Where The World’s Biz Students Most Want To Work — And Why

Largely on the basis of its perceived creative environment and friendliness to work-life balance, Google is once again the most desired employer in an annual survey of about 150,000 business students worldwide

The world’s business students have spoken, and for the sixth straight year they’ve chosen Google as the employer they’d most like to work for. But a new report on the world’s most appealing paycheck providers has found that trends in what candidates want from the workplace are changing, especially when it comes to work-life balance, creative fulfillment, and long-term job security.

Universum Global, a research and advisory firm, has released its annual report, World’s Most Attractive Employers, that surveys business school and engineering/IT students in the 12 largest economies in the world. On the B-school side, the company talked to 145,437 undergraduates in the U.S., Germany, France, UK, Italy, Russia, China, Japan, Brazil, India, Canada, and South Korea and found that the search giant Google checked all the boxes for what makes a great workplace. (The engineering students felt the same way, ranking Google No. 1 above Microsoft and Apple. But watch out Google — Amazon and Facebook are making a move.) The report also found a growing shift in desire to work where “a mark can more easily be made,” meaning that while big multinationals continue to draw the majority of talent, they are losing market share, so to speak, to mid-sized companies and startups.

The WMAE report of 294,663 total students is written for industry use in exploring branding tactics that resonate with the upcoming workforce, providing information and comparisons for businesses to consider in their own brand strategy. But it also offers lots of useful data not only on student perceptions of the best places to work, but about what they see as the most important factors in choosing a job, company characteristics they find most attractive in a potential employer, and the communication channels they turn to and use to understand those employers.


It’s little surprise that Google, the search giant based in California’s Silicon Valley, continues to appeal to B-school grads: Its “don’t be evil” ethos appeals to idealists, its creative environment is second to none, and its support resources are off the charts: generous parental leave policies, retirement savings plans, death benefits, and more. The Googleplex in Mountain View, California, meanwhile, is 3.1 million square feet of office space, green space, play space, and eating space — 18 cafeterias in all, at last count. No wonder business grads (including, by the way, a strong plurality of MBAs) want to work there.

But they also want to work in finance, or consulting, or product management, or for other tech companies, according to the new Universum report. Rounding out the top six in this year’s Most Attractive report are finance giant Goldman Sachs, computing top dog Apple, and a trio of consultants: Ernst and Young, PwC, and Deloitte, in that order. Microsoft is seventh, followed by L’Oreal, KPMG, and JPMorgan. Besides some minor jockeying (Goldman moved up two places), the top 10 looks much the same as it did in 2016.

Other notables: McKinsey at 11th, Morgan Stanley at 14th, Amazon at 26th after not being ranked at all last year, Facebook close behind at 29th after also being unranked in 2016, and, last at 50th for the second straight year, Minnesota-based manufacturer 3M. Falling furthest was Oracle, 43rd last year and off the list entirely this year, as well as General Electric (from 33rd to 39th) and Intel (from 39th to 44th).


Interestingly, the macro employer sector — companies that employ more than 1,000 — isn’t the top choice for business students in 2017, falling to the third top choice. According to the Universum report, “nearly three-quarters of the students surveyed would prefer to work within an organization smaller than that of a large macro company. In total, 75% of business students … would choose to work for a large employer or smaller.

“Breaking down those numbers,” the report reads, “we still see quite a large number of students interested in these larger, usually more prominent organizations, but the most desired size is that of a medium-sized organization.”

Adds Claudia Tattanelli, global director at Universum Global: “Sometimes called ‘Generation Impact,’ today’s students want to make a difference and might perceive they cannot make as much of an impact in larger organizations like the Fortune 500s.”


For those most interested in high future earnings, the top three choices of employer were Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, and JP Morgan. For those more interested in creative environment, it was Google, Facebook, and Apple. Looking for leaders who will support your development? You’re more likely to gravitate to Bain, Ernst and Young, or McKinsey.

The WMAE report also breaks down the most-represented industries in the rankings, with fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) coming out on top (18%), followed by banking (16%) and automotive (11%). Banking and automotive are unchanged from 2016, but FMCG lost 2 percentage points; meanwhile, fourth-place software and computer services crept up to 8% from 7%.

Put plainly, what do students want to do when they graduate? According to the responses, 36% want to work for an international company or organization; 19% want to work for a privately owned national company or organization; 9% want to work for a state-owned company or organization; and 4% want to work for the government. “In the eyes of students,” the report reads, “companies that operate in more WMAE markets are associated with high financial return. The more global the company is and the more markets it is featured within, the more likely that company will receive an expectation for high future earnings.”

For the 8% of business students who say they want to start their own company, or the 5% who say they want to go to work for a startup, we can infer that money is less important than other considerations. As Universum Global Research Manager Daniel Eckert remarks, “What’s interesting is that for the talent preferring small employers, flexibility is more important, while high future earnings is the bigger draw for those interested in macro employers.”


Universum says its findings that many students see the potential in working for organizations that don’t fall on the WMAE list cause for hope, because “as long as companies understand their own unique selling points and can align that with the communication styles and desires of talent, they stand a chance at attracting and hiring students with top skill sets.”

As the report makes clear, money still talks: The world’s business students still largely hope to land with one of the macro employers in the rankings. However, a shift toward better work-life balance in indisputably underway, with 53% of respondents citing it as their top concern, and Universum points toward greater gender diversity as the chief reason.

“More now than ever,” the report reads, “women and men can achieve successful careers while caring for a household. Candidates associate this attribute with gender diversity and vice versa. Because innovation ranks highly in the eyes of many students … attention to building diversity will be profitable for organizations all over the globe.”

(See the next pages for the full Universum rankings of the 50 employers business graduates find most attractive.)

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