Google, Amazon Top MBA Popularity List

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Google is the most popular company among MBAs, according to Transparent Career data. Courtesy photo

The MBA infatuation with the tech sector continues apace. According to new Transparent Career data, two tech giants top a list of the most popular companies among MBA students. But the first financial services firm on the list? Goldman Sachs, buried beneath five tech firms and five consulting firms.

“Honestly, even though I know that tech is hot, these stats really make you realize just how attractive the industry has become for MBAs,” says Kevin Marvinac, Transparent Career’s co-founder and chief operating officer.

Transparent Career, formally TransparentMBA, is an online career platform similar to Glassdoor but specific to students and graduates of the world’s most elite business schools. When registering for the site, MBAs may choose companies to “follow.” Marvinac says “following” a company allows the registered user to know when “new, MBA-level jobs become available at the firm,” while also helping the Transparent team connect users with recruiters and allowing users to create a “watchlist” of companies.


Of the nearly 2,000 users who’ve opted to follow companies, 17.6% chose to follow Google — more than any other company. Second highest was Amazon at 16.7%. Rounding out the top five most-followed companies were McKinsey & Company (15.9%), Bain & Company (13.5%), and Boston Consulting Group (13.3%). Goldman Sachs was the most-followed bank, with 4.2% of registered MBAs following. Right behind Goldman Sachs was the first consumer products brand, Nike, which garnered the following of 3.5% of the Transparent Career user population. MBAs on the site may follow as many companies as they desire.

Marvinac was quick to point out a likely sampling bias in the data.

“I’d caution about sampling bias, since it’s very possible the most tech-friendly MBA students are the ones using our site in the first place,” Marvinac notes. “But regardless, the fact that McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Goldman, etc. didn’t take the top spots is still staggering to see.”


Another trend in the data that stood out to Marvinac was some lesser “brand name” companies showing up further down the list. L.E.K. Consulting, for example, popped up in 32nd, with 1.8% of registered Transparent Career users choosing to follow them. The Boston-headquartered firm only employs about 1,200 consultants but punches above its weight in this list, topping established MBA-recruiting companies like General Electric, Bank of America, and Procter & Gamble, among others. While not as small, Danaher, — a Washington D.C.-based manufacturing company — finished in 39th with 1.4%. Headquartered in Evanston, Illinois, ZS also made the top 50 with 1.2%.

Marvinac says ZS, in particular, has been “really climbing in popularity due to outstanding peer ratings.” Transparent Career also collects self-reported data from MBAs who’ve worked for the companies in their database. For example, last year P&Q published an article based on data that showed which companies had the highest and lowest satisfaction rating from their MBA employees. ZS was one of the highest-ranked companies, with an overall job satisfaction rating of 7.8 on a 1 to 10 scale. Bain & Company was the next-highest-rated consulting firm with 7.3. Meanwhile, companies that fared well on this list, like Amazon and McKinsey, scored poorly on employee satisfaction, notching averages of 5.6 and 6.3, respectively. The data also explored how likely employees were to recommend their company to a friend. In that category, no other companies beat out ZS or L.E.K. Consulting, which each scored an even 9, again on a 1 to 10 scale. Fellow consulting firms Deloitte and Strategy& each scored 5.9 and 5.5, respectively, in that category.

The average satisfaction scores show that while smaller brands might gain in popularity from fostering a pleasant work environment, large brand-name companies like Deloitte or Amazon stay in the minds of MBAs despite mediocre employee satisfaction. Marvinac believes the perception of these larger, more known brands are cemented in MBA minds before stepping on campus.

“For companies, I think the major implication is intelligence about your employer brand and your recruiting strategy,” Marvinac says, noting that employers they work with are beginning to utilize Transparent Career’s data to communicate brand perception and company ratings. “Increasingly it’s evident that your employer brand perception is formed well before an MBA candidate steps onto campus for the first time. How are you taking control of your perception?”


The data also show different interest and potential perception among MBAs depending on gender. Marvinac sliced the data between female and male MBAs, and while many companies rank similarly, there were some stark discrepancies. For example, Amazon tops the male MBA list with 18.8%. Google follows closely behind with 18.4%. On the women’s side, Google stays atop with 15.5% and Amazon follows with 11.2%. McKinsey finishes in third for both women (10.8%) and men (17.9%).

Goldman Sachs is the first large discrepancy between men and women — and points to a larger, somewhat concerning trend in the data. While Goldman Sachs finished in 10th with 5.2% male followers, it falls all the way to 28th with 1.7% women followers. Following Goldman Sachs, male MBAs follow J.P. Morgan (4.4%), Morgan Stanley (2.5%), Citigroup (2.1%), and Bank of America (2%). Women, meanwhile, are following financial services firms at a much lower clip. Besides Goldman Sachs, the most popular finance firms among women MBAs are American Express (1.9%), Citigroup (1.5%), and J.P. Morgan (1.1%). Not only do all major banks fall below a slew of typical heavy hitters in tech, consulting, and consumer products for women, they also fall below the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2.2%) and DaVita HealthCare (1.9%).

“This is a really interesting trend, and a worrisome one for these financial institutions,” Marvinac says. “In the digital era, controlling your employer brand throughout the year — not just during recruiting season — is crucial to attracting a diverse pool of campus talent. And the data shows that some institutions may not be effectively wooing MBA women.”

Beyond that, it speaks to the gender problem continually plaguing the financial services industry. According to a 2015 Morningstar study, less than 10% of all U.S. fund managers are women. What’s more, the study says, “women exclusively run about 2% of the industry’s assets and open-end funds.” Men run 78% and mixed-gender teams make up the remaining 20%. And yet, multiple studies (here, here, and here) have shown despite being vastly under-represented, women-led funds tend to outperform those run by men.


There are also major differences between some companies. For example, Uber is more popular among men (3.2%) than women (1.3%). Tesla also seems to be on the minds of many more male MBAs (2.9%) than women (0.6%). On the other side, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the more popular companies for women (2.2%) and barely on the radar of male MBAs (0.2%).

Either way, the data aligns with what some career services directors are seeing at their respective business schools.

“The connection between consulting and top MBA talent continues as students value the strategy skillset and optionality of a post-MBA consulting career,” says Jonathan Masland, executive director of Career Development at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. “Strong growth in the number of MBAs going to technology companies, including online retailers, has been led by hiring from both industry leaders and emerging, high-growth companies.”

Masland says four of the top five companies on Transparent Career’s list are “also within Tuck’s top five hiring companies” for their class of 2016. While consulting and technology continue to grow in popularity among Tuck MBAs, Masland says, financial services continues to be a popular choice. “Our career data for the class of 2017 isn’t complete yet, but 26% of our 2017 graduates interned in financial services last summer and we experienced another strong year of internship hiring from Wall Street investment banks,” he says.


Stephen Rakas, executive director of the Career Opportunities Center at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, says the data is “an accurate reflection of the primary career interests” he sees in Tepper’s MBA students. “The technology and consulting sectors have been the most sought-after for the last five or six years,” Rakas says.

He says that in less than a generation, tech has emerged as both a stand-alone industry and a highly attractive one to MBAs.

“As legacy companies implement more technology solutions and emerging technology players continue to grow, the opportunities in this sector are very attractive to MBAs, whether or not they have a technical background,” Rakas says. “Few companies can claim the level of disruptive impact that we’ve seen with Amazon, Uber, and others.”

Rakas says one of the biggest influences on the current generation of MBAs and where they want to work: many entered the workforce during or right after the Great Recession.

“Many of these students were not yet in the workforce during the Great Recession, which means they have only experienced a relatively stable-to-growing job market, so they are not as concerned about switching employers to have the balance and work culture they prefer,” Rakas says. “This creates a need for employers to increase their focus on areas that are the most important to candidates they want to attract.”

(See the following pages for charts of the top 50 most-followed companies for the entire MBA population as well as male- and female-specific breakdowns.)

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