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.
TECH, STARTUPS SLOWLY CLIMB THE LIST
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.
COMPANIES WITH AN ‘INSPIRING PURPOSE’ PERFORM BETTER
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.”