The companies where everyone wants to work

For the fourth year in a row, business students from around the world rated Google as the company they would most like to work for. The World’s Most Attractive Employers 2012 report, produced by employer branding firm Universum, asked tens of thousands of business students from the 12 largest economies in the world to identify where they would like most to be hired out of school from a list companies based around the world.

Included on the final list of the most attractive companies are major tech giants like Google, bank holding companies like Goldman Sachs and accounting firms like KPMG. 24/7 Wall St. analyzed company financials, brand valuations, and ratings of these companies by current employees to identify how they manage to be so attractive to potential employees. Based on Universum’s 2012 list, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 13 companies everyone wants to work for.

One factor many of these companies have in common is the fact that they have been able to market themselves as very innovative. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Camille Kelly, Vice President of Employer Branding at Universum, explains that this generation of students in particular prioritizes being on the cutting edge of technology.

“Innovation means to a student that there is going to be new challenges, and that they’re going to continue to be able to work on cutting-edge technology,” she says. Of the 13 companies identified as most attractive for prospective employees, five made the Thomson Reuters list of the 100 most innovative companies in the world. Kelly adds that in the case of Google, which did not make the Reuters list, the tech giant branded itself as a very innovative company.

By far, the industry with the most representation on this list is accounting. All of the Big Four accounting firms — PwC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and KPMG — are not only all on this list, but in the top ten. Kelly explains that accounting firms have been able to, despite the lack of glamour in their industry, successfully brand the business as well as their specific companies as attractive, lucrative places to work.

The 13 most attractive companies are, for the most part, also powerful global brands. Of the 13 companies voted as most attractive by the students, eight are on Interbrand’s 2012 list of the 100 most valuable global brands. BrandZ, which produces a similar list, also ranks seven of these 13 companies among the 100 most valuable global brands.

Kelly explains that “there is definitely a strong relationship between a strong consumer brand and a strong employer brand” because any prestige and stability are important to students. As a result, prospective employees are more likely to be attracted to companies with familiar products.

Being financially successful also appears to impact the degree to which companies are considered attractive. Most of the 13 companies reported healthy earnings and strong growth over the past several years. For example, Apple’s revenue has more than quintupled in the past few years.

These companies also tend to have highly regarded workplace environments. Companies like Apple, Google, and Ernst & Young, regularly receive accolades for being great places to work. According to a Glassdoor survey of employees, seven of these 13 companies are in the top 50 places to work in the U.S.

[More from 24/7 Wall St.: Thirteen American Cities Going Broke]

Based on the World’s Most Attractive Employers, a report by New York-based global employer branding firm Universum, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 13 companies students most-wanted to work for in 2012. We also reviewed Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For and Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work in order to identify the best workplaces for current employees. We considered two studies on the value of the companies’ core brands, one by Interbrand and another by BrandZ. Additionally, we also considered information on the world’s most innovative companies from Thomson Reuters’ Top 100 Global Innovators. Revenue and profit listed for these companies was for the most recent full fiscal year.

1. Google

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)> Interbrand rank: 4
> Number of employees: 53,546
> Revenue: $37.9 billion
> Net income: $9.7 billion

Google tops the list of the World’s Most Attractive Employers, a position the company has now held for the past four years. The company also ranks first on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, and it isn’t hard to see why. Fortune points out that the company’s headquarters, dubbed the Googleplex, contains bocce courts, a bowling alley and 25 cafes company wide. “Employees are never more than 150 feet away from a well-stocked pantry,” one Google employee told the magazine. The company is also generally known for its laid-back corporate environment, with one of the company’s philosophies, “you can be serious without a suit.” Employees, even those not at the top, have also reaped financial success. Software engineers at Google were paid a base salary of $128,336 in 2012, well above the average of $92,648 for all software engineers.

2. KPMG

> Interbrand rank: n/a
> Number of employees: 145,000
> Revenue: $22.7 billion
> Net income: N/A

For the third consecutive year, KPMG was named by business students as the world’s second most desirable company to work for, according to Universum. Of this achievement, Chairman Michael Andrew noted that “attracting top students into our firms enables us to bring in the best talent, expertise and knowledge to our clients.” The company earned at least $20 billion in revenue in both fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011 from its auditing , advisory, and tax services businesses. However, in its survey of top employers, Forbes ranks KPMG the lowest among the Big Four accounting firms.

3. Procter & Gamble

(AP Photo/Al Behrman)> Interbrand rank: n/a
> Number of employees: 126,000
> Revenue: $83.7 billion
> Net income: $10.8 billion

Procter & Gamble, the maker of household name products such as Crest toothpaste and Tide laundry detergent, has a host of job opportunities for business graduates in many of its departments. And P&G’s alumni have gone on to very successful careers. Prominent alumni include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman. But the largest consumer goods company in the world has had challenges recently. Profit has declined for the last several years, and the company announced in February it planned to slash 5,700 jobs over a four-year time frame as part of a plan to cut $10 billion in costs.

4. Microsoft


> Interbrand rank: 5
> Number of employees: 94,000
> Revenue: $73.7 billion
> Net income: $17.0 billion

Alongside Apple, Google and IBM, Microsoft is considered one of the top five brands in the world by both Interbrand and BrandZ. The company, which offers widely-used products such as Windows, Xbox, Skype and Microsoft Office, has been a top choice among business students in each of the past three years, according to Universum. Further, Microsoft has been listed in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For each year since 1998, although the company ranked just 76th in Fortune’s 2012 report. Additionally, the company had a mediocre quarter to begin fiscal 2013. Revenue in the first quarter fell by 8% and operating income fell by 26% year-over-year, while earnings per share fell from 68 cents in the first quarter of fiscal 2012 to 53 cents in fiscal 2013. The company’s stock has risen by 13.8% in the last 12 months, about the same as the S&P 500 index.

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