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The Z: Gen Z’s Job Search Habits, Challenges and How to Help, With Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico

The Z: Gen Z’s Job Search Habits, Challenges and How to Help

Understanding Gen Z’s values in the workplace is one key factor in hiring young professionals, but to know how to attract Gen Z applicants to your company or business, a second factor equally as important is the generation’s job search habits—and the challenges they face throughout the process.

What steps do Gen Zers follow in their job hunts, what obstacles arise most often and how should we all be adapting to make the hiring process easier for everyone involved? 

Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico
Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico

If anyone is on the right track, it’s arguably Puerto Rico. The island’s hospitality industry currently employs almost 94,000 people, “which is a huge number for a relatively small or medium-sized island,” said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico. 

That number becomes even more impressive when considering the industry-wide hurdle that is staffing shortages. The island has seen an 8% increase in industry employment over last year and a 15% increase over pre-pandemic levels, but achieving those numbers meant making changes to the way things had always been done.

“This is an extraordinary industry where anyone with the right drive, determination and work ethic can succeed,” Dean said. “And when you think about the ongoing disruption, the rapid pace of change, the unprecedented opportunities that exist today are unlike anything else. Those of us that have been in this industry for a long time and called it our career for decades, we can’t even imagine the untold opportunities that await young professionals today. We just have to begin to change the narrative.”

Telling the right story about our industry means keeping up with the rapid pace of change, and that starts with understanding the industry’s next generation, the paths they take to get here and how to guide them to the right ones. 

[Related: The Z: How to Attract and Hire Gen Z Employees in the Events Industry]

Gen Z’s Job Search Habits

Handshake, a career and recruitment website aimed at college students, released a trends survey earlier this year analyzing the resources Gen Z uses most for job hunting. The survey asked 1,343 recent grads which employment resources they rely on most and found that 78% of Gen Z job seekers identified job network sites such as LinkedIn, Handshake and Indeed as their primary method of searching for employment.

Another 46% said job networks are the most helpful resource in their job search, and young people are increasingly turning to social media to hunt for work, with more than 20% of the class of 2023 respondents claiming to use it as a resource.

The digital natives advance and adapt with technology, too, and according to a recruiting study by Yello, a talent acquisition software company, 54% of Gen Zers won’t even bother to complete a job application if a company’s recruitment methods are outdated. Not offering virtual interviews, running targeted email campaigns or promoting jobs across social media channels may turn Gen Zers away. Modern recruitment practices showcase your company’s willingness to adapt to the new hiring techniques and technology Gen Z values.

Another Yello study found that more than 60% of Gen Z students consider word-of-mouth referrals from current or former employees one of the best ways to learn about potential employers and job opportunities. And because Gen Zers start their job search earlier in life than previous generations (within their first two years of college, according to Yello), they prioritize building relationships with teachers, professors and college recruiters for personalized and guided recruitment processes, which only emphasizes the importance of teaching students about the business events industry as early as possible. 

[Related: How CVBs Are Connecting the Next Generation to Jobs in Hospitality]

“[In Puerto Rico,] there are very active and productive partnerships between the private sector, local educational institutions and the vocational entities whose job it is to put people in the workforce, and what that does is force you to not just look at post-high school education, but also attracting and retaining workers from other industries, in college and beyond,” Dean said. 

“For decades, we've been viewed as a supplier of low-paying hourly jobs, and that's just not the reality of this industry,” he continued. “This is an industry [where those] with limited education and professional development can go far and go fast, but we have to change that narrative, and that actually has to start even before college—getting to middle school and high school students and their parents to convince them that the hospitality and tourism industry is not just a job but a career path.”

Call to Action: Ensure your company is up to date with a variety of the latest job networks and recruitment methods and remain aware of social media’s growing popularity as a resource used by Gen Z while looking for work. Encourage your employees to promote your company and its job opportunities to young professionals and consider investing in college recruiters and sending a representative to on-campus hiring events. 

[Related: The Z: Industry Organizations and Associations Offering Student Memberships]

Generational Workplace Values. Source: LiveCareer
Generational Workplace Values. Source: LiveCareer

Gen Z’s Job Search Challenges 

One of the biggest obstacles incoming young professionals and students are facing in their job search, according to RippleMatch’s 2023 Pulse Survey, is connecting with hiring companies and finding a role that’s right for their skillsets and interests. This generation is struggling to identify which companies are hiring interns and entry-level employees, and as a result, their confidence in finding a right fit in the workplace is dwindling. 

Puerto Rico saw this not as an obstacle but an opportunity to adapt recruitment efforts and extend a helping hand to a much-needed population of employees. Natural disasters like Hurricane Maria in 2017 took some talent out of the industry and away from the island before Covid even had a chance to, Dean said. When he moved to Puerto Rico in 2018, he was told the island had experienced a “huge brain drain” and lost a major portion of its young talent, “and I found that to not be true at all.”

The challenge young workers were facing, he said, was the fact that everyone had already assumed there were none left looking for work.

“They were just waiting for the opportunity to enter this industry and make a difference for our island,” Dean said. “I think, out of our first 25 hires, five were what we call ‘The Comeback Kids.’ These were young professionals in their 20s or early 30s who wanted to live on the island or with their families but had found employment opportunities outside of Puerto Rico because, at the time, that was all that seemed available.

“They came back to be a part of our startup organization when Puerto Rico started looking for ways to make an easy entry for young professionals and students who are looking in the hospitality career path,” Dean continued. “We adapted to thinking along those lines, not just simply filling the jobs that are open today. How are we positioning ourselves long-term?”

Gen Zers aren’t looking for roles to fill, they’re looking for careers to build, and they’re worried employers may not understand that. RippleMatch data from May 2023 shows 57% of more than 3,000 survey respondents said they are not confident in their ability to secure a “good internship/job” compared to 51% in January 2023 and 15% in fall 2022, and finding the right roles to apply to isn’t easy either.

The Z: Gen Z’s Job Search Habits, Challenges and How to Help
The Z: Gen Z’s Job Search Habits, Challenges and How to Help

Nearly half of Gen Zers are submitting more than 50 applications during their job searches, and 47% of Gen Zers worry about having their initial application stand out to recruiters. Another 38% ranked being “ghosted” by recruiters during the interview process as the fourth most challenging aspect of their job search, and the more often Gen Zers fail to hear back from companies, the more their confidence in finding a role decreases. 

Building their confidence from the beginning, though, is the most crucial part of all, Dean said.

“When I talk today about [recruiting Gen Z] with my peers, I always hear the opinion in our industry today, ‘We need more mentoring. We need more internships, we need more active ongoing partnerships with educational institutions,’ not just the four-year schools, but the two-year schools and the trade and vocational schools, high schools,” Dean said. “We have to get to the students before they’ve made the decision that this isn’t an industry for them. It’s critically important, but so is continuing that guidance beyond education and into careers.” 

If the application process wasn’t already hard enough to navigate, Gen Z faces additional challenges related to brevity. More than 40% of World Economic Forum Gen Z survey respondents said companies fail to be transparent about salaries, and another 38% said job descriptions are vague with unclear hiring timelines, making it almost impossible to know what to expect regarding compensation or when work may begin. 

“We’ve seen companies that are adapting to modern workers preferences and needs, implementing new processes and different or better benefits,” Dean said. “The younger generations are passionate about making a difference. They're not just looking for a career, they're looking for a calling….We need that kind of passion and that sizzle to help lift our industry up and forward. There’s a natural marriage here if we manage it right, but to attract younger professionals and those who are just considering entering our industry requires that we adapt to the needs and expectations of the modern workforce.”

Call to Action: Use a multi-channel approach when posting job listings and recruiting Gen Z applicants on job network sites. Be as detailed and transparent as possible about job requirements and expectations, especially related to compensation, time-to-hire and your company’s hiring process. Connect face-to-face with potential employees and establish open communication throughout the application process. 

“[Our industry has] often been misunderstood, underestimated or overlooked, and we've got to strive to change that narrative about our industry, while at the same time evolving our business practices to become an employer of choice,” Dean said. “If we do that, I think the future of this industry is brighter than it's ever been. I'm inspired by the young talent that I see in our industry today and those looking at coming into the industry, but we shouldn't expect them to follow the same track.

“Adapting to the needs of the modern workforce is absolutely critical if you’re going to attract and retain top talent,” he continued. “All of this has really been helping [Puerto Rico] to elevate tourism as a premier employer within our island, and I think it’s a good model for what can and arguably should be done elsewhere.” 

Logging out with love,

Have a question about Gen Z or a topic you’d like to learn more about? Share your thoughts with Taylor at, on Instagram at @tay__writes or on Twitter at @taywrites. 


Mission Statement: "The Z: Planning for the Industry’s Next Generation" is a Meetings Today column discussing the meetings and events industry’s newest and youngest members—the incoming Generation Z. Written by Meetings Today’s Taylor Smith, a member of Gen Z herself, The Z explores how to welcome, work with, understand and plan for the industry’s next wave of professionals while serving as a guide for members of Gen Z themselves, planners and attendees alike. 

Read more from "The Z: Planning for the Industry’s Next Generation."

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About the author
Taylor Smith | Content Developer, Destinations and Features

Taylor Smith joined Stamats in May 2022 as a content developer, destinations and features for Meetings Today. Smith has experience covering everything from travel to breaking news and graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree in news and magazine journalism. Previously, she’s written for St. Louis Magazine and worked as an editorial assistant and apprentice for Aubree Nichols, who has been published in premier publications such as The New York TimesELLE and The Los Angeles Times.