Gen Z's Perspectives on the Job and Internship Search Process

As the newest generation entering the job market, Gen Z's quickly proving to be a group that's not only diverse but resilient and perseverant with their wants and needs. Not even the throes of a global pandemic stopped Gen Z students and upcoming graduates, from aiming high in their post-collegiate efforts. For early talent professionals looking to improve how they market open roles to students, it's vital to understand how this generation approaches the job and internship search process. Here's what we've learned so far. 

[BLOG] Gen Zs Perspectives on the Job and Internship Search Process

Sometimes the Search Starts Before College

While a majority of students wait until their junior and senior years in college to look for internships or jobs after graduation, in recent years there’s been a quiet rise in high school students searching for internships in an effort to gain work experience they can leverage later on in their professional careers. 

Although it’s a small percentage, with only 2% of high school students currently completing internships before entering four-year higher education institutions, it’s a trend that’s slowly changing the narrative around work-based learning experiences for high school students wanting to build professional skills ahead of time. 

A recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that employers seek interns with communication, teamwork, and critical thinking skills. These are not skills that are exclusive to graduating college students. In fact, a lot of high school students in the market for internship roles possess most of the qualities that an employer wants in an entry-level role. While it’s easy to overlook candidates based on their age or lack of experience, employers would benefit from looking beyond what’s on the page and focusing on what these young(er) candidates can bring to the company. 

Tip for Employers

  • Consider removing degree and graduating date requirements, unless absolutely necessary. You'll find that a lot of students, even though are young and have not yet attained a substantial amount of work experience in traditional internships, already have the knowledge needed for the roles they're applying to. Try focusing on soft skills and investing in skills-based hiring instead. 

Early Talent Values Direct Interactions with Companies

Despite online events rising in popularity over the past few years, Gen Z is an advocate for more face-to-face time with their employers. Our 2023 student survey found that career centers were ranked as the third most helpful resource among students searching for a job or internship opportunity. This is because, for students, there’s value in talking to a career advisor in person and getting that final nudge to apply to a position they’re interested in, but that maybe feel unsure about. 

When recruiters have an opportunity to interact with early talent candidates in person, they’re helping applicants feel motivated to apply to roles that they don’t always feel are attainable despite meeting qualifications. It’s a way to understand what Gen Z students need and how they’re feeling about the recruitment process. Sometimes, all it takes is a little encouragement from a recruiter to make the biggest impact in finding the best-fit talent. 

Tip for Employers

  • Always try to connect with career centers at the schools you’re recruiting from. They have a direct line of communication with students and understand the most impactful ways to reach them to promote upcoming internships or job opportunities.

The Onboarding Process Matters

As most employers know, data shows that a great onboarding process improves retention. More than that, a great onboarding experience makes new hires excited about their role in the company; it’s a precursor to what they can expect moving forward in their trajectory with their new employer. This part of the recruitment process is essential for early talent hires because this might not only be their first impression of the company after accepting the position, but of full-time work as well. They want to feel welcomed, acknowledged, and valued from the beginning. Something as small as knowing where the kitchen is, or being able to eat lunch with their new peers significantly impacts welcoming them into their new environment. 

This is consistent with what we’ve found in our own 2023 student survey in regard to why Gen Z is beginning to place more value on in-person opportunities. Our research points to new graduates wanting to form connections with one another and with more tenured employees in the company and stepping away from the hybrid/remote work model. 

Tip for Employers

  • While many work opportunities continue to be hybrid/remote, make sure you keep new hires and interns engaged by including them in the company culture through communication channels, work events, and consistent one-on-one communication. Consider establishing a buddy system to help new hires and interns acclimate to their new environments with the help of their peers.

About Symplicity Recruit

Symplicity Recruit is the premier early talent recruiting platform used by over 600,000 employers. Key features include centralized management of job postings across a network of over 600 academic institutions, a filterable resume database, and the ability to directly message students. Contact us to learn more. 


Recruiting, Student Engagement, Employer Engagement, Virtual Recruiting, Symplicity Recruit, Growth Acquisition, virtual recruiting strategy, Talent Acquisition, Quality Candidates, Jobseekers

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