United States internet giant Google, British professional services firm EY and the Hong Kong government lead the latest ranking of the most sought-after employers for the city’s university students, according to a new survey. The findings by Universum, a global employer-branding company based in Sweden, showed 5,435 university students had participated in its recent online poll for Hong Kong’s “Top 100 Ideal Employers”, which saw Google top the business category for the third consecutive year. Google, the main subsidiary of Nasdaq-traded technology company Alphabet, was ranked fifth in the same category of Universum’s 2014 student survey in the city. London-based EY, one of the world’s “big four” accounting firms and formerly known as Ernst & Young, moved a spot ahead of the Hong Kong government in this year’s survey to rank as the second most desired employer. That showed students’ increased preference to join major international organisations, rather than seek employment in large Hong Kong companies. “Organisations can no longer ignore the impact of millennials,” said Rachele Focardi, Universum’s senior vice-president for employer branding, about the generational demographic born between 1982 and 2004. “Employers who fail to understand that they want work to be a part of who they are, not just a way to make a living ... that their biggest fear is not finding a job that matches their personality; and that they need inspiring leadership ... are bound to face significant challenges when it comes to securing their future talent pipeline.” The Universum student survey involved 19,663 individual evaluations of 120 local and international employers in Hong Kong. Investment bank JP Morgan, the survey’s fourth most coveted employer, sees “a diversity of backgrounds and collaborative work culture” as critical to its success in business and attracting talent, according to Chew Ying Ying, the company’s head of campus recruitment for Asia-Pacific. In the engineering category, the survey results showed the Hong Kong government rank ahead of Google and the MTR Corp take third place. Apple, the world’s largest technology company by revenue, and Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways were the only other organisations that ranked in the top 10 of this year’s survey results for both business and engineering categories. “In Hong Kong, we see both an increase in salary expectations and one of the strongest desires globally for work/life balance,” said Universum employer branding advisor Ryan Pua. The latest survey found the average annual salary expected by male students is HK$242,729 (US$31,123), up from HK$230,443 last year. Female students expected an annual salary of HK$228,762, compared with the previous year’s estimate of HK$211,537. Universum found that so-called work/life balance was chosen as the top career goal by 68.08 per cent of survey respondents, up from 53.17 per cent in 2013 when the annual student poll was launched in the city.