Published: 2005-11-28

Independent research company Magnet Communications surveyed 9 611 final year students at 19 universities and former technikons across the country between August and October this year. Students were drawn from three different degree strands: commerce, science & engineering and law.

When asked to identify which employer was the most desirable, Sasol was top in the engineering polls, KPMG amongst commerce students and Adams & Adams ranked first by students pursuing law degrees.

After KPMG, commerce students would most like a job with Absa, followed by Deloitte. KPMG has moved up two places this year to become commerce students' top employer of choice. "We treat the universities, career services, faculties and students like we would any KPMG Crown Jewel client and the research suggests we're now seeing the benefits" explains Richard Warren, Director of recruitment and global mobility at the professional services firm. "We also try and match our messages to the channels that students want to use."

Among engineering students, Sasol proved the number one choice after being narrowly beaten last year by BMW South Africa. "Sasol is in a great position to provide challenging learning and growth opportunities for high performing engineers" says Johann van Rheede, spokesperson for the chemicals and fuels company. Brewers SAB Ltd follows Sasol in second position while miners Anglo Platinum is third.

Law students ranked Adams & Adams as their most desirable employer, Deneys Reitz second and Bowman Gilfillan as their third choice. Blain de Villiers, partner at law firm Adams & Adams, thinks students have taken positively to their campaign on campuses over the last 18 months. "We offer lectures at universities, we have a successful bursary programme, a two week intensive vacation programme, and we've been present at career week expos and actively recruit at universities. The results have been very beneficial for the firm".

The rankings and other results show the importance of employer brands in attracting top talent says Anders Keen, responsible for the research undertaken by Magnet Communications. Findings from the research include career goals, attractive employer qualities, salary expectations, preferred communication channels etc, but also which companies that are competing for the same recruits.

The main career goals amongst all respondents are to 'work internationally' and 'balance personal life and career', but variations are found between the student groups. Commerce students are generally keener to 'build a sound financial base', whereas engineering students strive to 'become a specialist' and students studying law want to 'contribute to society'.

In line with these results, the three most attractive qualities as offered by employers are 'international career opportunities', 'flexible working hours' and 'secure employment'.

Says Keen: "In the past year, the desire for international career opportunities has increased in importance. This brings South African students more in line with their overseas peers. The borders are slowly being erased."

Magnet Communications forms part of global Employer Branding specialists Universum, who conducts similar surveys in Europe, the US and Asia. Thus revealing how SA student's thinking sometimes differs from the views of their overseas counterparts.

"The desire for international opportunities and career/life balance is universal, but SA students are keener to reach a managerial level. The popularity among students of being offered secure employment, rather than increasingly challenging tasks, is another noteworthy South African difference," says Carol Groenmeyer of Magnet.

Salary expectations differ slightly from last year's findings, with an overall decrease of 4.3% explained mainly by a larger sample and more remote institutions participating in the survey. Engineering students expect to earn, on average R 159 700 per annum, while commerce and law students think they will be earning R 137 100 and R 140 100 respectively.

'Healthcare benefits' remains the most sought after benefit followed by 'retirement plan'. Whereas the majority still wish for a 'company car', engineering and law students next favour 'paid overtime' in contrast to 'performance related bonus' as preferred by students doing commerce.

'Auditing/accounting/taxation', 'Investment Banking' and 'Marketing/advertising' remain the most popular industries for commerce students. Among engineering students, the most popular industries to work in are 'Engineering Consulting', 'Academic Research' and 'Healthcare/pharmaceutical'. Law students differ somewhat voting 'Government/public service' as their most popular industry.

'Company websites' continue to be the information channel preferred by students when learning about future employers, followed by 'articles in newspapers and magazines' and 'internships/work placements'.

"Our research shows that students prefer company websites for hard facts, while intangible dimensions - this is a fun place to work etc - are best communicated through personal interaction, such as internships and on-campus presentations," says Groenmeyer.

All groups surveyed agree that the most important decision factor when choosing a future employer is that the company has 'good/confidence inspiring management'. Well worth considering when trying to win the war for talent.

For more information on the Magnet Graduate Survey - SA Edition please contact

Anders Keen
tel: +27 21 422 4822
fax: +27 21 423 7593
mobile: +27 82 467 7702

About Magnet Communications Research & Media SA (Pty) Ltd

Magnet forms part of Universum Communications, a global leader in the field of Employer Branding with operations in Europe, the US, Asia and Africa. We help our clients to reach one goal: to have a strong appeal on their current and future ideal employees. To this aim we provide our clients with services in the field of Research, Strategy and Communications. Our unique competence is based on the extensive global surveys on the talent market covering more than 100 000 respondents from 26 countries annually. We produces more than 20 Employer Branding publications in Europe, the US and South Africa which gives us outstanding communications skills in this field. Our clients include a majority of the Fortune 100 top companies.

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