Entitled millennials have been given an "inflated" sense of self-importance due to social media and are no longer willing to do unpaid work to advance their careers.
That's the view of Muffin Break general manager Natalie Brennan, who says the precipitous decline in eager young university students and graduates started "about 10 years ago".
"There's just nobody walking in my door asking for an internship, work experience or unpaid work, nobody," Brennan said.
"You don't see it anymore. Before that people would be knocking on your door all the time, you couldn't keep up with how many people wanted to be working. In fact I'd run programs because there were so many coming in."
Last year she had one intern in marketing and "that was it". "I can't even remember the one before that, six, seven, eight years ago," she said.
"In essence they're working for free, but I can tell you every single person who has knocked on my door for an internship or work experience has ended up with a job. Every single person, because they back themselves."
Brennan, who has been with franchise giant Foodco for 18 years, says that kind of passion is lacking these days.
"One fellow I hired, he was underqualified, completely not the right person, but he rang me every two weeks for six months," she said.
"He said, 'I will do anything, I'll start at ground level.' After six months I hired him, because you can't teach passion and enthusiasm. He worked for five or six years and moved on to a high role in another company."
These days, she notices candidates often walk in to interviews "thinking they're better than the job", immediately asking, "How long before I get my promotion? When is the first payrise?"
In one case after she ended the interview early, the candidate "sent me an abusive email saying I was underpaying, but then said, 'If you pay X amount more I'll come and work for you'".
"People are clueless," she said.
"Not only am I not going to hire you, I will tell everybody about you as well. That's the thing people don't realise — whatever industry you're in, it's a small industry."
Brennan says there is "this unreal view that you're going to come into a company and be the general manager or CEO in five years".
"Nowadays I will often put the actual pay on the (job listing) and say this is not negotiable, because you have a budget for a role," she said.
"There might be $2000, $3000, $5000 flex for the right person, but generally it doesn't matter if an amazing person comes in if you're hiring for a junior role, you only have a junior role pay. But there are still people out there who come in and say, 'I'm willing to work for junior wages to show what I'm worth.'"
Brennan blames social media for the entitlement mentality.
"I think everybody thinks social media is going to get them ahead somewhere," she said.
"There's definitely that inflated view of their self-importance because they have X amount of Instagram followers or this many likes. That's dangerous."
And that flows through into performance management. "It's like, I'm your manager and your mentor but not your cheerleader," she said.
"Even giving people constructive criticism about how they can learn or improve, it's like someone is 'unfriending' them. It's like a personal attack. This ability to learn and grow through working in an environment, people don't want to do it anymore."
She feels like young people want to be applauded or named "staff member of the month for doing their job". "Great, you did your job, so you get to keep your job," she said.
"I'm generalising, but it definitely feels like this generation of 20-somethings has to be rewarded even if it's the most mundane, boring thing, they want to be rewarded for doing their job constantly."
Brennan recalls how, after she went overseas to a conference for two weeks, one of her subordinates demanded a payrise for "looking after the department" while she was gone.
"I said, 'Actually you didn't, I wasn't on leave. You had maybe an extra 10 emails to deal with for two weeks. That was part of your job. If you had solved this problem or saved us money, that's a thing to bring to me.'"