Employers Deliver A Harsh View Of Business Undergrads

college students

Entitled. Self-Interested. Lacking professionalism and judgment. Quick to quit for a small raise.

That’s the harsh assessment several employers delivered on the kinds of students they see coming out of undergraduate business schools. Or at least that’s the sentiment of employers at a recent innovation conference on business education at Rutgers Business School.

Keith Banks, vice chair and chief investment officer of the Pension and Benefits Plan at Bank of America, was among the most severest critics. He said some summer interns were even sending emails to the CEO of the company telling him what to do.”They seem very transactional,” says Banks. “If in two years they aren’t promoted, they leave. It’s all about them. If you can come in and show that you are putting the company first, you are going to stand out as a shiny diamond. You need to put your head down and grind it out,” he advised students.


“It’s creating a real challenge. The mindset is interesting and not in a good way.  It’s a newer trend. It has accelerated post-pandemic, for sure. The real question is, is this the new reality? When we came out of school, people were much less affluent. So when we got into the workforce, we were running scared. A lot of students coming out today now are from more affluent families and they perceive there is a safety net. There is no fear of losing your job. It’s not a good dynamic.”

Thomas Bartlett, president and CEO of American Tower Corp., agreed with Banks. “Communication skills are lacking,” says Bartlett, who says he is more likely to find graduates from Boston College or Rutgers different from those from elite schools. “A BC or Rutgers student comes in, rolls up their sleeves, and works. The world is changing. Students that fit well within the culture and work well with teams and have values and high levels of integrity will do well. These are table stakes but you would be surprised at how often young people don’t have those table stakes. You work hard. You learn, You be the right type of a person and things will come. But there isn’t this natural cadence of in two years you are going to be here.”

Joe Moroney, a partner at Apollo Global Management Inc, says his firm stopped hiring undergraduates because of the changes in work ethic. “We stopped hiring undergrads because it is so difficult to retain them,” he says. “They are jumping for $10,000 after two years. Graduate school students are much more stable. You see an array of attitudes and it has definitely affected how we hire people. It’s not just on the kids. It’s on us at all to create an environment in which people feel engaged.”

Gary Cohen, CEO and cofounder of Maternal Newborn Health Innovations, says he now hires on values.”If someone is coming in with values and perceives their role as being beyond their own entitlement, they are likely to find more opportunities,” he predicts. “Certain schools are more likely to have students coming out with a sense of entitlement. People who come out of top schools expect to be division presidents within three years. More often or not, they derail and don’t make it.”

Jane Connell, senior vice president and chief information officer for Verizon, has also seen a lack of professionalism in hires. “The polish is often missing,” she says. “People hide behind social media as opposed to having candid conversations. You need to know how to harness technology to solve problems today. You need a classroom setting to learn the business basics. But you need to also get out in the field to see what it means. Then and only then can you identify the problems you can solve. Nothing is in the silo of four walls anymore. You have to know how to put together partners to get something done. Those are the kinds of leaders you want in a business school: working outside the boundaries, with curiosity, and breaking it down as a technologist. It should be about creating experiences and possibilities.”

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