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A good salary, job security and professional development are the top employment criteria for post-secondary students, according to a new survey by Universum Global.

The survey, which polled 20,676 students from 162 colleges and universities across Canada, found Canadian employers’ communication strategies to reach generation Z recruits misunderstand what young workers are looking for in a job.

Read: Canadians prioritizing salary, benefits in job search: survey

“This next generation of graduates will have a tremendous influence on Canadian employment trends, which is why understanding their preferences and career goals is so critical for employer branding and recruitment efforts,” said Jason Kipps, managing director of Universum Canada, in a press release. “What employers are communicating is typically based on stereotypes that are misaligned with what that talent is really looking for.”

Fifty per cent of the students surveyed said high future earnings is an important attribute at a potential future employer, 46 per cent cited secure employment and 42 per cent ranked professional training and development as highly important.

Diversity and inclusion didn’t make it into the top 10 most important job attributes. “Canadian post-secondary students believe diversity to be a basic expectation that should already be in place,” the survey noted.

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The survey also found the gender gap around salary expectations is decreasing, but women still expect between $5,000 and $6,000 less than their male counterparts do when entering a new job. The salary expectation gender gap for business students was $5,983, in comparison to $6,696 in 2018; for engineering and IT students, the gap is $4,812, down from $6,935 last year.

Universum also ranked the top 10 most attractive employers across six sectors: business, engineering and information technology, natural sciences, health and medicine, liberal arts and law. It found Canadian employers’ branding efforts were generally behind those of American companies.

American companies dominated the list of most attractive employers for engineering and IT students; only the Canadian Space Agency and Bombardier Inc. made it into the top 10. E-commerce company Shopify Inc. made a large leap from the 43rd most attractive employer in that category in 2018 to 20th this year.

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However, Canadian companies have made some of the largest gains on the most attractive employers list for business students. It cited Toronto Dominion Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada in particular as having made significant investments in branding and talent recruitment over the years that contributed to their high rankings.

“Canadian companies tend to overlook the importance of employer branding, and when they do invest it’s typically significantly less than their American counterparts,” said Kipps. “But this year, we’re seeing an incredible upswing for the Canadian banking industry, which has put a lot of effort behind building strong company cultures and communicating the opportunities they can offer.”