different generations take different pathways to work. 

Many organizations today are struggling with how to effectively manage multigenerational workforces. At the heart of the challenge is the fact that different cohorts take different approaches to communication, problem solving, collaboration and engagement. And these differences, which impact the way people interact in the workplace, also play a role in the way that they got there in the first place.

Perhaps that's obvious, but it's not a topic we hear a lot about, or have a lot of visibility into. So we wanted to find out. What exactly is the role of age in today's digitally driven job hunts? How do people from different age groups search for employment? And how are their experiences during the process different — and in what ways are they the same?

Continue reading to find out.

different pathways to employment

One of the more salient generational differences revealed by Randstad's study is also the least surprising: For most workers aged 55 and up, social media is essentially a non-factor in their search. On the other hand, 43 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds said they lean on social channels to find new professional opportunities. This finding could provide some helpful insight for employers looking to attract talent, whether for entry level or middle management roles. For instance, social media may not be the best place to recruit an accounting manager, but it could be a great channel to source an accounting coordinator.

There's also a parallel asymmetry in the way workers from different generations landed their first jobs. Nearly a fifth (19%) of respondents aged 55 and up started their careers in roles they learned about from newspaper classified ads, which can be said for almost none (2%) of their 18-to-24-year-old peers.

Despite these differences, workers of all ages agree that their personal networks — family, friends, former colleagues and so on — are of paramount importance in the path to employment.

significant contrasts in applicant profiles

Workers 55 and older tend to submit fewer applications as part of their job searches: between one and three on average — perhaps because they are searching for more narrowly targeted roles, based on their tenure. For workers aged 18-to-24, who are just beginning their careers and may be inclined to cast a wider net, that number is more often somewhere between four and six.  

While that distinction might not be terribly significant in itself, it seems linked to other data points — which, when taken together, suggest key differences in job search behaviors across generations.

For one, workers with more seniority appear to take a more serious and considered approach to the job hunt in general. If that sounds ageist, just look at the fact that, among the respondents in Randstad's study, 18-to-24 year-olds were 70 percent more likely to answer "yes" to the question "Have you ever applied to a job without fully reading the description/requirements?" than those 55 and up.

And when it comes to actual job interviews, 18-to-24 year-olds are either more dishonest than their slightly older peers — or simply more honest about their dishonesty. Forty-two percent of 18-to-24 year-olds indicated that they have lied or exaggerated at some point during job interviews in the past, compared with just 21 percent of those 55 and up. 

the certainty gap — and its implications

Differences in each generation's self-perceived level of qualification for available jobs — call it self-assurance, or just plain old confidence — may explain some of the differences discussed so far. For instance, a significant majority (66%) of those 55 and up indicated that they possessed the highest-possible level of qualification for the roles they had recently applied for. Among those 18-to-24 year-olds, only 39 percent had such certainty, which could explain the motivation to exaggerate or fib. The result, unfortunately, is that hiring managers too often wind up with a stack of resumes from unqualified candidates.

So it should come as no surprise that different generations report having quite different experiences in job interviews. As an example, more than a third (34%) of 18-to-24 year-olds struggled to answer the question "Why should I hire you?" — a question that requires candidates to articulate and qualify the value they bring to the table — versus only 17 percent of those 55 and up. And, interestingly, more than a third of respondents from this older cohort said that they had never made mistakes during job interviews in the past. 

commonalities and key takeaways

Not everything varies with age, though. For instance, the feeling that searching for a new job is stressful was acknowledged by roughly half of respondents from every age group. And all respondents, likewise, agreed that they would benefit from greater guidance when they search for jobs.

Despite these and other areas of overlap, it’s clear from Randstad’s study that critical differences mark the pathway to employment for members of different generations. Notably, much of the reflexive uncertainty evidenced in the responses of younger workers appears conspicuously absent from the self-assessments of their more senior peers — and that's the kind of difference that likely contributes to the misunderstandings, miscommunications and other miscues confronting managers of multigenerational workforces today. 



The survey referenced in this article was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Randstad US with a sample of 2,000 employed Americans from September 18 to October 1, 2018.