China's Hamburger U harder to get into than Harvard

Newly recruited McDonald's staff work out during a ceremony at the Olympic Green in Beijing on April 24, 2008. (AFP/Getty Images)

How bad do you want fries with that?

It's a question many are asking in China, as they face down stiff competition for jobs at McDonald's. In fact, McDonald's Hamburger University in Shanghai is pickier than the uber-exclusive Harvard.

Take Zhou Xiaob. She started as a management trainee at Hamburger U in 2007, a job for which she and seven others were among 1,000 applicants. As Bloomberg points out, that’s a selection rate of less than 1 percent, whereas Harvard’s acceptance rate last year was about 7 percent.

Then, to boot, to get to the training center, Zhou had to out-perform 43 other workers at her store to be made first assistant manager.

Why is it so hard to flip a burger in China? Let's take a look at the numbers.

Last May, China's colleges and universities graduated more than 6 million — quite an accomplishment given the fact that in 1998, that number was only 830,000. China's focus on higher education over the last several years has been by and large successful.

However, the economy isn't providing good enough professional jobs to absorb the influx of grads.

There is also the issue of McDonald's trying to recruit more skilled workers as it expands into mainland China. McDonald’s currently has 1,300 stores in China and aims to have 2,000 by 2013. McDonald’s opened a record 165 restaurants in 2010 and will accelerate growth this year to meet its goal of 1,000 new outlets in the four years through 2013.