Great Expectations! What Students Want in an Employer and How Federal Agencies Can Deliver It
 Back to Reports

Great Expectations! What Students Want in an Employer and How Federal Agencies Can Deliver It

January 14, 2009

Changes in the economy may be driving shifts in public perceptions about what constitutes an ideal workplace, potentially creating new opportunities for some employers to bring in top talent, including the nation’s largest employer: our federal government.

The report is based on Universum’s 2008 survey of 43,000 undergraduates that identifies qualities young people seek in employers. Key findings from 32,000 American respondents include:

  • Among students surveyed, “Government/public service” is the most popular choice out of 46 options. Seventeen percent of undergraduates selected the government/public service industry as one in which they would “ideally want to work when choosing their first employment after graduation.” The next most popular are health care (13 percent), education (12 percent), and marketing/advertising (11 percent).
  • Five of students’ top 15 “ideal” employers—from a list of 260—are federal agencies. Jobs with the Department of State, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Peace Corps, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are all highly coveted, among students surveyed.
  • Government offers the main qualities undergraduates seek. A healthy work/life balance is undergraduates’ number one career goal, with 66 percent of students citing this as a priority. Serving the greater good and job stability are tied as the second most desirable traits.

To help federal agencies put the survey results to use, the report recommends that agency recruiters:

  • Understand the preferences of the new generation of students they seek to hire and distinctly brand their agencies so that those students understand what they do and what they offer.
  • Adjust their strategic and tactical recruiting plans to meet students’ needs.
  • Meet students online and on campus and provide them with the information and meaningful human contact they seek.
Download (349k)