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Google has re-established its supremacy as the most attractive employer for job seekers in both business and engineering categories, but the auditing industry is quickly becoming a hot spot, according to a survey by Universum.

Four of the top five companies on the research firm's Global Talent Attraction Index were KPMG (up six positions from last year), Ernst & Young (up one), PricewaterhouseCoopers (down two), and Deloitte (up five).

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"We're witnessing the auditing firms and FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) companies reconquering their talent group," Universum chief executive officer Michal Kalinowski said.

Universum ranks the most attractive employers based on the preferences of 130,000 engineering and business students who were surveyed at the top universities of the world's 12 largest economies, including the United States, China and Canada. (See our tables: Top 50 most attractive business employers and Top 50 most attractive engineering employers.)

It's a popularity contest of sorts, where career seekers score companies on their attractiveness as employers, not necessarily on their global reputation or their brand strength. When the list is compared with Fortune's most-admired-companies rankings and Interbrand's survey of the world's most valuable brands, there's little overlap.

If a company's balance sheet and brand strength aren't necessarily factors in an employers' ability to attract talent, what are the factors? The key to success in the professional services is to captivate the brightest minds, said Lovisa Ohnell, Universum's research and consulting director. And audit firms, more skillfully than others, are aware of the challenges so they have increased spending on talent attraction and employer branding.

The Big Four are also in tune with the 'me brand.' They recognize the need to foster the personal and professional development of their employees and they are more likely to offer professional training through customized learning programs and global leadership opportunities.

In the IT sector portion of the survey, the top three employers - Google, Microsoft, and IBM - maintained their positions from last year. Snapping at their heels this year is Sony at the No. 4 position. The electronics multinational had a strong year, with its Walkman outpacing sales of the iPod for the first time in Japan and with news that it will release the world's first Internet TVs with Google in October.

Career seekers in the engineering field, according to Universum's Ms. Ohnell, are attracted to innovative companies that produce exciting products and services. Not surprisingly, Apple - a company renowned for creating buzzy, game-changing products - cracked the top 10 as a new entry this year.

The survey also brought into focus the link between perception of an industry and a company's appeal. With the banking and investment sector perceived as responsible for one of the largest global economic meltdowns in history, employers - including Goldman Sachs and Boston Consulting Group - have lost some of their appeal as the ideal place to start a career. And with public consciousness growing over the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, companies such as Shell are having a harder time securing top talent.

 

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