations. 

Step 2: Build interview guides for each step of the process. Think about the candidate’s journey! Applicant tracking system (ATS), recruiter phone screen or video interview, in person interviews, panel and/or presentation interviews. Make sure each guide is made up of technical and behavior-based questions along with a standard scoring method. 

Step 3: Create candidate follow-up communication, going beyond the generic “no thank you” or “congratulations” messages. Being transparent and personalizing the note can create a loyal customer or potential candidate, either way, an ally for life. 

Gen Z is a digitally connected group that likes to be well-informed, especially when it comes to interviewing expectations. Candidates use platforms like Glassdoor and The Muse for advice on job expectations, culture, interview processes, and compensation. Consistency and transparency are key to ensure you are on the leader board of these prominent talent resource websites. 

Key Takeaway #3: Expand your search within communities to discover talent that doesn’t traditionally “fit the part.” 

Let’s take a page out of Pete Carroll’s playbook! Rather than just looking at top high school talent, Carroll became part of communities to learn about hidden talent. Talent that couldn’t afford the opportunity to play at a top high school. Talent that can only be found when one immerses themselves within communities and becomes a trusted resource. Talent that Carroll and USC developed and grew.

When Carroll was asked about his recruitment strategy, he shared the following, “How did I know? I don’t know. No sense at all of how we could go into the neighborhoods and all. Fortunately, what happened was a couple of guys said, ‘[You] really aren’t going to be able to do any work until you get inside and you see what’s going on and just get out and see what’s going on in the neighborhoods.’ And so we did.” 

Good recruiters know better than to “post and pray.” They scour LinkedIn. They attend community job fairs. Take this one step further and learn about the local shopkeeper’s children who assist with operations, balance cash flow statements, and oversee procurement. These hidden gems, who would never apply, might just be your next best financial analysts, managers, or directors! 

Key Takeaway #4: Partner with local nonprofits, employment agencies, and associations to grow your pipeline. 

Step away from your digital platform and branch out into your local community to build talent networks and partnership pipelines. Partner with nonprofits such as United Way Young Leaders, and community associations such as the Chamber of Commerce

At The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, we found top talent pulling from our volunteer partnerships with the Las Vegas Rescue Mission and The Center. These partnerships not only enriched our community, but built brand recognition across various demographics. Partnering with a variety of talent avenues brings varied work and life experiences to your organization. 

Key Takeaway #5: Start early by building partnerships and programs to develop students. 

It’s never too early to start building partnerships with students. At Allegiant,  talent acquisition, and hiring managers partnered with middle school and high schools early on. We provided exact program requirements to ensure students interested in IT, mechanics, and engineering were provided training that would be applicable for open opportunities.   

University relations teams build recruiting strategies based on hiring top talent on college campuses nationwide. This is the perfect opportunity to create a diverse pipeline and build bench strength into the organization. Define what best and brightest talent means for your organization and then determine the right schools that align with your needs. Create a targeted approach and consider sourcing from HBCU schools, Tribal Colleges, universities, or women’s colleges. How important is a student’s GPA to a role? What about building a program designed for community colleges and trade schools? Look at the student’s entire resume to better understand the context of their grades, work, internships, background, and extracurricular activities. 

Don’t have a dedicated university relations team? Here’s an easy fix – create champions from various departments to support college recruiting efforts. These partnerships can provide an opportunity for an individual to grow, as well as an opportunity to expand talent acquisition’s alumni relations. 

Authentically understanding where your organization stands now is the first step in executing a strategic plan for cultural growth. These five key takeaways in action will lead you forward. Intersectionality, diversity, and inclusion are not about checking a box, but leading efforts of the recruitment process and driving forces in every business decision.









08-05-2020 12:55

Great read! I love the tangible action steps that we can put into practice, as employers to increase our diversity and inclusion efforts!

07-29-2020 10:46

Great ideas in this article! I also recommend that recruiters look into this program:

I completed this training last fall and it was excellent!

07-11-2020 18:29

These are valuable ideas and resonate with my experience--particularly the idea of creating standardization in interview processes.  When we began a diversity initiative at the medical school where I taught in the late 1990s, what we found was that recruitment was only half the battle.  We also needed targeted efforts at retention, as disadvantaged students required different support services, and responded to services delivered in different ways.  A breakthrough moment for me occurred when I gave a talk to Black students and outlined the support services that were available on campus.  One student pushed back:  "We don't need support services; we need supportive services!"  That led to a great discussion and quite a few insights on my part.  So often we build supports, but don't necessarily come across as supportive.

Thanks for the great site--