Gen X, Gen Y and Social Recruiting

Tech-savvy, socially conscious and heavily connected on social media: These are attributes shared by members of both Gen X and Gen Y.


Jesse Eisenberg plays FB CEO and member of Gen Y Mark Zuckerberg

Generation X is the generation born after the post-World War II baby boom, from the early 1960s to the early 1980s. Generation Y, also known as the Millennials, was born between 1981 and 2003. The group is large and has almost twice as many members as Generation X. Gen X employees are moving up the ranks, taking over from Baby Boomers and balancing family commitments. Gen Y, graduating during a time of economic uncertainty, are entering the workforce fully charged, with major ambition and desire for career development.

Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder, Gen X icon.

But what’s the difference between today’s Facebook-loving, T-shirt-wearing Gen Y employees and their free-spirited older friends in Gen X? (Think the 1994 movie Reality Bites vs 2010′s Social Network). And how can recruiters target these two groups using social media?

Gen X vs. Gen Y: How to spot them?

Trust: Gen Xers, often known as “latchey kids.” grew up watching their parents being laid-off by corporate giants. As a result, they developed a subtle sense of distrust of large corporations and question how much they can trust their employers. Gen Y, on the other hand, are actually more loyal to employers than either baby boomers or Xers. Nonetheless, their top priority is their own career development and they will move on if it will help meet their goals.

Social Media: Both are major users of social media and mobile devices, with 83% of 18-29 year olds using social media and 77% of those aged 30-49. However, the millenials make less of a distinction between work and play and are more likely to be open networkers, with  more cross-over between the social and professional realms.

Work Style: Having been raised by parents affected by the hip 60s, Gen Xers have been taught that rules should and can be questioned. Millenials have been described as “pressured and programmed.” They want the system to be fair, but they do tend to believe in the importance of a system.

Family: Gen Xers are in the prime of their childrearing years, and are ever involved in work-life balance. The parents of Gen Y individuals have been called  “helicopter parents,” always hovering, and far more involved in their children’s professional lives than any previous generation.

Social Consciousness: Here’s an area where the two groups are more alike than different. Both want to see companies take an active role in social welfare and both are motivated to help others.

How to use social recruiting to target both of these groups?

  • Employee referrals via social media: A robust employee referral program using social media will appeal to the socially conscious nature of both groups as well as to their tendency to socialize online. They’ll enjoy the opportunity to help others during tough times. To target Gen Y, make sure to make the most of Facebook. The large, diverse list of Facebook friends that many Gen Yers have can be a goldmine.
  • mobile-social-networkCommunication with candidates in real time: When Gen X and Y candidates request more information about your company, make sure to respond immediately. This will reassure the slightly wary Gen X candidate that she is important to the company. It will also appeal to the Gen Y candidate’s desire for order and a systematic approach. This is why mobile recruitment is so crucial today.
  • Employee-friendly branding: Make sure your company’s brand on social media networks is one that emphasizes creativity and a little bit of free thinking, for the typical Gen X types. For Gen Y, make sure it looks sleek and modern, with a hint of flexibility.
  • Cast a wide net: If posting jobs on social media, be certain they’ll appear where family members and friends of candidates can see them. Gen Y’s “helicopter parents” will be likely to pass on a job posting that appears on Linked In to their gifted kids. Gen X spouses might get into the act too.

Whatever specific method you use to recruit these two groups, it is clear that these folks can be found online…a lot. So if you are tapping into social recruiting , you’re halfway there.


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