Why Is Getting Into China's Hamburger U So Hard?

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Last year, Bloomberg's Michael Wei and Margaret Conley report, McDonald's moved the Chinese branch of its Hamburger University from Hong Kong to the outskirts of Shanghai, training 1,000 of the nearly 70,000 McDonald's employees in mainland China.

Getting trained, however, is no easy task. The reporters tell the story of Zhou Xiaobu, who in 2007 was selected along with seven others as McDonald's management trainees out of a field of 1,000 applicants. "That's a selection rate of less than 1 percent," Wei and Conley point out, "lower than Harvard University’s record low acceptance rate last year of about 7 percent." Then, to attend the university and have McDonald's pay the $1,518 cost of her five-day training course, Zhou had to outperform 43 co-workers at her McDonald's to be named first assistant manager.

Why is the application process so competitive?

The reporters give two reasons. First, McDonald's wants to recruit and retain skilled workers as it expands into the growing Chinese fast-food market. McDonald's has 16 percent of the market while Yum Brands, which owns KFC and Pizza Hut, has 40 percent.

But Wei and Conley add that the process is also competitive because more than 26 percent of China's 6.3 million college graduates are unemployed, compared with a 4.2 percent unemployment rate for China's urban workforce.

OK, so that's Hamburger U's explanation. What's yours, Harvard?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.