Study: How Businesses Can Really Attract High Achievers

Gym memberships. Whiskey tastings. Unlimited vacation. And, of course, the ubiquitous ping-pong table no one ever uses. The biggest tech businesses love adding perks in an attempt to attract the best of the best.

But do the highest achieving graduates really go for the business with the best perks? What actually attracts them? In their recent survey, Universum found out.

The group looked at the responses from 88,000 people in 10 countries: Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Of these respondents, over 18,000 were studying at the top 200 universities listed in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, 2015–2016, making them a great reflection of the highest achievers and their interests. Here’s the data.

Everyone Wants Money

In a response likely to surprise no one, both high achievers and the other students polled put “high future earnings” as their top priority in their employers’ attributes. This highlights just how broke millennials are, and how well aware they are of that fact.

High Achievers Want Good Leaders/Mentors

The biggest upset between what high achievers and the regular achievers want out of an employer: Leaders. High achievers put “Leaders who will support my development” as their number two priority, while the other students made it their fifth most important attribute, even putting it after their own leadership opportunities, which they ranked fourth.

High achievers, it seems, are those that value the wisdom they can gain from industry leaders above their own power.

Not Attractive: A Lot of Stuff You’d Think Would Be

From Universum:

“Among the employer attributes that High Achievers rated lowest were corporate transparency, customer focus, gender diversity and overtime pay. While these are important issues in business, it seems they’re not effective selling points in the battle to attract top candidates.”

Employers Must Provide a Roadmap

Universum breaks down the proper employer response to this data, citing another study in the process:

“A 2016 Deloitte report on the career expectations of millennials revealed that in an ideal work week, young professionals wanted significantly more time devoted to the development of their leadership skills and to coaching and mentoring. This hunger for regular training and support is reflected in our research, which reveals it is a top-five employer attribute for High Achievers.

The organizations most successful in attracting these candidates will have robust training plans in place and clear roadmaps for supporting employee advancement.”

It’s different for every company, of course, but that company’s unique goals and values will need to be enforced and highlighted through these road maps. By showing that they value a new hire’s interest in work/life balance and strong mentorship, a business can snag the most impressive high achievers out there.

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Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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