University students and recent graduates are a fairly conservative bunch when it comes to choosing employers. They want to work for banks (with the big names at the top), professional services firms, McKinsey and Google. So says our 2018 Ideal Employer survey of the companies 20-25 year olds find most attractive: the top three are all banks, with Goldman Sachs in the top spot.
Asking people in this age bracket which company they’d like to work for is quite different to asking any other group. More than any other list in our survey, this is about how companies are perceived and how they brand themselves, because a significant proportion of 20-25 year olds will have no first hand experience of actually working for the businesses in question. Think back to when you were a second year undergraduate – what did you really know about the world of work?
This probably explains why Goldman is number one. It is shorthand for “bank” or “high paying graduate employer” in the way that McDonald’s is shorthand for fast food restaurant. It’s also an example of all publicity being good publicity. Sure, Goldman gets a lot of flak, but you rather suspect the only thing worse than being called a “vampire squid” would have been one its competitors being singled out for this dubious honour.
Here, it is telling that only seven percent of graduates thought Goldman a good corporate citizen – and only 50% thought this important. Perhaps, if, in your early 20s, you’re planning to work for the vampire squid, making a positive difference to the world is not your primary concern.
Name recognition likely explains Google’s prominence too. So why isn’t Google number one? After all, it was ranked the world’s second best brand by Interbrand in 2017 and is far better known than any bank. This may be because there is still a perception that Google is an employer only for those with science, maths and tech degrees, whereas anyone can work in a bank.
Familiarity is also probably the reason PWC and Deloitte score so well (despite being, perhaps a little staid and grey compared to some of the other firms in this list). These two put a huge effort into marketing themselves to graduates. They may also seen as rather easier to get into than Google or Goldman, and so might attract people who do not see Goldman as a realistic proposition.
Deutsche Bank came out eighth in our survey - despite saying recently that it has 619 graduate jobs, for which it received 110,000 applications in 2018. If DB received that quantity of applications, the implication is that other banks had far, far more.
Interestingly, graduates across the board say that perks such as gym membership and snacks are important. It’s tempting to say that this is because they’re young and easily impressed by shiny baubles. But actually this is a simplistic reading of the situation. Graduates know that these companies often have long hours cultures and so recognise that having a gym and a great cafeteria in the building are genuinely important. Here too we can point to Silicon Valley which is largely responsible for the idea that great perks and being a great employer go hand in hand.
Conversely, graduates seem to think that few companies offer great prospects for promotion – and nor do they attach much importance to it. Again, it would be easy to chalk this up to the callowness of youth. In fact, it’s a very savvy assessment of how the world works. Nowadays, most people only stay at their employer for four or five years and organisations are pretty flat. To get a significant promotion or salary hike means moving to another company.
Here it also makes sense that graduates see training as more important than promotion – because you take learned skills with you when you leave.
Contrary to the accepted wisdom about Generation Z, our survey found a general ambivalence about flexible working. This, we can probably can put down to youth. When you’re in early 20s and and have few responsibilities and children are a prospect so distant as to barely register, being able to come in late or leave early sometimes is unlikely to seem like a valuable perk. It notworthy too that women find flexible working far more valuable.
However, there are some genuine surprises when it comes to factors like businesses offering challenging and interesting work. The stars here are Google (which is to be expected) and PWC and Deloitte (which also makes sense as they offer variety. Yet Blackrock also scores higher than any of the banks which is something of a surprise. Why? What is it that makes investment so much more interesting than banking? Weirdly, McKinsey & Co. comes second from bottom. This is a surprise as a big part of “the firm’s” pitch that it offers tough, but intellectually stimulating work.
Similarly surprising is Google’s low score as an industry leader. But then maybe not. Perhaps, for these early Generation Z employees, Google is already part of a dull and monolithic establishment – little different to Microsoft - and the real industry leaders are the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp and Snap, Inc. Either way, organisations themselves will soon find out.
View the complete 2018 eFinancialCareers Ideal Employer Rankings