Writing a PhD job ad is always challenging, but writing one for a new generation of applicants who have different motivations and work habits from you makes the task even more challenging.
Now that the average Millennial is in their early 30s, the oldest members of Generation Z are graduating university and starting to apply for PhDs. Gen Zers are people born roughly between 1997 and 2012, making them currently between 23 and 8 years old. Compared to previous generations, Gen Z is more racially and ethnically diverse and predicted to be the best-educated generation yet. They don’t remember a world before smartphones and are constantly online. They tend to be more concerned about their academic performance and willing to work hard to achieve their goals. They’re also socially conscious and more prone to mental health problems.
Attracting Gen Z to your PhD positions
Gen Z values different things in their workplace (including graduate school) than previous generations. So how does this affect your PhD recruitments? What should you include in your PhD adverts to appeal to Gen Z?
Work life balance
Members of Generation Z aren’t lazy and are more than willing to put in some extra hours when needed, however they don’t live to work. They value employers who allow for flexible working hours and offer the option to work remotely. Fortunately PhD students often have greater control over their schedules and working hours than most employees, which is something you should mention in your job ad. You should also include that is is possible to work from home occasionally if this is true at your institution.
The new generation also places a great emphasis on the culture of their workplace. They like to feel that they are part of something bigger and supported by a community. While a PhD position does require independent work, make sure to emphasize in your advert that candidates will be joining a community such as a research group or department. This generation is prone to loneliness and enjoys working face to face with other people. Your PhD advert will appeal more to them if it lets them know that they won’t be in it alone.
Mental health resources
Generation Z reports higher stress and anxiety levels compared to previous generations. Considering that graduate students are six times more likely to experience depression or anxiety than the general population, showing that you care about your PhD students’ mental health will make you a more attractive employer in Gen Z’s eyes. Do PhD students at your university have access to university mental health resources? Do they get paid vacation and sick days or other health benefits? Adding information like this to your job ad will help your PhD advert stand out and signal that you’re an employer who encourages a healthy lifestyle and greater well-being.
Today’s young adults place a high importance on having a job that’s meaningful. They highly value employers who are working to make a positive difference in society and, if fact, 30% say they would take a 10-20% pay cut to work for a company with a mission that they really care about. Keep this in mind when writing the PhD project description. Make sure to address the big questions the project will answer and how the research findings will have a positive impact on the world.
In a recent survey, Gen Z candidates said an organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is an important factor in choosing an employer. Their definition of diversity is also broader than previous generations, who tend to focus on age, religion, sexual identity, gender, race, and ability. Gen Z values diverse personalities, experiences, ideas, and opinions as well. This is something you can stress in your job ad. Are you open to candidates with slightly non-traditional backgrounds? What about mature students? How many countries are represented in your lab or department? Adding these kinds of things to your PhD ad will help it appeal more to Gen Z.
Now you have a better idea of what Gen Z looks for in an employer. If you want to know a bit more about how to create awareness of your vacancy and measure the success of your recruitment efforts, download our PhD advert toolkit.