Many believe young workers are not only less experienced, but unreliable, lazy, and lack professional skills. As Gen Zers enter the workforce, this narrative seems to have become even more prevalent – reflecting that this generation of graduates are uniquely incompetent, political, and demanding.

In May, surveyed 1,268 business leaders to understand what, if any, concerns they have about hiring recent college graduates and whether they have more worries about the most recent generation of graduates.

What we found:

  • 64% of business leaders have concerns about hiring recent college grads
  • 1 in 2 have become more concerned in the past five years, as Gen Z recent grads have a worse work ethic, are more political, and have fewer practical skills
  • 30% business leaders are more concerned about hiring recent grads because of the pandemic, pro-Palestine protests
  • 22% of business leaders are less likely to hire a recent college graduate who participated in pro-Palestine protests

50% of Business Leaders Have Grown More Concerned About Hiring Recent Grads in the Last 5 Years

Overall, most business leaders (64%) say they have concerns about hiring recent college graduates, reporting that they lack a strong work ethic (65%), have too high salary expectations (57%), and are entitled (50%).

As Gen Zers enter the workplace, the majority of business leaders (51%) say that they have become more concerned about hiring recent graduates in the past five years. Conversely, 6% say they are less worried, and 13% say that there has been no change in their level of concern.

“There’s always been plenty of debate about hiring new grads due to broad assumptions around lacking soft skills, entitlement, and overall job readiness,” says Chief Education and Career Development Advisor Huy Nguyen. “In recent months, there seems to be a heightened concern about Gen Z becoming far more politically active and vocal with their beliefs in all aspects of their lives including the workplace.”

“Employers seem to be worried about distractions from their company’s business productivity goals and potential disruptions if they bring in outspoken employees fresh out of the college campus protest cultural environment.”

Gen Z grads expect higher salaries, have worse work ethic than previous generations

Within the overall subset (64%) of business leaders concerned about recent graduates, 84% say, compared to previous generations, Gen Zers expect too high salaries. Additionally, 79% believe Gen Z college graduates have a worse work ethic, are more entitled (75%), and have become more political than previous generations (70%).

“Employers should be cautious about making generalized assumptions about Gen Z,” explains Nguyen. “Recent grads need to directly prepare to address misguided stereotypes about their qualifications and mindset through developing their personal brand and demonstrating their experience.”

“Some ways to do this include building a professional LinkedIn profile, resume, and cover letter, highlighting relatable experiences from internships, freelance work, or personal projects.”

3 in 10 Business Leaders Have Become More Concerned About Recent College Graduates Because of Pandemic, Pro-Palestine Protests

Thirty-two percent of business leaders are more concerned about hiring recent college graduates because of how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted students’ education.

Additionally, 30% of business leaders have greater concerns about hiring recent graduates due to the pro-Palestine protests, which have occurred in the past 6 months.

“Given that college protests have triggered polarizing debates around free speech, the right to protest, and tolerance for opposing viewpoints, it makes sense that some business leaders may be more concerned about hiring recent graduates,” says Nguyen.

1 in 5 business leaders less likely to hire a pro-Palestine protestors

Of business leaders surveyed who expressed concerns about hiring recent graduates, 22% say they are reluctant to hire graduates who participated in protests. Conversely, 21% indicated a preference for hiring such graduates, while 57% remained neutral.

The reluctance to hire protestors stems from concerns that they may exhibit confrontational behavior (63%), are too political (59%), or could potentially make workers uncomfortable (55%). Additionally, some business leaders perceive protestors as liabilities (45%), dangerous (40%), lacking adequate education (24%), or holding conflicting political ideologies to their own (23%).

Meanwhile, some business leaders express a higher inclination towards hiring recent graduates who actively engage in protests, valuing their outspokenness (73%), strong values (72%), and dedication to a cause (61%). Moreover, 65% say that their political beliefs align.

During interviews, 6 in 10 business leaders ask recent graduates if they participated in protests

Protests are a common topic discussed during the interview process, with 31% of business leaders always (12%) or frequently (19%) inquiring about a candidate’s involvement, while 16% sometimes do so and 54% rarely do. Four in ten (41%) never ask.

“This survey highlights the unfortunate reality where political issues, social activism, and divisiveness are spilling over into the workplace,” explains Nguyen. “As political polarization intensifies, companies appear more likely to make biased judgments about recent graduates based on ideologies or personal behaviors, like protesting or social media activities.”

“This trend poses risks for companies by potentially creating a toxic work environment and may also have legal ramifications if they are discriminating based on political beliefs during the hiring process. It would be prudent for both employers and job seekers to keep politics out of the hiring process. Focusing on a candidate’s qualifications, demonstrable skills, and personal merit is the best way to consider how well someone might succeed in the given role they are applying for.”


All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by The survey launched on May 16, 2024 via Pollfish. In total, 1,268 U.S. business leaders were surveyed, and 808 respondents took the full survey.

Demographic criteria were used to ensure qualified respondents. This criteria included age (35+), household income (>$75,000), organizational role (Owner / Partner, President/CEO/Chairperson, C-Level executive, CFO, CTO, Senior Management, Director, HR manager), company size (>11), and education (high school, technical college, college, or postgraduate).

For more information contact [email protected].