On college campuses throughout the country, many students have taken to pro-Palestine activism, protesting publicly, staying in encampments, and posting on social media. Some have experienced varying consequences — from scholarships rescinded to being unable to walk at graduation.

We wanted to understand how participation in pro-Palestine activism has impacted their job prospects. In June, we surveyed 672 recent or current college or graduate-level students who have participated in this type of activism and engaged in a job search within the past six months to find out.

Key findings:

  • 29% of activists had a job offer rescinded in the last six months
  • 55% believe there is bias against pro-Palestine activists in the hiring process
  • 7 in 10 pro-Palestine activists say interviewers have asked about their protest history

Nearly 1 in 3 Activists Had a Job Offer Rescinded in the Last Six Months

Of the activists we surveyed, 29% report having an offer rescinded in the last six months. Among respondents who had an offer revoked, the majority (68%) say that it is definitely (31%) or probably (37%) due to their participation in pro-Palestine activism. In comparison, 12% think that it probably wasn’t (7%) or definitely wasn’t (5%) due to their activism, and 19% are unsure.

The majority of activists believe there is bias against them

Overall, 55% of respondents say they believe there is bias against pro-Palestine activists, while 19% believe there is not, and 26% are unsure.

“It’s unfortunate to see that student activists reported having job offers rescinded, and they believe it was due to their participation in pro-Palestine protests or activism,” says Chief Education and Career Development Advisor Huy Nguyen. “It’s consistent with another study that we performed where employers expressed concerns that hiring protestors and strongly vocal activists might cause distractions and disruptions in the workplace and negatively impact their workplace.

“For job seekers who find themselves in this situation, I would recommend that they seek clarification from the company and learn the specific reason why their offer was rescinded. It may be a candidate’s perception and the offer was rescinded for another reason, but it would be prudent to find out formally and have it in writing. If you believe you were discriminated against, you can consult a legal advisor and explore whether you may have been treated unfairly.”

7 in 10 Activists Report Interviewers Asking About Their Activism History

During the interview process, many activists report that potential employers ask about participation in pro-Palestine activism: 30% say employers always (11%) or often (19%) ask, while 23% say they sometimes inquire. Conversely 47% say they rarely (16%) or never (31%) ask.

Additionally, 28% of activists say they always (10%) or often (18%) disclose their participation in pro-Palestine activism to potential employers, while 25% say they sometimes share their involvement, and 47% say they rarely (13%) or never (34%) do.

Respondents report several reasons for telling employers about their involvement. The majority (52%) say they felt it was important to express their beliefs, 43% wanted to know about the company’s stance, 27% thought it was relevant to the job they applied for, and 45% say they were directly asked.

“Some employers may inquire about political activism and participation in protests to try to understand how a candidate’s values align with their organization and company culture,” explains Nguyen. “They may be concerned about distractions and potential disruptions in their workplace from polarizing viewpoints that can cause friction with other employees and impact productivity.

“Employers and hiring managers should be careful about qualifying candidates based on their political beliefs and personal activities outside of work. The focus instead should remain on evaluating potential new hires based on qualifications such as relevant experience, skills, and success potential for the role.

“For employers still concerned with how political activists could impact their work environment, I’d recommend framing the discussion with candidates more broadly around issues such as handling disagreements with others and working collaboratively in diverse work environments. From there, hiring managers will be able to assess a candidate’s ability to be respectful when dealing with differing opinions and determine their commitment to the company’s mission and objectives.”

1 in 5 Received a Negative Response from Employers About Their Activism

When seeking employment, activists report encountering various challenges.

Twenty-three percent struggled to secure interviews, 21% received negative feedback from employers regarding their activism, 14% had job offers withdrawn or not extended, and 8% experienced negative comments during interviews.

Among activists, 15% believe that their pro-Palestine activism has negatively impacted their job prospects. Respondents cite perceived bias during hiring (76%), employers’ explicit concerns (45%), networking difficulties (37%), and comments from colleagues or peers (33%).

Respondents say they mitigated potential negative impacts by avoiding mentioning their activism (58%), seeking jobs with supportive organizations (40%), networking within activist circles (31%), removing online evidence (28%), seeking professional advice (25%), or discontinuing activism (9%).

In comparison 55% say they have received a positive response, and 33% noticed no impact on their job search.

“For student activists who feel that their protest participation is negatively impacting their job prospects, there are several things they could consider during their job search,” says Nguyen. “Everyone has a right to share their own personal beliefs and some of these characteristics are actually admired by potential employers. While the current job market is understandably challenging to navigate, look for companies that have a mission and culture that aligns with your values.

“In a perfect world, we’d always be able to find that perfect match and land our dream job. The reality is, that you may find yourself applying for jobs at companies that don’t openly share your beliefs. Building your personal brand and highlighting transferable skills like leadership, organizing, and communication through activism can help you remain true to yourself while relating it back to how you’ll drive value for a specific role in the company you are applying for.”

Methodology

All data in this report derives from a survey commissioned by Intelligent.com. The survey ran May 30 to June 7, 2024 via Pollfish. In total, 672 U.S. recent or current college or graduate-level students participated.

Screening questions and demographic criteria, including age (18-34) and education level (high school, university), were used to ensure qualified respondents.

For more information, contact [email protected].