2016 company rankings are out, and with it, insights that will surprise you. In the war for talent the company combatants are gearing up for interns this summer and the pivotal fall season. See who is best positioned.

Overall Rankings

Across all 1,068 schools where students made selections, here are the top 5 companies, in order: Google (for the third year in a row), Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Intel.


What changed from 2015 to 2016

Microsoft and Apple close in on Google as favorite

Across all schools: Comparing 2015 to 2016

We wanted to dig further into what changed from 2015 to 2016. Note, unlike last year where we looked at students who took a CS class, this year we looked at all students across any class, and compared them against their same cohort last year.

  • Google is still at #1, but Microsoft and Apple start to close in on the lead
  • Microsoft edges Apple out of the runner-up spot, switching positions from #3 to #2
  • Facebook’s rank holds steady at #4 though the gap starts to widen as Microsoft and Apple shoot closer to Google
  • Intel blows past 3 consumer favorites Amazon, Netflix, and Snapchat, coming in at #5
  • Several of the consumer startups like Airbnb (up 6 spots), Spotify (up 3 spots), Slack (up 6 spots) and Uber (up 3 spots) gain ground
  • While some of the larger internet companies like eBay (down 10 spots), Yahoo! (down 13 spots) and Twitter (down 6 spots) lose ground
  • Payments startups experience some of the bigger drops, Square down 16 spots and Stripe down 27 spots, perhaps a fallout from Square’s challenging IPO

Satya overtakes Zuck at Top Schools

At the Top14: Comparing 2015 to 2016

We chose to narrow down several insights to the top 14 schools which receive the most on–campus love from our tech companies (in no particular order): Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, University of Waterloo, University of Texas Austin, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, Cornell and Columbia.

Specifically at the Top14, from 2015 to 2016 (also expanding the cohort of students we run this analysis on to students who’ve taken any class):

  • Microsoft beats Facebook coming in at #3, showing that clearly Satya is doing something right
  • Airbnb, Uber, and Slack all jump 10 or more spots, displacing the likes of Dropbox, LinkedIn, and Yelp

How different cohorts compare in 2016

Obama hasn’t yet won over the elite, losing to Palantir and SpaceX

In 2016: Comparing all schools to Top14 for Government

We identified eight employers that are either part of the U.S. government or do significant work for the government: The U.S. Digital Service, Palantir, NASA, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and BAE Systems. When looking at rankings across students at the Top14 with rankings among students across all schools targeted at these specific organizations:

  • Palantir is the clear winner in this group, seeing the biggest upwards jump from #29 to #17 where US Digital Services sees the largest downwards jump going from #62 to #76
  • Among the two space-faring organizations, while NASA wins at all schools, ranked #22 against SpaceX at #25, it loses at the Top14, ranked #26 against SpaceX at #23
  • Traditional contractors Lockheed Martin (#48 to #49), Northrup Grumman (#60 to #62), and BAE Systems (#69 to #77), fall flat both at the Top14 and across the broader population, probably a sign of how things have changed since the infancy of Silicon Valley

Elon beats Bezos and Hastings with Stanford kids

In 2016: Comparing all schools to Stanford

When looking at this year’s rankings among students at Stanford, as compared to rankings among students across all schools:

  • Stanford’s crush on Elon Musk bumps Tesla into to the Top 5, displacing the likes of Amazon and Netflix
  • Data platform company Palantir may not be a household name, but is hardly a well-kept secret at Stanford coming in at #7
  • Airbnb and Pinterest pull ahead strong with this cohort while Snapchat drops, despite being founded on The Farm
  • Dell, IBM, Intel and Microsoft all see drops with Stanford

Campus Romance: Uber wins over hearts at CMU while Microsoft comes in #1 at UIUC

In 2016: Comparing all schools to specific schools

We wanted to do a deep dive into particular schools should it reveal some interesting strategies for where companies may be doubling down for talent:

  • Airbnb enters into the top 5 at Harvard and Quora jumps up 18 spots, perhaps buoyed by alumni cofounders
  • Palantir comes in strong at MIT and into the top 5 (and also makes the top 5 at Princeton for a double win)
  • LinkedIn, Box and Salesforce all see big wins with Berkeley students
  • UIUC is the only school where Google falls from its perch coming in at #2, and Microsoft topping out instead
  • Uber vaults into the top 5 at CMU, as students want to follow in the tracks of CMU robotics researchers who’ve joined Uber’s self-driving car lab located in Pittsburgh
  • Tesla made strides at almost every top school, but failed to crack the top 20 at Cornell
  • Finance firms Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley see some strong wins at Penn, each jumping more than 25 spots
  • For the hedge funds the most dramatic wins were at Harvard, where DE Shaw, Two Sigma, and Bridgewater all jump more than 40 spots
  • At the University of Michigan, loyalty to the auto industry still runs deep — GM and Ford both see greater than 20 spot jumps — these brands definitely gain strength close to home

Airbnb, Slack and Palantir crush it with MIT and Stanford TAs

In 2016: Comparing all schools to increasingly selective cohorts of students

We looked into four cohorts that we believe to represent increasing levels of selectivity (while we understand not everyone may agree with our selection criteria): CS students, CS students at the Top14, CS TAs at the Top14, and CS TAs at Stanford and MIT. We were amazed at how the distribution of preferred companies was all but turned on its head as the audience of students got more selective.

  • First things first: No matter who you ask, students still want to work at Google (#1 across the board). While we absolutely loved Sheryl’s Berkeley commencement address, Google still seems to reign even among top students
  • Airbnb excels with the most selective students and comes in at #3, outflanking companies like Microsoft (at #8) and even Apple (at #4)
  • Palantir sees a whopping 24 spot increase, ranking #5 with these selective students
  • Slack cements itself as a force to be reckoned with, claiming a spot well in the Top 10 with Stanford and MIT TAs up 20 spots
  • Microsoft, Intel, and IBM take major hits among top students compared to their popularity across the general population

Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Apple win with women

In 2016: Comparing men to women at the Top14

As more women enter the tech industry, companies are making a priority to hire top female talent. Comparing rankings between women and men:

  • Facebook edges out Microsoft among women, coming in 3rd, behind Google (#1) and Apple (#2)
  • Pinterest sees a widening gap in attracting men vs women — #35 with men, and #11 with women
  • LinkedIn gains popularity with women this year, coming into the top 10
  • Snapchat shows a jump among women coming in at #9, suggesting that negative PR only goes so far when the app is so popular

Students are over SpaceX and NASA by their senior year

In 2016: Comparing freshmen to seniors at the Top14

When comparing the rankings between freshmen and seniors:

  • SpaceX and NASA lose appeal by senior year each dropping more than ten spots; it seems as though older students put their astronaut aspirations on hold
  • Short-form social media brand logos Snapchat and Twitter lose rank
  • LinkedIn, Salesforce, and Palantir all jump up more than ten spots — kudos to Jeff Weiner, Marc Beinoff, and Alex Karp for inspiring soon-to-be graduates
  • Large late-stage startups known for impact as well as consumer brand also improve dramatically, with Airbnb and Uber in the top 10
  • Seniors at top schools lose their taste for massive, older companies like Samsung, IBM, and Dell — perhaps all the courting students get from big players is not having the intended effect

Choose your own adventure!

Visit our dashboard to ask your own questions about the data.

About Piazza

Piazza is the predominant Q&A platform used by millions of students around the globe to engage online with classmates, TAs and professors. They spend 3+ hours a night on the platform asking and answering class related questions, and now with Piazza Careers, are connecting with employers to find jobs and internships.

Each year, we collect data on which companies our students are interested in and marry that with proprietary data we have on their classes, majors, and grad years to unveil insights.

Why does this matter? We’re all familiar with the war for talent — executives show up to campus blind with the hopes that students will come. Companies invest time, money and resources in building unqualified pipelines and no means to target their top of funnel.

With Piazza, that’s changing — we’re where the students are. And with an average of 800 data points per student by their senior year, there is opportunity to be infinitely more targeted. And to use data to set the right strategies.

Want to learn more about Piazza Careers? Drop us a line.

How we collected the data:
This year, instead of only focusing on tech companies, we included companies from nine industries: Technology, Mobile/Consumer, Finance/Consulting, Aerospace/Defense, Automotive, Biotech/Pharma, Electronics/Engineering, Payments, and Telecommunications. In total, 88 companies were included in the survey. We presented six industry groups out of the 9 industry groups on any given impression (where on each impression the six groups that are presented are randomly selected from the 9), showcasing 54 companies out of the total list of 88 companies on any given impression (where companies within an industry were also randomly selected). These 6 industry groups were placed in a randomized grid that students could express interest in. Also this year we chose to compile insights across students who took any class, as compared to last year’s rankings which comprised selections across students who took a CS class.
We wanted to look at combining classes and companies data (anonymized to protect the students) ourselves to better understand our users and better serve our customers. This post isn’t intended to be a journal paper. We just hope to share interesting insights and data in an area that typically lacks both.
If you look back to prior company rankings and selections, you will see a variation in % points of students in their selections for companies, and that stems from the difference that each year we are presenting students with varying number of companies.
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