Why Young People Are Scrambling To Work For The Same Few Companies

The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. on September 2, 2011.    AFP PHOTO/KIMIHIRO
The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. on September 2, 2011. AFP PHOTO/KIMIHIRO HOSHINO (Photo credit should read KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images)

The improving economy doesn’t seem to be enough to push college students to broaden their horizons very much: For the last few years, young people have been setting their sights on the same few companies.

The most attractive companies to young people continue to be big names like Google, Apple, Goldman Sachs and IBM, according to a global survey of 240,000 business, engineering and IT students released Wednesday by employer branding firm Universum.

Among business students, Google ranked first, followed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Goldman, KPMG and Deloitte. Apple, Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase and Procter & Gamble rounded out the top 10.

The results indicate that tech, banking and consulting industries are increasingly competing for the same pool of top students.

"They're absolutely going for the same talent," said Kortney Kutsop, senior account director at Universum. "What Google and Apple have that accounting and banking firms don't is a product. They have strong brand recognition. In accounting and banking, the people are their product."

Even the exhausting work culture of Wall Street (Goldman Sachs recently told its interns to stop working between midnight and 7 a.m.) and consulting doesn't seem to deter students. Banks and the Big Four -- Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG -- are still the "gold standard" for business students, said Kevin Troy, head of Universum's research and insights in the Americas.

"They have great training programs, they look great on your resume, and they're competitive and challenging," Troy said.

But these companies are losing appeal among students seeking more creative work, and the tech industry is snapping up the talent.

"Fifteen or 20 years ago, students wouldn't have said they were looking for a kooky environment where people stay up till midnight but get free meals," Troy said. "But Google came along and many other Silicon Valley companies adopted culture. We're in a different paradigm."

Some students, however, may not be as drawn to the tech industry's relaxed hierarchy.

"Where the consulting and banking firms have an advantage is being able to articulate what the advancement path looks like for analysts," Troy said. "Tech companies tend not to focus on job titles and have flatter organization structures, and that's part of the appeal. But for someone who really wants to know what they'll be doing in two, four years, recruiting websites will tell you how long it takes you to make partner."

Engineering and IT students also named Google as the most attractive employer on Universum's survey. Other companies among the top 10 include Microsoft, Apple, BMW, GE, IBM and Intel.

While these are consistent with past surveys, one industry climbing the ranks is consumer packaged goods, or CPGs, like Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestle and L'Oreal. These companies have begun to emphasize their values over the products they churn out.

"Millennials want to be part of a bigger purpose and give back," Kutsop said. "Companies are talking about how you'll advance, training and development programs, rather than showcasing that Unilever owns Ben & Jerry's and Dove."