Google Tops Future Employer Rankings for Scholars

With Google instead taking the lead, for the first year since 2008 Disney was not listed as the overall first-choice employer. Disney did rank in fifth place overall in our study of where high school and college scholars most prefer to work in the future.

That’s what we found at the NSHSS, an international honor society recognizing outstanding academic excellence in high school and college scholars globally — 750,000 scholars representing over 160 countries. The full list is at the bottom of this article.

Members were asked to rank their preferred companies to work for and selected from a list of more than 200 companies.  The list of companies was created by combining the 2012 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For, the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity, selected companies from Fortune’s Global 500, and popular write-in choices from prior surveys.  Respondents were given the opportunity to select up to three companies and were also allowed to write in choices. Results have are available charted by overall ranking, gender rankings, high school/post-high school rankings, and diverse/non-diverse rankings.

The most popular choices continue to reflect interests in technology and health fields, with Google moving to first place in 2012 as the most preferred employer. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, local hospital and health providers, and the Mayo Clinic all placed in the top 10 most preferred. Teach for America was a popular choice, ranking 16th.  Many government agencies place highly as well. The FBI ranked #6 and the CIA closely followed at #8. The Air Force ranked #15, the Navy ranked #26 (up from # 31 in 2011), the Army ranked #28, and, the Marines ranked # 64.

Respondents were also asked about the importance of certain workplace factors when choosing an employer, with options separated into four categories.  Students ranked responses based on what they most want in an employer, ranked below. The factors ranking as most important in each area included fair treatment, strong benefits, opportunities to enhance career skills, and the ability to create a harmonious work/life balance.

What They Want, Ranked

Perception and Image

  1. Treats employees fairly
  2. Corporate social responsibility
  3. Prestige of company
  4. Brand

Pay, Benefits, and Perks

  1. Benefits (including health insurance, retirement, etc.)
  2. Flexible work hours
  3. Base salary
  4. Performance bonuses

Job Specific and Opportunities

  1. Gaining skills to enhance career
  2. International opportunities
  3. Teamwork
  4. Work within the U.S.

Work Environment

  1. Work/life balance
  2. Friendly colleagues
  3. Workplace welcomes people of all backgrounds
  4. Accessible office location

Not Worried About Big-name Schools

Respondents were also asked which characteristics they think most qualify them to work for the employer of their choice. They ranked their opinions of the importance of the college they attended, their GPA, level of education, personality, prior work experience, ethnicity, skills and experience. The majority (60%) ranked their skills and experience as the most important qualification, with personality following at 46% and level of education at 37%. Ten percent ranked the particular college they attended as the most important qualification.

Article Continues Below

High Expectations

A number of respondents expect to work while in college, 41% indicating that they do or will work while attending college and 23% indicating they will need to work in college to help meet their family’s expenses. Despite the current economic realities, respondents expect to become financially independent soon after college, with 48% expecting to find a job in their field right after college graduation and 27% expecting to find a job in their field within six months of graduating college.

Slightly Fewer on Facebook

As expected, technology continues to play a vital role in respondents’ daily lives, trending upward annually. While 96% own a cell phone, while 57% of those have a smartphone. Texting continues to play a critical role in communications, with 24% send more than 50 text messages daily. The percentage of those having a Facebook account is actually down slightly from 2011: 95% in 2011 and 94% in 2012, but those with Twitter accounts has risen from 19%  in 2011 to 33% in 2012. Only 11% have a LinkedIn account.

Respondents were asked how they preferred to be contacted by employers about career opportunities, and were allowed to select multiple answers: 81% indicated by email; 68% by telephone, and 63% through networking/career fairs. Only 9% indicated they would like to be contacted by employers through Facebook.

About the Students

We’ve conducted this survey online for five years, emailed to current and former NSHSS members annually. More than 10,200 students, ages 15-26, participated in the 2012 survey, answering 26 questions. The survey results were analyzed by independent external research consultant Stephen Hyslop. The respondents reflect the diversity of NSHSS and are college-bound high school students, currently-enrolled college students, and recent college graduates. Members must have an academic GPA minimum of 3.5; 40 percent join with a GPA of 3.7 or higher. Of the total membership, 49% identify themselves as non-white.  The majority of the respondents were high schools students in the 11th and 12th grades, predominantly female, and residing in the United States.

More Key Findings

  • Respondents indicate their strongest college and career interests are in health-related fields, sciences, technology, and business.
  • Health-related employers and technology employers continued to rank highly as preferred companies while financial services companies have fallen.  JPMorgan Chase was the only financial service company to increase in overall ranking compared to 2011 (#35 in 2011; #29 in 2012).
  • Gender differences in ranking are pronounced in a few cases, at tunes reflecting traditional fields (males preferring Mercedes-Benz and computer/software companies such as Microsoft, Dell, and Intel; females ranking clothing companies such Abercrombie & Fitch, Nordstrom, as well as L’Oreal, much higher than did males.).
  • Diverse candidates (compared to the overall rankings) ranked AT&T, Aéropostale, and Wal-Mart much higher than non-diverse counterparts
  • Younger students (high school compared to post-high school) preferred retail names with which they would be familiar (Aéropostale, A&F, L’Oreal).
  • Older students (post high school) preferred the accounting firms (Deloitte and Ernst & Young), as well as other well-branded employers such as Exxon.
  • Respondents indicated a strong preferences for internships while attending college. Over 83% expect to participate in an internship during their college careers.
  • Parental involvement remains an important factor. Millennials are often characterized as being raised by “helicopter “ parents, who are heavily involved in most aspects of their children’s lives. In this survey, 67% indicated that their parents or guardians were involved in their career decisions, with 33% of these indicating their parents/guardians were very involved in their career decisions.
  • As in past surveys, respondents continued to indicate a preference for studying and expecting careers in the fields of medicine/health services, sciences, engineering, technology, and business. Psychology also continues to be popular major.

Here’s that full 1-100 list. If you have trouble reading it, click on the link that says “Where They Want to Work 1-100.”

Where They Want to Work 1-100

Susan Thurman holds a Ph.D. in English from Florida State University. She directs the scholarship program for The National Society of High School Scholars in Atlanta, and is the director of the NSHSS Foundation, which promotes scholarships for underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.


5 Comments on “Google Tops Future Employer Rankings for Scholars

  1. Looks like we have some major disconnects between the expectations and the realities.

    “What we have is a failure to communicate”
    – Cool Hand Luke, 1967

    Happy Friday, My Recruitaz!

  2. I am curious to see what the degrees/majors are of those students polled, as “48% expecting to find a job in their field right after college graduation and 27% expecting to find a job in their field within six months of graduating college.” I hope they aren’t liberal arts majors otherwise more then half are going to be getting an ugly slap in the face from life shortly after the pomp and circumstance.

    I am also willing to bet if you asked them if they wanted to be paid to sit at home they’d probably rank that pretty highly too.

    Setting themselves up for failure with the unrealistic expectations, I believe the appropriate saying would be “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.”


    Morning Edition NPR
    College Grads Struggle To Gain Financial Footing
    By Jennifer Ludden
    May 10, 2012, 2:54 AM

    Graduates of the University of Alabama’s class of 2011. The economic downturn has hit recent college grads hard. New data show only half of those who graduated from 2006 to 2011 are working full time. (Butch Dill / AP)


    Most of the estimated 1.5 million people graduating from a four-year college this spring will soon be looking for a job.

    If the experiences of other recent college grads are any guide, many will be disappointed.

    A new Rutgers University survey of those who graduated from college between 2006 and 2011 finds that just half of those grads are working full time.
    “I thought I wasn’t going to get a job. I was happy to have one part-time job.
    –Caitlin Lacour, 2011 College Graduate

    Settling For Part Time

    “I thought I wasn’t going to get a job,” says Caitlin LaCour, who entered Columbia College Chicago the year the most recent recession began. By the time she graduated in 2011, she says, “I was happy to have one part-time job.”

    LaCour also felt lucky that the job, doing promotions for a Chicago radio station, related to her major in radio production. But she earns just $10 an hour. By the time she had to start making payments on her $100,000 student loan debt, LaCour realized her paycheck would not be nearly enough.

    She took on a second part-time job at a shoe store, and then a third, also at the radio station.

    “I got addicted to working,” LaCour says. “I just burned myself out, because I didn’t want to have to worry about not being able to pay my loans.”

    LaCour must pay more than $700 each month in student loans, and the only way she can make the payments is by living rent-free with her parents.

    It’s a situation that’s come to symbolize graduating post-recession.

    More Have Debt Than Have Jobs

    “More come out with debt than come out with jobs,” says Cliff Zukin, a senior research fellow with the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

    The center’s new study finds that 6 in 10 students take on debt — more than $20,000 on average — even as a lack of jobs leaves them less able to pay it back.

    “In the data,” Zukin says, “there’s certainly a suggestion that the American dream has stopped at these guys’ doorstep.”

    Zukin says nearly half of college graduates with full-time work are in jobs that don’t require a college degree. And very few respondents say their first job will lead to a career. In fact, one-third of recent college grads say they no longer believe education combined with hard work will necessarily lead to success.

    “They don’t even see in the foreseeable future a secure job, a comfortable income, starting a family,” he says. “And even more — 45 percent — do not see owning a home at any point in the near future.”

    Moreover, Zukin notes, this survey depicts the “cream of the crop” — the minority of young Americans who go to college. Unemployment is far higher among those who don’t.

    Long-Term Impact

    The Rutgers study finds that one-fifth of recent college grads have gone back to school — where many are now accumulating more debt.

    Meanwhile, those respondents who got jobs since the recession began are making less than their peers who graduated in 2006 and 2007.

    The difference amounts to “about 10 percent lower earnings,” says Columbia University economist Till von Wachter. His research indicates that the depressed earnings can last a decade or more, although that effect can vary.

    An engineering grad from a top school, for example, can job-hop and get back to a higher earning level in three or four years, von Wachter says. But “students who come from smaller, less-well-known schools and have majors such as humanities or arts — they tend to have depressed career paths lasting for a very long time.”

    Indeed, given the current job market, many respondents to the Rutgers survey now say they wish they had majored in something else.

    Researcher Cliff Zukin wonders if it’s the end of the happy, self-confident “millennial generation.”

    But while the Rutgers study may be sobering, many recent grads still retain a sense of optimism.

    “I love the people I work with. I love my customers. I’m a people person,” says Tiffany Conner, who graduated in 2009 and is now working, by choice, in two part-time retail jobs.

    After college, Conner landed a full-time job in her field of marketing. But the work didn’t make her happy, so she quit and moved back in with her parents in Wisconsin to figure out something else.

    Conner’s focus now is paying down her student loan and credit card debt.

    “Debt is just one of those pieces of life, and being miserable about it isn’t good either,” Conner laughs. “So, keep my head up high, I guess. Keep plugging away, and I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

    After all, she knows she has plenty of company.

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