Some employers are reluctant to hire college grads who attended pro-Palestinian protests, survey finds

some employers are reluctant to hire college grads who attended pro-palestinian protests, survey finds

Nic Antaya | Getty Images

The class of 2024 have graduated into a rocky jobs market and to make matters worse, employers are becoming increasingly wary about hiring them.

In fact, 64% of employers have said they have become concerned about hiring graduates in the past five years more broadly, according to a recently published survey of 1,268 business leaders in the U.S. by higher education publication Intelligent.com.

Almost a third of employers are particularly worried about hiring recent graduates who have attended pro-Palestinian protests in the past six months, while 22% are reluctant to hire graduates who have participated in these demonstrations.

Pro-Palestinian protests have erupted across colleges in the U.S. since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war. Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed over 1,200 lives in the Oct. 7 terror attack in Israel, according to official figures. And the ensuing Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian health authorities there.

Students from high-profile colleges have gotten involved including Columbia University, the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan, and the University of Mississippi among others.

Almost two-thirds of employers said they were reluctant to hire protesters because they may exhibit confrontational behavior in the workplace and over half say it's because they are too political and could make other workers feel uncomfortable, per the survey.

Other reasons included that they perceived protesters as liabilities, dangerous, lacking a decent education, and having political beliefs that were different from their own.

"With all the dramatic coverage from recent campus protests and other events, it's understandable that employers may want to avoid potential distractions and conflicts in the workplace,' Huys Nguyen, chief education and career development advisor at Intelligent.com, told CNBC Make it.

"However, judging candidates based on their perceived political views can create a slippery slope that employers should try to avoid. Exercising free speech and sharing personal opinions on social issues is a fundamental right and employers should prioritize a candidate's skills, experience, and other job-related qualifications over any political biases," Nguyen added.

Job application process

Not all employers feel the same way. Some 21% of business leaders surveyed are keen to hire graduates who have attended protests because they value their outspokenness, strong values, dedication to a cause, and political beliefs that align with their own. Meanwhile, 57% of leaders remained neutral on the topic.

There's a possibility the topic might come up in the job application process with 31% of business leaders always or frequently inquiring about a candidate's involvement in protests during interviews. But 54% said they rarely ask about it, according to the survey.

"Political views should never be factored into a candidate's qualifications during the hiring process," Nguyen explained.

"Not only is it unethical, but there is no meaningful bearing on the ability of a candidate to perform the responsibilities of the job. Additionally, employers who are shown to have bias may open themselves up for legal ramifications in some jurisdictions."

Nguyen emphasized that college students and graduates don't necessarily need to repress their political views and activism, but they need to be aware that some employers do have biases.

"When applying for jobs, they should try to maintain professionalism by separating personal political views from their career objectives and focus on highlighting their qualifications for the position they are applying for," Nguyen said.

"Recognize that these biases exist, but do not become paralyzed by them and focus on developing an adaptable mindset, becoming a lifelong learner, and having the confidence to overcome any current or future challenges that might arise in your career journey," he added.

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