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The Companies Where Everyone Wants to Work

Michael B. Sauter, Alexander E.M. Hess and Samuel Weigley

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.

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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.

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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

> 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.


> 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

> 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.

5. Deloitte

> Interbrand rank: N/A
> Number of Employees: 193,000
> Revenue: $31.3 billion
> Net income: N/A

In each of the past three years, Deloitte has been one of the top five desired employers according to Universum, making the consulting group one of just three companies to achieve this distinction. The firm, which provides consulting, audit, tax and risk management services to clients worldwide, employs over 56,000 people and has annual revenues exceeding $13 billion in the U.S. alone. According to Fortune, which rates Deloitte as one of its 100 Best Companies to Work For, the average pay for a Senior Consultant, the most common position at the company, is more than $86,000. The company has received accolades for military hiring, LGBT equality and women’s advancement.

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6. Ernst & Young

> Interbrand rank: N/A
> Number of employees: 167,000
> Revenue: $24.4 billion
> Net income: N/A

Ernst & Young is considered one of the Big Four accounting firms, but the company provides a whole host of services for a wide range of industries, including banking, oil and gas, technology, real estate and many others. Ernst & Young helps other companies meet its tax and regulatory requirements, but it also provides advisory services on strategy and raising capital, among others. The company has a presence in 140 different countries and has made considerable investments in emerging markets such as Brazil, China, India and parts of Africa. Forbes ranks Ernst & Young as The Best Accounting Firm to Work For in 2012, a survey that took into account both prestige and quality of life for employees.

7. PwC

> Interbrand rank: N/A
> Number of employees: 180,529
> Revenue: $31.5 billion
> Net income: N/A

In each of the last three years PwC, has been rated by Universum as one of the world’s most desired employers among business students. Fortune also ranks the professional services firm as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Among the reasons for PwC’s high ranking are the fully-paid sabbaticals and the mentoring program for expecting mothers. Employees also like working at PwC, which was named by Glassdoor as one of the 50 best places to work, as measured by employee reviews. The company, which provides auditing, assurance and tax services, among other offerings, has total revenues exceeding $31 billion.

8. JPMorgan Chase

> Interbrand rank: 32
> Number of employees: 259,547
> Revenue: $97.2 billion (net revenue)
> Net income: $19.0 billion

J.P. Morgan was able, to a large extent, to avoid devastation from the downturn of the housing market, unlike rivals such as Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The firm has emerged stronger than ever. While banks drastically cut headcount in the years following the financial crisis, J.P. Morgan has expanded its ranks, although much of that has come from acquisitions. Between the end of fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2012, J.P. Morgan increased its headcount by 65,000. People hold the company in high regard as well. A recent survey of 3,500 Wall Street professionals conducted by Vault ranked J.P Morgan Investment Bank as the best investment bank to work at in North America, a position it held last year as well.

9. The Coca-Cola Company

> Interbrand rank: 1
> Number of employees: 146,200
> Revenue: $46.5 billion
> Net income: $8.6 billion

As a brand, Coca-Cola is so famous that its core product has become a synonym for soda. According to Interbrand, the Coca-Cola brand is worth almost $78 billion and has “a name that is more universally recognized than any other in the world.” In addition to its brand, Coke identifies its people as the second of its two core assets, helping the company innovate and develop new drinks, new packaging, and new equipment. Employees also benefit from a company that is both exceptionally large, with operations in over 200 countries, and stable — as demonstrated by 50 consecutive years of dividend growth through 2011.

10. Goldman Sachs

> Interbrand rank: 48
> Number of employees: 32,600
> Revenue: $36.8 billion
> Net income: $4.4 billion

The image of Goldman Sachs has taken a hit in the last few years following several high- profile controversies. These included a Senate committee finding that the bank bet against collateralized-debt obligations it sold to clients, allegations that Goldman masked Greek debt, and a highly publicized resignation letter in the New York Times by now former executive Greg Smith. Still, the firm is generally regarded as the most prestigious on Wall Street. High compensation is certainly an appeal — of the largest banks, Goldman Sachs pays its employees the most. In the first six months of 2012, the company set aside $225,789 for each employee on average. Rival Morgan Stanley set aside $137,548 during that time, while J.P. Morgan investment bank set aside $184,989 for its staff. Goldman is also very exclusive. Almost 300,000 people applied for positions at the bank in 2010 and 2011, with a 4% acceptance rate, and the bank currently employs roughly 32,000 people.

11. Apple

> Interbrand rank: 2
> Number of employees: 72,800
> Revenue: $156.5 billion
> Net income: $41.7 billion

Apple connects with customers, and this is reflected in the company’s brand value. Interbrand rates Apple as the world’s second most valuable brand, behind only Coca-Cola, with a worth of over $76 billion. Apple has an even higher rating from BrandZ, which assesses the brand’s worth at almost $183 billion — by far the world’s most valuable. Apple’s employees also think highly of the company. According to Glassdoor, Apple is the 10th-best place to work in the U.S. based on employee reviews. The company is both successful and innovative. Its stock price has risen more than 200% in the last five years, largely on the success of iPhone and iPad. The company has also been unafraid to make the necessary changes to keep its workforce happy. For instance, retail head John Browett was asked to leave after just five months on the job because new staffing formulas cut employees’ hours too heavily.

12. L’Oréal

> Interbrand rank: 42
> Number of employees: 68,900
> Revenue: $26.1 billion
> Net income: $4.2 billion

For the first nine months of 2012, L’Oréal reported a 10.9% sales growth from the same time period the year before. Discussing the company’s strong sales, Chairmen and CEO Jean-Paul Agon cited L’Oréal’s ability to innovate — an ability recognized by Thomson Reuters, which named the cosmetics company in its 2011 Top 100 Global Innovator report. Both Interbrand and BrandZ rank L’Oreal among the top 100 brands, meaning customers, too, appreciate the company’s products. Interbrand cited the company’s “dedication to research, innovation, and quality” as critical to its popularity. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently warned the company about some of its newest beauty products, saying these so-called cosmeceuticals blur the line between drugs and cosmetics, at least in their marketing claims.

13. BMW

> Interbrand rank : 12
> Number of employees: 102,007
> Revenue: $88.4 billion
> Net income: $6.3 billion

BMW is a great company for business professionals, having been a top 15 desired employer in each of the past three years, according to Universum. The company is an even better workplace for aspiring engineers; BMW is the only non-tech company rated by Universum as one of the top-five desired workplaces for engineers. The BMW brand, one of the world’s most valuable, is “synonymous with class, performance and style,” according to Interbrand — qualities that likely make employees proud to work there. According to BrandZ, BMW is the most valuable car brand in the world. The company has also been extremely successful in recent months: unit sales in the third quarter of 2012 were up 9% year-over-year, leading to a growth of 16% in net profit compared to the year before.