Google and Apple Top List of Companies Grads Most Want To Work For

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While America’s leading tech companies (again) top the annual list of popular employers for soon-to-be graduates, you may be surprised at three companies that rose from the grave of popular opinion in 2012.

Every year, employer branding organization Universum releases its IDEAL Employer Rankings based on responses from tens of thousands of college students in the U.S. The survey asks them about their career expectations and how they perceive certain companies, which indicates how attractive companies are to college kids.

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Not surprisingly, Google and Apple remained atop Universum’s list in the one and two spots as the most popular would-be employers for college students. In fact, the top 5 — rounded out by Walt Disney, Ernst & Young and Deloitte — essentially remained the same from last year.

But the real shockers were the three companies that re-emerged on the list this year: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler all jumped up Universum’s rankings. Among engineering students, General Motors now ranks 19 and Chrysler ranks 74; Ford ranks 84 among business students.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for companies that either got bailed out by the federal government and entered bankruptcy (GM and Chrysler) or came close to it (Ford). The fact that grads view the U.S. automakers as places they would like to work says a lot about how quickly the image  of Big Three automakers has turned around. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, they are all starting to increase their focus on recruiting college grads.

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While the job market is tough, it does appear to be stronger than at any time since the recession. For college graduates aged 24 or younger, the unemployment rate has been steadily dropping and has averaged 7.2% over the last four months. Compare that to 9.1% and 8.1% in 2011 and 2010. Some even estimate that 7% more college graduates will land a job than last year.

Accounting firm Ernst & Young, which was the No. 1 ideal employer for accounting students in Universum’s rankings, says it plans to hire 5,500 college students in the U.S. during its 2013 fiscal year. Last year, it projected it would hire 5,200 and has already hired a few hundred more than that.

The current crop of graduating students are the ones who came to college in 2008-09 staring at a bleak economic picture and employment in a freefall. The outlook today is much better. It no longer seems farfetched for recent grads to concern themselves not just with landing any job, but one with their “ideal” employer.