Where MBAs Most Want To Work

Google's new offices in Dublin

Google’s new offices in Dublin, Ireland

When Larry Page and Sergey Brin, both Ph.D. students at Stanford University, came up with an idea they called Google in 1996, it’s highly unlikely they fathomed what would come of it. They probably didn’t know “Google” would become a noun and a verb. And they probably had no idea it would be run by an MBA and become the most attractive employer for the country’s most elite business students. Yet two decades later, Page and Brin’s brainchild has become just that — while altering modern life and history forever.

For the five years that Universum Global has been tracking worldwide employer popularity among business students, Google has topped the list. This year, for the first time ever, the employer branding firm separated out the 1,564 MBA students from 89 U.S.-based programs that responded to create an MBA-specific ranking — but while the methodology was different, the result wasn’t. According to the research announced today (Sept. 29), Google reigned most popular once again.

Participating MBAs were asked to write in 16 companies they aspire to work for. Of those 16, they were asked to narrow the list to five. An astonishing 35% listed Google as a top-five company. Up next was McKinsey, listed by 24.5% of participants. Besides Google, the major consulting firms held their own in MBA popularity compared to the growing tech industry: Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, and Deloitte took third, fourth, and fifth respectively. They were followed by Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple in sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth, respectively; Goldman Sachs was the lone bank to sneak in the top 10, with a little more than 8% of participants listing it as a top-five potential employer.


According to Dustin Clinard, managing director of the Americas for Universum Global, allowing MBAs to write in their own answers — as opposed to providing a list of employers to choose from — shows which companies are in “high demand” along the employer curve. “The curve tails off, but it is very long,” Clinard, who holds an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, tells Poets&Quants. “There are a lot of companies in the mix for MBA grads.”

Clinard says the rise of tech and startups has significantly increased the number of organizations MBAs are interested in. “The range of options for graduating talent is getting larger,” he says. “Where you used to have primarily banks and consulting companies, now you have a whole lot of startups and a whole lot of more traditional tech companies.”

Tesla is a case in point. While Elon Musk’s electric car company didn’t make the university-wide list released in August, the Fremont, California-based automaker still captivates MBAs, ranking as their 18th most popular pick. Nearby Uber finished in 20th, and LinkedIn and IDEO followed in 21st and 22nd, respectively, rounding out a relatively young group of tech companies. In order, MBA hiring stalwarts Procter & Gamble, Accenture, PepsiCo, and Citi followed, rounding out the 26 most popular companies.


Clinard says tech and startup popularity goes beyond innovation and flexibility. It has to do with an increasing emphasis on purpose. “MBA grads are placing an increasing amount of importance on companies that have an inspiring purpose,” he says. “They do more than simply make money. They make money with a purpose of greater good to it.” Clinard points to Google as another example of a company that is attractive to work for that makes money and also has an overarching positive purpose. “That is often the icing on the cake for a lot of people,” he says.

It’s also the reason traditional MBA hiring companies are slipping. “It’s harder to see that overarching motivation for the traditional players — the consulting firms and banks,” Clinard says. “It’s probably there, but being able to articulate what that higher good is is a challenge a lot of firms have.”

Clinard says those traditional companies should figure out how to communicate that message before they fall too far down the list.

“We anticipate that companies that link to a higher good will continue to rise in prominence relative to those who are struggling to articulate what that might be.”

  • somsquared

    Cornell sends more students to these top institutions than most of the other M7’s, if you adjust for size. Makes me proud to be an alum knowing how talented our pipline is.

  • Red Layug

    McKinsey and Deloitte are the largest recruiters of Berkeley HAAS full-time MBA graduates, followed by Google, Bain, Adobe, Amazon and Goldman Sachs. Then Boston Consulting, A.T. Kearney and Morgan Stanley. These are the top recruiters at HAAS full-time MBA program.

    But the biggest recruiters of Berkeley are Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple. I figured those companies attract the business undergrads, engineering and computer science.

  • hmmmm

    To clarify, if a company doesn’t recruit at Ross, they shouldn’t be on the list. And if a company only wants Ross MBAs for SC and corp fin, they also shouldn’t be on the list, never mind that they recruit for strategy and brand management roles at other schools. And you need to go to a business school near New York to be interested in IB. Got it, thanks for the insight!

  • If your assumptions about Nike only recruiting for supply chain and supply chain being particularly high at Kellogg, that would make sense for Nike’s placement. Kellogg was the school that made up the largest percentage of students on this survey. For what it’s worth, I’ve heard Nike being a popular spot for MBAs from other similar data gathering organizations…

  • jamie t

    I’m an MBA student at Ross and I think the general sentiment about the top 5 is accurate. Amazon is too high; it’s more like in the 8-10 range. People really like facebook and microsoft above Amazon, due to the culture. Walt Disney should not even be on the list; they don’t recruit on campus here. Nike is a little too high as well, since they only recruit for supply chain and corporate finance which are less sought-after. The most sought-after field is consulting; the second is tech. I’m sure at other schools near NYC Investment banking is high. But marketing and supply chain are rarely high at any school, other than kellogg and MIT respectively.

  • I wouldn’t call it a joke. Especially not for how they gathered participants. I do think the sample size is too low. 1,500 is definitely not a large chunk of the U.S. MBA population. But the companies, especially towards the top, certainly make sense. The most
    Interesting piece of the data to me is the career goals.

  • John G

    This research is a joke! They do their survey via Facebook and online paid services, zero trust on this.