The world's most attractive employers and what they look for in our kids

We were job seekers once ourselves and even with all our years of experience to draw on, most of us may still be unsure as to what interviewers are looking for when they interview and screen a new graduate.  Someday, in the not so distant future, it will be my son or daughter heading off to their first interview or sweating over an online application to their dream company.  What if we could look into the future and see what they will need?  If, for example, we could get a list of requirements from their dream job now so that we could help our kids develop those skills and competencies.  They are not going to be able to learn Spanish the night before the interview so we should start teaching them now, right?   But how do we know that Spanish is going to be the tool that makes the difference?  What if it is Italian or Japanese or C++?!  

The truth is that we don't know for sure.  There are so many jobs and companies in the world with a host of specific requirements that it is impossible to prepare for all of them.  However, there are more general attributes that cross job and company boundaries and will be valuable to our kids in their applications and their careers afterwards.  These we can work on. 

Fortune magazine comes out with the 100 best companies to work for each year.  The companies are chosen through an employee survey with the minimum requirements for inclusion being at lease seven years in existence and more than 1,000 US employees.  I am going to make an assumption here that the requirements to work for the top 10 companies on the 2011 list will be similar to what top companies look for in 2021.  I am also going to assume that our kids will probably want to apply for the companies that are considered the best to work for.

While researching this article, it was interesting to note the similarities among the top 10 but also the differences.  Not all companies required a college degree. Wegmans and Nugget Markets for example had jobs available for high school graduates. All of them required some ability to deal with technology.  Microsoft Office knowledge was the most common brand name software referred to and was required by almost all of the companies.  Not a single one mentioned speaking a foreign language either as a requirement or as a plus.  I am not sure what that says about the future of America's competitiveness in the world.
Counting down, number...

10. Dreamworks (Film Studio)
The makers of Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon are looking for energetic, dedicated, resourceful kids who are full of ideas.  They expect solid foundational skills in whatever area they have focused.  They also prefer candidates who are professional, organized, self-motivated, confident, proactive, and excellent communicators. 

9. REI (Retailer)
REI also wants graduates who can communicate effectively with others.  They look for people with the ability to exercise sound judgement and display initiative. Given their niche, they also like kids with an interest in outdoor activities. Teamwork and problem solving round out their requirements. 

8. Nugget Market (Supermarket Chain)
Nugget seeks a strong work ethic and candidates with a dedication to provide world class service.  Given their business it is not surprising that they also want someone who is outgoing and friendly.

7. Camden Property Trust (Property Management)
A strong attention to detail was right at the beginning of the list of requirements for Camden. I pulled this next requirement as is from their website as it was unique among the companies on this list, "Be able to apply common sense understanding on a continual basis to determine actions and priorities."  Excellent interpersonal skills, the ability to handle stressful situations, emotional stability and personal maturity were clearly required.  They also want a self starter and team player who has strong communication skills and is honest, reliable, accurate and enthusiastic!

6. (Online Retailer)
Zappos wants people who are passionate about customer service (I am not sure how they screen for that though). The ability to adapt to change and problem solve were also high on the list.  Related to customer service again, they require friendliness, and excellent communication skills.  Zappos was the only one to use the phrase "sense of urgency" and they also specified "Internet savvy" as a need. Time management, ability to meet deadlines and multi-tasking added to the image of a high paced work environment.

5. NetApp (Data Storage)
NetApp requires strong oral and written communication skills (anyone surprised to see this one again?). The other requirements were: the ability to work collaboratively within a team environment, a strong aptitude for learning new technologies, and a creative approach to problem solving

4. Google (Internet)
While all companies require a transcript for new graduate applicants, Google makes it mandatory for any applicant applying within five years of graduating from university (grades matter). Google values talent, intelligence, group spirit, diversity, creativity and idealism.  These are all tough to judge.  They also like to see awards and references along with concise, important details on specific accomplishments and the impacts those accomplishments had.  Problem solving ability is a big one along with leadership and communication style.  Lastly, the candidate should also show their passion for Google.

3. Wegmans (Supermarket Chain)
Wegmans at #3 took a simpler approach.  If the candidate has an entrepreneurial spirit, potential for leadership, can work well in a team, has demonstrated problem solving skills and is a self-starters, they are hired. 

2. Boston Consulting Group (Management Consulting)
The top consulting firms have a reputation for only hiring from the best universities and looking for high GPAs.  For the purpose of this article, I focused on BCGs softer requirements.  Skills they look for are: observation, judgement, decisiveness and problem solving.  Someone who is curious and cares about their work is attractive to them.  Demonstrated leadership and the ability to be persuasive will help.  Finally they look for achievements whether in school or a pre-graduation job.

1. SAS (Business Analytics Software)
And the #1 company to work for in 2011, SAS!  I imagine that by now you could write the requirements yourself.  SAS does not deviate from the pattern set by the previous nine companies.  They are looking for graduates with the ability to learn and work independently.  They want proactive problem solvers who are analytical and can multi-task and of course, people who can communicate well.

The conclusion?  To get a job, our kids will need to be great communicators who are also mature, confident, proactive problem solvers and work well with others.

No problem!  Now that we know the goal we can focus on how to get there.  Look for upcoming articles on all of the above. 


  1. For me, work well with others and the ability to think.

    Thinkers are the people who figure out new and better ways to do things. The improvers/preventers rather than the fire fighters. The ones who don't just work harder but find ways to do it easier in less time. These people are rare in my experience. Most managers think they have to be busy doing something. Thinking is hard work but it is not doing something with the five senses. In an interview one can give the candidate a problem and see how he approaches it. I don't think there is a foolproof way to distinguish these people in an interview, but I do know that when you find one you need to give them the time and freedom do their thing and not tie them down with busy work. I always was concerned that the Japanese education system did not encourage thinking and creativity. Unfortunately a survey taken some years ago found that it was the firefighters who got the promotions not the preventers or improvers.

    - The Headhunter Dad's Dad

  2. 2012 Best Places to Work from

    1. Bain & Company 4.7
    2. McKinsey & Company 4.3
    3. Facebook 4.3
    4. MITRE 4.1
    5. Google 4.0
    6. CareerBuilder 4.0
    7. Slalom Consulting 4.0
    8. REI 4.0
    9. Trader Joe's 4.0
    10. Apple


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