Talent Development

Where Do College Students Want to Work, and Why?

By Ian GoverJune 3, 2014

As graduation season concludes, the country’s brightest young minds are about to enter the workforce. So how do you attract the best young talent to your company and develop its next generation of leaders?

It may help to know which companies today’s college students want to work for, and what’s important to them in choosing their ideal job.

A recent survey of more than 46,000 undergraduates across America by consulting firm Universum gave insight into not just the companies students were hoping to work for, but also the values that were important to them in making that choice. Some of the results run counter to much received wisdom about what “millennials” want.

Most Popular Companies

The choice of company was of course influenced by the students’ major, but some companies ranked highly in multiple categories.

Google, for example, was no. 1 for both computer science and business students, no. 2 for humanities students, and no. 3 for engineering students.

Walt Disney Co also did well: it was the top choice of humanities students, and the second choice of business students. And Apple was no. 3 among both business and computer science students.

Important Values

Everyone knows that company loyalty is dead, and young employees are into job-hopping, right?

So it may surprise you to learn that undergraduates ranked “job security” no. 2 on the list of things they were looking for from their future employers.

Top of the list was respect for employees, and also in the top 5 were a creative, dynamic and friendly work environment, and professional training and development.

You may have noticed that there’s been no mention of money yet. In fact, “high future earnings” ranked way down at no. 9 on the list, below things like ethical standards, managers who will support their employees’ development, and leadership opportunities.

Again, that goes against the prevailing view of young people as being materialistic. The long-running American Freshman survey, for example, found that the number of college freshmen whose objective was to “be very well off financially” rose from around 40% in the 1960s to more than 70% in recent years. But this new survey by Universum suggests that in choosing a future employer, future earning power is not a top consideration.

What To Do

If you want your company to be more attractive to the next generation of leaders, you could of course study what the top companies on the list are doing, and adopt some of their practices. We wrote about Google’s innovative use of big data in its hiring practices here, for example.

But you could also focus on the values espoused by today’s undergraduates, and find your own ways of fulfilling them. If you can provide the main things that 46,000 young people are looking for in an employer, you’ll make your company an attractive destination.

The data suggests that salary promises shouldn’t be your top priority. It’s more about instilling values like respect, creativity and ethical standards in your organization, and communicating those values clearly to prospective employees.

And don’t forget about items 4 and 6 on the list: “professional training and development” and “leaders who will support my development.” You can meet those needs with a well-thought-out mentoring program. Separate research published in Harvard Business Review showed that mentoring was important to high-potential young employees, and was not being provided adequately by their employers. Being the company to meet that need could help you differentiate yourself from your competitors in the war for talent.

For more ideas on how to develop tomorrow’s leaders, check out “Why Your Emerging Leaders Need Mentors.”


Ian Gover

Ian Gover

Co-Founder at Everwise

About the Author

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