As the year finally wraps up students all across campus, much like myself, are waiting to hear back from companies to see if they were a good enough candidate to be offered a job for the summer. As a sophomore, I’m beginning to learn just how hard obtaining that perfect internship is. Interviews, Career Fairs, Eagle Link and worst of all rejection have become all but too common for me as the second half of the semester passes. Week after week I attend networking seminars but feel like little to no progress is being made. At this point I feel like I wear a suit around campus more than a sweat-suit (a stable piece of my fashionable wardrobe). I have found that what frustrates me the most is the lack of a centralized platform to which I can hear about upcoming events, message recruiters, and show off my profile without actively searching specific jobs out.
However, as I was recently searching the internet for various job recruitment websites I was intrigued by an article highlighting a startup company focusing on my exact problems. Handshake is a Michigan based startup which recently moved to San Francisco in 2016. Their mission — partner with universities across the country whilst providing a wholistic recruitment experience based solely on the welfare of the students. Founders Garrett Lord, Ben Christensen, and Scott Rinkwelski recognized a niche in the college market while attending Michigan Tech as undergrads. They found that students socioeconomic standing and alma matters were almost the sole focus of recruiters while finding potential interns and hirers. They felt this unequal opportunity to obtain their dream jobs was disheartening and knew the system was broken. Lord uses the analogy of a discouraged California college student attempting to find work in the oil industry in Texas (which he says is a near impossible task) without the right connections. However, with the use of Handshake and complicated algorithms designed by his team, this theoretical students’ resume and profile will be at the forefront of a Texas recruiters webpages. “It’s college career networking for the future,” Lord stated in an interview in 2016.
Once Handshake partners with a university they use student data specific to their college to categorize and subcategorize students. Handshake’s algorithms use variables such as majors, concentrations within majors, desired work location, and GPA along with many other factors when classifying students. Once this data analysis is complete every student on campus is given a personal profile which they can display interests, skills, cover letters, and coursework. Providing all students with free accounts ensures the longevity of their consumer base year after year which was a pivotal decision for Lord, Christensen, and Rinkwelski when creating the company. Students can also sign up for career fairs, message recruiters, apply for jobs, and even conduct interviews all in app which is constantly updating as more jobs are offered. Handshake hopes to interchange services such as career centers, career advisors, newsletters, and recruitment websites with what they call a “one stop shop for college internships and jobs.”
Handshake doesn’t look at its company as a replacement for current institution’s career centers but rather a partner to help jumpstart student profiles. Additionally they hope to help pave the way for students as they navigate the recruitment process. With an interactive newsfeed and clean platform the app feels more like Twitter rather a job recruitment tool. Through data provided by the universities students news feed pages are automatically filled with relevant job opportunities in their field of interest as well as employers who have the ability to sift through millions of profiles in just a few clicks to find the perfect candidates.
Since their launch in 2014 Handshake has completely disrupted the recruitment world by gaining heavy traction from top recognized colleges such as Stanford, Princeton, Brown, and Cornell, 60% of which use Handshake exclusively. With currently 475 institutions and over 8 million students and alumni, Handshake has is growing into the largest college specific recruitment tool in the country surpassing LinkedIn just last year. As a result of such predominate success Handshake now has 200k+ employers and 80% of Fortune 100 companies currently enrolled such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and JP Morgan.
I recently signed up for Handshake after researching its potential benefits and I was extremely pleased with the platform presented to me. After singing in via my school email address I was prompted to take a short quiz identifying specific geographic areas I would want to work in, job preferences, and questions about my current campus involvement. After my profile was created by Handshake I was redirected to a page that resembled a LinkedIn profile. I found I had to fill out the exact same information that LinkedIn had asked me to provide, however after comparing the two websites Handshake appeared more immature than LinkedIn’s. With tacky colors and a less interactive display my profile appeared almost unprofessional once completed. What I did find appealing was the ability to take multiple career interest quizzes to help better identify job matches along with the ability to get notifications about on campus networking events. As a student in the midst of apply and interviewing for summer internships it was comforting to know that there was a company whose sole focus is to help diversify and provide equal opportunities to all students and employers. The all in one display coupled with help provided to students by career advisors is something that I think is going to be heavily utilized in the future.
I’d love to hear your guys’ thoughts on Handshake. With such rapid success do you believe a large majority of colleges will be using this product in the years to come? Do you believe other tech giants such as LinkedIn will eventually beat out Handshake and adapt to crush them as a competitor? Lastly, if you do download the app let me know what you think about the interface and usability of its features.