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Are companies steering clear of hiring Gen Z? Experts weigh in

This bias is influenced by various factors, including cultural norms, organizational procedures, and the personal biases of hiring managers

Are companies steering clear of hiring Gen Z? Experts weigh in
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Gen Z is reshaping workplace dynamics with set-in-stone expectations regarding work-life balance and organizational culture.

While some companies welcome the fresh perspectives and tech-savviness this generation brings, others express concerns about communication styles and work ethic. This raises questions about unconscious bias and the need for adaptation on both sides of the hiring table.


PwC’s 2023 Middle East Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey states that the labor market has witnessed shifting expectations with the entrance of Gen Z: “This generation exhibits particular preferences for flexible working arrangements and feels less comfortable and aligned with their company culture than their more senior peers.”

The report shows how Gen Z prioritizes open communication with colleagues, extending beyond work tasks to include social and current events. The generation also prefers remote or hybrid work models, seeking flexibility in their work arrangements.

The behavioral distinctions between Gen Z and older generations are mainly due to the upbringing of these generations, says Mark Timms, Co-Founder of GRG, a recruitment and executive search firm.

“Gen X and older millennials growing up were lied to. These generations were told that professional status was linked to how many hours you worked or the personal sacrifices you made would become your badge of honor.”

Timms adds that the messages built around Gen Z are a far cry from this, with this generation’s central beliefs centering around maintaining work-life balance, caring for their mental health, and preserving their individualism.

“This difference in narrative has created multiple behavioral distinctions. The biggest of these is staying power and the appetite for change. Gen Z’s and Gen Alpha’s are the generation that wants to try every ice cream flavor instead of 40 years of consuming vanilla,” he says.

Echoing these sentiments that work-life balance and mental health are primary concerns for Gen Z, Mounir Shaltony, an HR expert and consultant, highlights a notable lack of loyalty towards employers among this demographic.

“Loyalty to a company is a concept completely alien to GenZers, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing — companies have to and should continue working to retain employees instead of treating their continued employment as a presumed fact,” Shelton adds.

Explaining the distinct differences between Gen Z and older generations in the workplace, Nathalie Cooper, Managing Director, recruiter, and career counselor at Linkk Search, says, “Gen Z tends to prefer digital communication, values flexibility in work-life balance, and prioritizes meaningful work aligned with their values. Meanwhile, older generations may favor more traditional communication methods and prioritize stability, reliability, and financial security.”


Are these differences playing out in hiring?

Timms says age is a “double-edged sword” in recruitment, fraught with stereotypes and biases. Its impact varies depending on the role and industry, closely tied to the culture cultivated by hiring managers. 

Despite progress, hiring biases persist until companies appreciate the unique qualities of a multi-generational workforce.

“Gen Z and gateway voice for Gen Alpha’s are the generation that asks ‘why’ and is comfortable challenging the status quo, the disruptors who in fast-paced industries can help companies stay ahead of the market. But they are also seen as entitled and ready to quit before they even start; this generation creates the biggest headache for organizations,” he says.

While companies still value stability and commitment, something millennials and Gen X have typically navigated their career while adhering to, Timms says, “Gen Z has arrived asking all the questions. Do company HR policies support a generation whose values differ from those of their older colleagues?”

Age bias can be a hurdle, but it can favor Gen Z in certain industries. Tech, notorious for valuing youth, prioritizes younger workers in software development, product management, and design due to perceived advantages in innovation, adaptability, and longer hours. 

Similarly, fashion, beauty, startups, and advertising may favor Gen Z for their perceived connection to trends, digital fluency, and risk tolerance.

The current strategy in talent acquisition has evolved to prioritize fostering a diverse blend of millennials and Gen Z individuals. “We value millennials for their experience and Gen Z for their tech-savviness, recognizing the combined strengths they bring to the table,” says Sarah Mohamed, talent acquisition and career coach at the International Coaching Federation. 

Cooper says it’s almost natural for hiring managers and talent acquisition teams to prefer their generation or those closest to it when making hiring decisions. 

“This tendency, when not based on job specifications, could potentially reveal an unconscious bias towards particular age groups, often linked to intergenerational tensions and differences in working styles among different generations.”

Undoubtedly, there is bias within specific industries that prefer younger candidates, particularly in the technology and digital marketing sectors. Similarly, fields such as finance or consulting may lean towards more seasoned candidates, especially for leadership positions.

“However, these are generalizations, and the importance lies in assessing each candidate based on their skills and qualifications rather than solely focusing on age,” says Cooper.

There are also reports of hiring managers frequently perceiving Gen Z individuals as lacking professionalism in appearance and communication skills and demanding too much compensation, of which Shaltony says, “Companies will pay whatever they need to get the talent they want; the market dictates the price.”


Prevailing stereotypes are often shaped by organizational culture, direction, and current mindset rather than specific job types or industries, and addressing these stereotypes and their root causes is crucial. 

Efforts should include promoting age diversity, implementing fair hiring practices, and challenging stereotypes about older workers’ capabilities while combating lazy stereotypes about younger employees. 

“It’s implicit that modern hiring managers and practices have a well-rounded view of cross-generational hiring, workplace habits, challenges, opportunities, and benefits. Experience and insight are important in many roles; physical fitness may be imperative in others,” says Timms.

It’s also important to evaluate candidates based on their demonstrated abilities and qualifications rather than making assumptions solely based on age. “By fostering an inclusive and equitable hiring process, we can ensure that the best talent is selected for the job, regardless of age,” says Cooper.


Being passive and waiting for improvements is unproductive; Gen Z should consider the following steps to distinguish themselves from prevailing stereotypes. While it’s important to remember that a work-life balance is an ideal to strive for, it’s not yet an entitlement within many organizations; it needs to be earned, and so shouldn’t be something they focus on in the beginning.

Gen Z must also understand their value and articulate it well to others. “Be an active listener and an effective communicator, understand how to read others’ communication styles, and flex your style to meet their style and get things done accurately and promptly,” says Alex Ashenden, Hiring and Operations Director at Melius Consulting.

Directing attention towards cultivating a robust online presence and highlighting skills and experiences through professional networking platforms are also advised. “It’s also important for them to continuously upskill and adapt to emerging trends in their industry to remain competitive,” says Cooper.

Mohamed says self-awareness plays a pivotal role in the success of Gen Z individuals, encompassing an understanding of their values, career aspirations, and personal attributes. Also, understanding the significance of presentation and questioning techniques during an interview is paramount for job seekers. 

Additionally, ensuring preparedness by crafting an authentic CV without relying on templates, staying abreast of industry trends, and actively participating in employment fairs and career events by engaging with experts through talks and sessions are crucial.

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