Behind the Best Places

Our methodology remains the same, but the list is almost twice as large, totaling 95 companies

A lot has changed about BusinessWeek's Best Places to Launch a Career ranking this year. For one thing, it's nearly doubled in size, to 95 companies. More industries are represented, including technology, hospitality, transportation, and insurance. And we've collected more data from each employer, making for a richer, far more useful, ranking.

One thing that hasn't changed, though, is our methodology—a three-part test designed to ferret out the best employers for new college graduates.

To narrow the field, we turn first to the nation's career-services directors. In March we conducted a nationwide survey of directors at top colleges and universities, public and private, in every academic discipline. The survey asked the directors to identify the top five employers for entry-level workers in 17 industries, and the top 10 employers overall. Of the 250 directors surveyed, 63 replied, for a response rate of 25%.

Identifying the High Scorers

Using the survey data on individual industries,BusinessWeek compiled a list of nearly 150 companies, nonprofits, and government agencies that were eligible for the final ranking. This was a two-step process. The first step involved identifying the five high scorers in each industry. For every career-services director who ranked a company No. 1 in its industry, the company received five points. Every No. 2 ranking was worth four points, every No. 3 ranking was worth three points, and so on. After tallying the points, including ties, we had a total of 85 companies.

To flesh out the list, we reviewed the remaining companies suggested by the career-services directors and identified those with the highest industry point totals among all the industries. That added an additional 62 employers to the list, for a total of 147.

Next, we invited each employer to answer an extensive survey seeking information on hiring, pay, benefits, training programs, and retention. Of the 147 organizations, 95 completed the survey, for a response rate of 65%. We then compared the employers' responses to each question with the responses of others in its industry.

Help from Universum Communications

For each ranking question, the best response, such as the highest pay or retention rate, was awarded 10 points. The worst response, or no response at all, received no points. Responses that fell in the middle of the pack were worth five points each.

To complete the ranking, we combined the results of the employer survey with two additional pieces of data. From the survey of career-services directors, we tallied the points for each respondent's overall ranking of employers—10 points for each No. 1 ranking, nine points for each No. 2 ranking, and so on. From Universum Communications, a Philadelphia research firm that surveyed 44,000 U.S. undergrads this year, we received the percentage of students who listed each employer among the five for whom they would most like to work.

The employer survey contributes 50% of the final ranking, while the career-services survey and the student survey contribute 25% each.

If no career-services director included an employer among the top 10 overall, or if no students included it among their top five, such employers forfeited the 25% associated with that survey. If data from both surveys were unavailable, the employer was placed at the bottom of the ranking, with its place determined solely by the employer survey.

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