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US young talent chose their preferred employers to start a career

By Universum on 30/07/2020

New York, July 3oth, 2020

Universum presented today its annual ranking The Most Attractive Employers of the United States” revealing the findings for the U.S. portion of its global survey. This year Universum’s data is based on responses from over 50,00 students from 323 universities across the country.  Universum’s report also includes Ideal Employer rankings, segmented by field of study. Findings from this data allow employers to understand in which ways they’re succeeding in graduate recruitment and retention, as well as how to adapt to the changing preferences of their future workforce.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Young talent is looking for stable jobs that promise high earnings
  • The automotive sector makes substantial gains in attracting US talent 
  • Lockheed Martin jumped to #3, beating google for Engineering students
  • D&I – the gender pay gap continues to widen

This year, the technological giants keep capturing the attention of Business and Computer Science students with Google and Apple on top of their rankings. Whereas for Engineering talent, automotive is taking over the first place with Tesla, followed by Aerospace company, SpaceX.

What are students looking for?

When asked for their preferences in an ideal career, students in the U.S. prioritize those employers that allow them to have high earnings in the future and offer a secure employment. Additionally, an attribute that has been gaining popularity in the last years and took the third place in 2020 is to have an inspiring purpose in their careers.

Did Covid-19 affect talent’s preferences?

The field period for this survey took place between October 2019 and April 2020. We analyzed the results from March 16th onwards to determine if there was a change in preferences due to the start of the quarantine in the majority of the country. The results show an increase in interest for ethical standards and an inspiring leadership, two key attributes when it comes to facing crises and adapting to unexpected changes at a corporate level.

On the other hand, some preferences had a downward trend. These are linked to the restrictions in international traveling and the global economic downturn that followed the declaration of the pandemic.


The rise of automotive sector

One of the biggest trends to come out of this year’s US talent survey, is the rise in popularity and attractiveness of the automotive sector for all students but especially for those in the Engineering field. Some employers saw impressive gainings when compared with the 2019 results, which is the case of Ford Motor Company, General Motors and BMW Group escalating 4 positions each, and Toyota gaining a total of 10 positions. Tesla was chosen as the most ideal employer for students in that segment.

Lockheed Martin jumps up to the third place in Engineering Ranking

This year, Lockheed Martin escalated 3 positions in the ranking, coming as the third most attractive employer for Engineering students, beating Google for the first time in Universum’s ranking.

“College recruiting starts with every employee and everyone at Lockheed Martin is a recruiter.  Our team members across the enterprise love telling our story, highlighting Lockheed Martin’s innovative technology and how the work we do impacts the global community. The passion in our people is tangible and leads to students wanting to learn more about the mission of Lockheed Martin. Our University Program has also implemented specialized programs to attract and retain a strong and diverse pipeline of early career talent within cyber security, radio frequency, computer science and other critical skills areas. These programs are proven best practices around attracting and retaining top talent.” 

Bridgette Dean, Director University Relations & Recruiting, Lockheed Martin

Gender Pay Gap 

While U.S. employers have remained focused on diversity and inclusion initiatives over the last couple of years, Universum’s 2020 survey shows that female students still expect to earn less than their male counterparts after graduating.  

Female students in the U.S. are expecting to earn on average $62,340 whereas their male peers are expecting around 14% more at $72,306. However, the gap varies by field of study with Computer Science showing the smallest gap of 4%.

Here is the top 10 Most Attractive Employers in the U.S. according to talent in different fields of study:

RankBusinessEngineering/ITComputer Science
3The Walt Disney CompanyLockheed MartinMicrosoft
6J.P. MorganNational Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA)
9Goldman SachsThe Walt Disney CompanyNintendo


From all the companies that joined Universum’s ranking for the first time in 2020, ESPN has the most impressive performance, entering directly to #11 for Business students.

Talent Insights

Do you wish to better understand your brand image, audience and competitors?

Every year Universum surveys over 1 million students and professionals worldwide to identify the brand image status of the most attractive employers. Our Analytics solutions give you the insights you need to win the war for talent.

About Universum

Universum, part of the StepStone Group, is a global thought leader in Employer Branding. With over 30 years of valuable experience in the field of employer branding, we have established ourselves in 60 markets globally, and our diverse workforce is physically present in 20 countries. We are uniquely positioned through our talent surveys to deliver key insights to recruiters about what future talent is looking for in a company. Our data-led, human and meaningful output has attracted more than 1,700 clients, including many Fortune 500 companies, as well as global media partners that publish our annual rankings and trend reports. Find out more at