Young adults entering the workforce include two generations, Millennials, and Gen-Zers. And while there are differences present across these two groups, they are similar in at least this way: They expect transparency in everything, including their jobs.
Approximately 50 students were enrolled in a course designed around staffing during the fall semester, at my university, Rutgers. Several have at least one year of work experience, and they have all completed job searches (i.e., internships, full-time jobs, part-time opportunities). During an online discussion exercise, the students were asked to share their biggest concerns about job descriptions they’ve seen in the past six months. Ninety-five percent of the surveyed students are juniors or seniors. The group shared the following insights.
Lack of clarity
The most common answer among respondents was job descriptions are “too vague.” More than 60% of the respondents listed vagueness as their number-one concern.
When asked to explain what they term as “vague,” the students replied they don’t believe job descriptions explain the day-day responsibilities of the role.
Subsequently, it’s difficult to determine if they can perform the job asked. This uncertainty often results in not applying for the role, at all.
Young adults mentioned they wanted descriptions to read as from the voice of the most recent hire, including what the incumbent employee enjoyed about the job, obstacles they faced, and how much time is required of each responsibility.
Some young adults also perceived job descriptions as having too much detail, especially those filled with company jargon and buzzwords. And others felt the requirements for entry-level roles were unrealistic.
One young adult said job descriptions are written from a very technical perspective, which dehumanizes the opportunity. The student says these descriptions make it sound like the organization is trying to hire a machine, rather than a human employee, with their own ideas and ability to contribute to the culture.
Ideas for improvements
When young adults were asked how organizations could improve job descriptions, over 30 unique suggestions were made. The one common theme across each idea was transparency.
At the top of their minds, young adults applying to entry-level jobs prioritize hearing a new role’s salary. Understandably, young adults entering the workforce now often have higher student loan debt, and are facing rising housing costs. In October 2020, the average price for a single-family home was reported at $313,000. Further, during the pandemic, young adults have been disproportionately affected, and many are concerned about pay cuts, lower wages, and furloughs.
They also want organizations to explain the value proposition of the opportunity. Some young adults feel the current job descriptions are hyper-focused on strictly what the company requires. One student respondent said, “The job description is all about what they need from me as a potential employee, but nothing about what the organization can do for me.”
A few respondents also mentioned the company should highlight inclusion within their job descriptions. Specifically, they are attracted to organizations that have an openness to different work styles and ideas. They desire companies that are less prescriptive about specific approaches to complete the job.
And young adults also want job descriptions to explain the soft skills the organization values, mainly if those same skills will be evaluated during performance appraisals. They also want the job description to articulate which of the preferred qualifications are essential on the first day of the job.
Finally, they want the job description to describe career paths. A study conducted by staffing company ManpowerGroup, found young adults will stay with an employer for the next few years if they have defined career paths and the opportunity to face new challenges.
How to attract young job seekers
Companies can infuse more transparency into their job descriptions by taking a more open-minded approach. Here is a review of how to do so:
- Consider the language and tone and make it “reader-friendly.” Humanize the job descriptions by incorporating the “voice” of the position’s incumbent. The description’s language should also be simple, easy to process, and exclude company jargon.
- Explain what the job seeker will do. Explain the day-day responsibilities, and share how much time—in percentages—will be spent on each major job task (i.e., attending meetings, analyzing data, creating and delivering presentations). The value proposition for the role should be clearly defined, too.
- Describe which requirements are most critical. Explain which requirements are most important to performing the role successfully. Consider how many qualifications you are including in entry-level roles.
- Help job seekers visualize their work environment. The job description should explain where work will be done, such as in a physical location or virtually, and describe any potential changes in this work environment, due to factors like travel or relocation.
When employers are considering the best way to attract young adults to apply for roles, it’s critical to be transparent about the role and share realistic expectations so your young employees are enthusiastic and prepared.
Kyra Leigh Sutton, PhD, is a faculty member at Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Her research interests include the development and retention of early-career employees.