Earning an undergraduate degree is supposed to help young adults develop the skills needed for the workplace. However, according to a December 2023 survey by Intelligent.com of 800 U.S. managers, directors, and executives who are involved in hiring, recent Gen Z college graduates are struggling with many aspects of professional life making them less desirable to hire.

Key findings:

  • 38% of employers avoid hiring recent college graduates in favor of older employees
  • 1 in 5 employers have had a recent college graduate bring a parent to a job interview
  • 58% say recent college graduates are unprepared for the workforce
  • Nearly half of employers have had to fire a recent college graduate


Employers offer older workers better pay, increased benefits to avoid Gen Z college graduates

When asked if they avoid hiring recent college graduates for positions they’re eligible for in favor of older candidates, 39% of employers say that they do.

These employers are willing to implement a variety of different tactics to avoid working with recent college graduates, including offering more benefits to attract older workers (60%), paying higher salaries to attract older workers (59%), letting older employers work remotely or in a hybrid format (48%), and being willing to hire an older employee who is overqualified for the position to avoid working with someone younger (46%).

Unreasonable salary demands, lack of eye contact top list of interview blunders for recent college grads

One in 5 employers say that when it comes to job interviews, recent college graduates are unprepared.

The biggest offense, according to 53% of employers, is that recent college graduates struggle with eye contact during interviews. Additionally, half of employers say they ask for unreasonable compensation, and 47% say they’ve had candidates show up to their interviews dressed inappropriately.

Regardless of whether interviews are online or in-person, recent college graduates still seem to struggle with professional behavior. Twenty-one percent of employers have had a candidate refuse to turn on their camera for a virtual interview, while 19% say they’ve even had a recent college graduate bring a parent with them to their interview.

While employers may be frustrated by these behaviors, they should also consider the circumstances surrounding recent college graduates’ education, says Diane M. Gayeski, PhD, professor of strategic communications at Ithaca College.

“Employers need to recognize that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, young people graduating from college had more than two years of disruption in their education as well as their social and professional development,” Gayeski says. “Current seniors were in their freshman year at the height of COVID. They likely took classes online and were unable to participate in clubs, internships, or summer jobs.”

College grads should research and make connections with potential employers, expert says

According to Gayeski, there are many ways recent college graduates can improve their interview performance.

First, she recommends that candidates research companies, their leaders, and the overall industry as part of their interview preparation.

“See if you can find any contacts at the company, such as employees who have graduated from your university or anyone who has friends or family there,” Gayeski says. “If you can have an informal chat with someone who works there, you’ll get a better idea of the culture and topics you might be able to talk about in the interview.”

When it comes to making reasonable asks around compensation, Gayeski says, “See whether a salary range has been posted. If not, look at statistics for salary ranges for this particular kind of job, including in your specific location. Use the research you’ve done to offer a general number.”

To overcome nerves, “See if you can get a sense of the formality of the organization, which will inform the kinds of conversations you might have, and even what you should wear,” Gayeski says. “Take advantage of mock interviews or other job preparation workshops that your college might offer. The more comfortable you are with the process, the more you’ll be able to be fluent, make eye contact, and bring forth your personality.”

2 in 3 employers say recent college grads can’t manage their workload

Sixty-three percent of employers who’ve worked with recent college graduates say they frequently can’t handle their workload. Additionally, 61% say they are frequently late to work, 59% say they often miss deadlines and assignments, and 53% say they are frequently late to meetings.

Recent college grads are entitled, 63% of employers say

When asked about recent college graduates’ workplace behaviors and attitudes, 63% of employers say that recent college graduates are entitled. Fifty-eight percent of employers say they get offended too easily and are overall unprepared for the workforce.

Other top complaints include lacking professionalism (57%), not responding well to feedback (55%), and having poor communication skills (52%).

Nearly half of employers, 47%, say they’ve fired a recent college graduate.

However, employers who want to keep their younger hires may have to shift their own expectations and training protocols

“Gen Z hires need a lot of mentoring,” Gayeski says. “They may need very specific guidance about what to wear, how to write an appropriate business email, or how to speak up in a meeting.”

“These individuals value training and connections with fellow employees. They really want to do a good job and be valued. They also care very much about the values of an organization and its leaders, so if companies want to attract the top talent, they should be prepared to talk about more than just the job and making money.”


All data found within this report derives from a survey conducted on December 7, 2023 by survey platform Pollfish and commissioned by Intelligent.com. In total 800 U.S. managers, directors and executives who are involved in hiring were surveyed.

Demographic criteria were used to ensure qualified respondents. This criteria included age (25+), household income (>$75,000), organizational role (C-Level executive, HR manager, director, president, owner/partner, senior management, and middle management), and company size (>10).

To avoid bias from this component Pollfish employs Random Device Engagement (RDE) to ensure both random and organic surveying. You can learn more about Pollfish’s survey methodology.

For more information contact [email protected].