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Gen Z college graduates crave job stability after their formative years were disrupted by the pandemic and employers should take note



Graduation season is fast approaching, and college students will soon be looking for jobs in this roller-coaster labor market. But while unemployment is low and job openings are high, the class of 2024 is entering the workforce with their own expectations on career security, employer reputation, and location. 

Job stability is the most important factor when it comes to choosing a new position, and 76% of upcoming graduates said that factor would make them more likely to apply to a role, according to a recent report from Handshake, a career services platform. Around 75% said the same about job location, 72% want an employer with a positive reputation, and 71% are looking for a high starting salary. On the flip side, only 46% of 2024 graduates said that hybrid work would make them more likely to apply to a position, and 21% said they felt the same way about fast-growing companies. 

“Job stability over all other factors is the most important factor that they’re taking into consideration,” Christine Cruzvergara, chief education strategy officer at Handshake, tells Fortune. “They’ve had a very disruptive education experience, they’ve had to deal with a global pandemic. So when they look at their next chapter, they’re like, ‘Okay, I did my adjusting, now I would like some level of stability.’”

The ambivalence of this year’s graduating class towards hybrid work comes as no surprise. It’s well documented that Gen Z are among the workers most eager to return to the office, ditching remote work for the chance to build in-person relationships. And other highly-valued qualities, like job location, tie into the overarching trend of putting emphasis on security rather than risk taking. Cruzvergara says this generation wants to be close to their loved ones while having an in-person work experience.

“I see a bit of a reevaluation of values. The pandemic was a moment in time where it caused our entire society to take a pause and ask questions around what really matters,” she says. 

That pivot means that employers need to think more about making workers happy if they’re serious about competing for young talent. Incoming workers care less about brand recognition than they do their bosses’ character, and around 75% prefer to read a company’s employee reviews before sending in an application, according to the report.

“The way in which you treat an employee, therefore defining a bit of your reputation, is really important to this generation, because they’re thinking, ‘Well, if I’m going to spend a lot of my daily waking hours doing this, I want to work for an organization that treats me well,’” she says. “This is an example of how Gen Z is setting a different path forward. It forces employers to have to take a second look, whether they wanted to change or not. They’re going to lose talent if they don’t.”

In the war for top talent, companies may have to change their strategies to draw in the class of 2024. Cruzvergara says what’s most important is that employers have a great reputation in how they treat their staffers, then make sure to telegraph that to a wider audience of prospective hires. 

“They need to first make sure that they’re actually running a good company. Make sure you’re actually treating your people well, have good values,” she says. “Once that is true, then make sure you’re actually articulating that, and make sure you’re sharing that out in an authentic way with students.”

Emma Burleigh

Around the Table

A round-up of the most important HR headlines.

A Georgetown professor says “slow productivity,” allowing top performers to take on less and occasionally slack off, is the counterbalance to work overload. Wall Street Journal

Meta plans to shrink its Oversight Board, staffers who oversee the company’s content decision making, amid cost-cutting measures and criticism for moving too slowly. Washington Post

The U.S. “stay in place labor force” is sticking by their roles amid career uncertainty—and this can help the Federal Reserve slow down inflation without impacting employment. Bloomberg

Fintech is leading the way in closing the gender gap by giving women more equitable pay, career mobility, and flexible working opportunities. Financial Times


Everything you need to know from Fortune.

Backlash. A hiring manager criticized a job applicant on X for refusing to complete a 90 minute hiring test because it “looked like a lot of work,” but was slammed by users for expecting too much. —Orianna Rosa Royle 

Pump it up. McKinsey attempted to boost the morale of its partners after 18 months of business challenges and layoffs by blasting rock and rap music during a company event this month. —-Ambereen Choudhury, Amy Bainbridge, Bloomberg

Calling all cops. Hiring of police officers increased in 2023, the first rebound since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, as departments have since struggled in attracting and maintaining staff. —Claudia Lauer, AP

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