Google has become the second most attractive company for job-hunting young people in the US. It has leapt 150 positions since last year in an annual survey of university students.

Universum Communications, the recruitment consultancy company responsible for the research, said the search engine company had benefited from its youthful and innovative image.

Despite its meteoric rise, Google was held off the top spot by Walt Disney, which has invested heavily in recruitment. It rose from 17th position last year.

Universum said the fact that the Department of State, the FBI and the CIA had also made it into the top five employers highlighted a strong desire among the current crop of US students to “make a difference”, rather than simply making money.

Contributing to society was cited as important by 27 per cent of the 37,000 students from 207 universities surveyed, while 46 per cent said pursuing further education was an important career goal.

Claudia Tattanelli, the chief executive of Universum, said the “political and global turmoil that has characterised the beginning of the new millennium” had made young people “very eager to make a difference on a global scale”.

The financial strength of a company is no longer the most important characteristic for an ideal employer among current students, described by Universum as “resilient optimists”.

Instead, 39 per cent said high ethical standards were the most significant factor for selecting a future employer. Job hunters are also showing an increasing interest in the retirement plans offered by companies and the amount of annual holiday on offer.

According to Universum, 84 per cent said a strong health plan was a more important factor than the basic salary.

When asked how much they expect their starting salaries to be, liberal arts majors said $39,237 (€30,513, £20,772), while information technology graduates said $52,229.

Other popular companies in the top 10, such as Apple, Sony and Johnson & Johnson, all benefited from high levels of consumer recognition.

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