Recent Nielsen Survey Reveals What College Graduates Look for in Employers

Posted By Terri Williams on November 17, 2015 at 8:46 am
Recent Nielsen Survey Reveals What College Graduates Look for in Employers

From 24-hour news available on mobile devices to company reviews posted on social media by employees and consumers, a variety of additional factors now shape a job candidate’s preferences. A recent Nielsen survey sought to gauge the impact of these changes on the job preferences and expectations of future talent – defined as college students close to graduating and college graduates who are new to the workforce.

The survey contains responses from 16 countries on a variety of topics including preferences for industries and work environments. Below are selected excerpts, followed by commentary from several experts contacted by GoodCall.

Global preferences

Close to half of respondents embrace globalization:

48% Prefer to work for global multi-national companies
28% Prefer to work for national/domestic-based companies


According to Mario Espindola, Southwest Managing Director at Betts Recruiting, “Future talent entering or actively in today’s workforce is a group of progressive thinkers, more so than any other generation we’ve seen in the workforce before. They value diversity inside and outside of the workplace from being raised in a world where information is immediately accessible and available.”

Industry preferences

When asked how likely they were to work for the following industries based on their global reputations, students replied as follows:

Industry Would Consider Would Not Consider
Technology 45% 15%
Government 37% 18%
Financial Services 36% 21%
Media and Entertainment 35% 18%
Banking 34% 22%
Airlines and Travel 29% 23%
Manufacturing 29% 23%
Consumer Products/Packaged Goods 28% 20%
Automotive 27% 28%
Utilities (electric, water, gas) 26% 27%
Oil and Gas 25% 30%
Retail 24% 25%
Health Care 23% 31%
Insurance (life and property) 22% 32%
Pharmaceutical 20% 36%
Military 17% 48%


70% prefer a company committed to positive social and environmental impact

The military is the industry that respondents were least likely to consider. According to Steven Rothberg, President and Founder of Minneapolis-based College Recruiter, “This generation of graduates was about 10 years old at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and 15 years old when the country entered the Great Recession. Both events will likely leave indelible marks upon them.” Rothberg says they’re far less likely than their parents to want to join the military, as they view the prospect of being deployed, wounded, and even dying as likely.

And Jennifer Magas, VP of Magas Media Consultants and an English professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, says future talent prefer working for a company committed to positive social and environmental impact. “Technology has crafted a global community where they have been plugged in, constantly exposing themselves to national and international affairs and public figures.

Espindola adds, “Being raised in a time where climate change is at the forefront of the news and politics, they care about the environment and how it impacts their lives, so much that universities now have courses of study centered around global and environmental sustainability.”

And this exposure has made future talent more likely to take an active role in shaping their world. Ty Walrod, CEO of Bright Funds in San Francisco, adds, “these future employees want to work for companies that provide ways for them to contribute to the betterment of their local communities and to society as a whole. By offering impactful social good programs as a benefit, there is an opportunity to build a culture around empowering employees to explore the most creative and effective ways to solve big challenges.”

Specific workplace preferences

As with other workforce generations, salary and benefits are the most important considerations. However, future talent also listed the following as important:

44% Growth and advancement opportunities
43% Work-life balance
41% Employee treatment
30% The ability to make a difference


These responses come as no surprise to Magas, who says it is understandable that future talent would want to work for corporations where they can see themselves grow and advance. “They were raised learning that the job search is difficult and competitive, particularly in a landscape with economic low bouts. They want to succeed and they don’t want to waste time on what won’t help them.”

According to Tim Elmore, President of Growing Leaders, an Atlanta-based company, these future workers want flexibility and work-life balance. “People think that this generation is lazy, they’re job-hoppers, they lack commitment – all reasons why they are denied flexible work options.” At many workplaces, Elmore says employees are expected to pay their dues to earn the privilege – it’s a rite of passage.

However, he says that hiring managers might be surprised to hear why young workers want flexible work hours: “I don’t see myself doing what my dad did for decades. Work in one place, grinding out the work, full-time with no sense of having a life. And then, 
my dad was let go.”

With future talent, Elmore says, “Their vision for a career includes change and variety, working at different locations for numerous clients, and perhaps even serving in various industries.” However, he says it is not because they lack focus. “It’s because they’ve seen how their parents’ careers have panned out and they’re seeking something more – something different.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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