If you're a teenager looking for a job, get in line. Or go online, and you're bound to discover – as older generations have – that the process of finding work is more tedious than it once was.
Those teens, who are part of what demographers call "Generation Z," are starting to nudge their way into the workforce. They're known for being extremely tech-savvy because they haven't known a world without smartphones, but as a result, they're more impatient with the grind of the employment process. And many are looking to their smartphones to cut through that grind.
"Teenagers nowadays, I guess they’re not patient enough," said 17-year-old Jennifer Cano of Inglewood. "There's so many stores, and there’s so many people out there saying they need people to come into the job. I guess the process is still not efficient enough to the new generations that are coming through."
A few months ago, Cano applied for seasonal jobs at Target and Subway. She didn't get in at either place, and said it took a month to hear anything back.
She's since downloaded an app called JobSnap, which hit Apple's App store three months ago. There, she can scan a list of jobs, and swipe right or left to accept or reject each one. Employers scan a list of applicants and swipe right and left as well. The app matches young people looking for work with the people looking to hire them.
One of the first steps for the young job seeker: creating a short video.
Cano's begins like this: “Hello, my name is Jennifer Cano, and I’m a senior at Brightstar Secondary Charter Academy. I think that three words that can describe who I am and my work ethic are being resourceful, being a hard worker, and being very optimistic."
Cano is the daughter of a handyman and a housecleaner. She's also what's now known as a "Dreamer," born in Nicaragua and brought here by her parents when she was very young. She's applied to Yale University and has already been accepted at UC-Riverside. She hopes to join the Peace Corps and fight climate change. But that doesn't amount to much in the way of work experience to put on a resume, and she admits she knew nothing about applying for jobs.
"Can I just go to the place and say, ‘I want that job 'cause you guys look like you’re hiring’?" she remembers asking her mother. "My mom’s like, ‘No you don’t do that. You have to take your resume. You have to be presentable.'"
The JobSnap app doesn't require a resume, and creator Jeff Boodie of Los Angeles wants to keep it that way. He got his first job at a McDonalds in the Bronx while in high school without a resume. And he's worked in recruitment offices where resumes piled up without being much help to hiring managers. JobSnap is his answer to that.
"I’m not a fan of the resume at all. It’s inefficient when it comes to trying to find that candidate that fits in your ecosystem," Boodie told KPCC. "With video, you can tell your story."
Hiring managers watch the videos when deciding which candidates to bring in for interviews.
Boodie has signed up restaurant chains like Panera Bread, Del Taco and Taco Bell, and the retailers Sears, Forever 21 and American Girl. To attract young job-seekers and students, he goes to youth job fairs and has formed a marketing partnership with the note-taking app Notefuly. Boodie wouldn't say how many users have downloaded the app in its first 12 weeks, but he said he is seeing double-digit growth week-to-week.
"Three years ago, hiring managers were still on edge about using mobile," he said. "A year later, that changed. Hiring managers softened their takes on mobile because they realized they were losing their reach to find young talent."
As Generation Z makes a deeper foray into the workforce, employers will be forced to adapt even more. Born between 1996 and 2010, Generation Z's oldest members are now in college (the youngest are in grade school). Altogether, they make up a group of more than 60 million Americans, according to demographers at Queens College. By the year 2020, Generation Z will make up 20 percent of the total workforce, according to an estimate from the staffing firm Robert Half.
Alex Racioppi runs a management consulting firm for independent chef-driven restaurants and said JobSnap will help his clients who mainly look for staff through postings on Craigslist.
"You’ve got dozens of restaurants opening each week, every day, and they need to hire big staffs relatively quickly," he said. "Sifting through resumes and going through a more traditional hiring process is very very time consuming and often distracting."
The best way to find young workers fast, he says, is on their phones, for better or for worse.
"Everywhere you go, in public, you see all these younger people constantly engaged on their phone, to the point where it’s annoying, but that’s how you get to these guys," Racioppi said.
That "annoying" focus on the phone might worry some older parents or mentors about the fate of Gen Z in the workplace, but professor Brooke Foucault Welles of Northeastern University says it shouldn't.
"I understand why people can get frustrated that they're always looking at their phones, but I don’t think that that’s a signal that they can’t communicate interpersonally," said Foucault Welles, who studies young people and social networks.
She believes that when the stakes are high for young people, like when they're trying to get their first jobs, "they will step up and they will meet the standards that employers have for this kind of communication ability."
Seventeen year-old-job seeker Jennifer Cano agrees. She doesn't believe her phone or social media have slowed the development of her social skills.
"You grow up and kinda learn as you are exploring the world: making eye contact and making a good handshake. All these other gestures, I think they’re kind of learned on the way," she said. "And phones don’t stall that process."
If she’s right, she and her generation will have the best of both worlds: a smartphone to find the right employer quickly, and the social skills to seal the deal.