Culture, flexibility, ethics and an eye on the future take centre stage as students identify the most attractive employers in South Africa

Culture, flexibility, ethics and an eye on the future take centre stage as students identify the most attractive employers in South Africa
Pabi Mogosetsi, Universum Country Manager South Africa

Results of the Universum’s Talent Survey – South Africa 2021 Students

• Engineering and technology professions are still in high demand this year
• Digital engagement from employers is considered beneficial
• Business success and presence are closely tied to attractiveness as employers

Johannesburg, 05 August 2021 – Success, presence and culture are the three key words that stand out in the 2021 Universum Talent Survey, which gathers data from South African students on the most considered and attractive employers. 54 456 students from 27 universities participated in the survey. Trends indicate that the spirit of Ubuntu is held in high regard, with students reporting an attitude of being of service with a solid interest in a mix of locally founded and international employers, coupled with split interest in both the public and the private sector. Universum shares standout trends for the year. Full rankings can be viewed here.

About the survey

According to Pabi Mogosetsi, Universum Country Manager South Africa, “Every year, we conduct a syndicated survey of students studying at universities in South Africa. This survey allows Universum to gain an understanding of what students look for in employers when deciding on their career path. It provides an opportunity to share insight on which employers deliver on key areas they look for while planning for their career. Employers do not pay or choose to be on the list of employers evaluated and students themselves decide on which employers should be included by voting employers on or off the list.”

The underlying cultural influence of Ubuntu is shining through, with students leaning more toward service orientation. In terms of finding information on prospective employers, students report an increase in their use of Facebook and P-net, while both Careers24 and Indeed have dropped in their reported use.

Communication and content is king

In a year that has proven more than ever that digital engagement is paramount, presence and engagement have proved to make a marked impact on employers’ levels of perceived attractiveness. The bulk of the top 30 most attractive employers were reported to have had campus presence and a solid social media presence. Continued engagement with talent has assisted in building and maintaining the top 30 most attractive employers with employer branding position.

The shift from work experience to employee life experience priorities emerged as highly evident, with students largely shifting their priorities from the work environment and inwardly focused employer attributes to long-term career building and social consciousness on the part of prospective employers. Downward and upward trends show:

• Leadership opportunities, a friendly work environment and leaders who will support development are highly valued.
• Ethical standards, respect for its people, security and a clear path for advancement all see an increase in their importance to students.

Organisation origin importance

42% of business students are reporting that they would prefer to work for the public sector and 31% of engineering/technology students share the same sentiments. When this is broken down, it is evident that more than a third of business students would rather work for an organisation founded in South Africa, while 56% of engineering/technology students report they would prefer the same;
whereas more engineering/technology (72%) students would prefer to work for an organisation with global operations, compared to 63% of business students. This shows that International companies are still seen as the best option; however, we noticed that an interest in working for a SA based companies has increased.

About the students

In business and commerce, students reported increased interest in employers that show market success – linking this to security, stability and confidence in the business’s survival. In what has been an uncertain time, security, as expected, has grown in importance.

The banking and Fintech Sector gaining interest

The top highly competitive sectors for business talent are the auditing and accounting field, banking, state-owned organisations and the fintech sector.
• The top five auditing and accounting organisations have edged out the banks in their fight for the in-demand aspirational accountancy focused target group.
• Allan Gray and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) are holding top spots in the fight for the aspirational banking-focused target group.
• Investec, Allan Gray and the South African Reserve bank take the lead in attractiveness for the aspirational finance-focused target group.

How the future looks

A good reference for a future career, flexible working conditions and, once again, ethics are being prioritised by this target group.

The skillset embodied by this target group is in demand across different sectors and this is highlighted when looking at the top 30 most attractive employers.
• The top spots in attractiveness are taken up by state owned organisations, together with tech and typical automotive sector players.
• Sasol, Transnet and Eskom lead in attractiveness for the engineering-focused target group.
• Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Huawei, Samsung and IBM take the lead in attractiveness to the IT focused target group.
The following are the rankings of the Top 100 Employers by the Business/Commerce Students as well as the Engineering Technology Students.


1. Deloitte
2. PwC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers)
4. EY (Ernst & Young)
5. Auditor-General (AGSA)


1. Investec
2. South African Reserve Bank
3. Standard Bank
4. First National Bank


1. Google
2. Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)
3. Investec
4. South African Reserve Bank


1. Investec
2. Allan Gray
3. South African Reserve Bank
4. Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)


1. Transnet
2. Coca-Cola South Africa
3. AB InBev
4. Unilever
5. Barloworld


1. BMW Group
2. Google
3. South African Reserve Bank
4. Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)
5. Transnet


1. Coca-Cola South Africa
2. BMW Group
3. Nike
4. Google
5. Unilever

About Universum:

Universum is the global leader in employer branding. Advising the leading employers in the world to better understand, attract and recruit talent. During our 30+ years we have established ourselves in 60 markets with 20 offices covering the world. Our solutions are actionable research, strategic advisory, data driven communication solutions – and being a pioneer in social media solutions in the world for talent branding, sourcing and analytics. A trusted partner to over 1,700 clients, including many Fortune 500 companies, as well as global media partners that publish our annual rankings and trend reports, with 2,000 partner universities worldwide conducting research on the career and employer preferences of top talent. Universum surveys on an annual basis over 1,000,000 students and professionals worldwide.

For more information, go to Universum Global