Handshake’s mission is to democratize opportunity for every student, so that any student can find the best job to match their unique talents and interests, no matter what they’re majoring in, what school they attend or where they’re from. To do so, we’ve built a thriving network of universities, students and employers who work together to help every student find a job and build the foundations of a meaningful career.

The Handshake network is only as strong as the trust among all sides – schools, students and employers. Today, I want to walk you through how Handshake is working to keep your students safe. I’m going to dive into:

The Data: What the data tells us about how limited fraud is on Handshake today. (Only 75 out of 750,000 jobs – 0.01%, or 1 out of every 10,000 jobs – were found to be fraudulent.)

Our Systems: How we built Handshake’s industry-leading fraud protection and prevention tools using our data, Handshake staff, and the vigilance of the university network.

What’s Next: How we’re working to make the network even safer, starting with stronger student education.

How You Can Help: Tips and resources for schools, employers, and students to help keep the network even safer in the future.

The Data

As one of the co-founders of Handshake, it’s personally painful to read about even one student experiencing fraud or having a bad hiring experience. We started Handshake because we had trouble finding good jobs in college, and hated looking through the scammy posts on unverified job boards. Unfortunately, fraud is also a function of the wider world and we can’t fully eradicate it. Thanks, though, to the vigilance of school teams as well as investigations from our internal fraudulent task force, fraudulent activity is incredibly rare on Handshake.

Fraudulent employers are incredibly rare. Of the 300,000+ employers on Handshake, only 19 employers (0.006%, or 1 in every 18,000) were determined to be fraudulent by our fraud team last year.

  • Within the last year, career services professionals flagged 851 employers due to suspicion of fraud. They also flagged 319 employers for potentially having poor postings or a poor recruiting experience for students.
  • After an employer is flagged, our team manually investigates every single flag. Of the 851 flagged employers, our teams established that 98% of employers who were initially flagged as fraudulent by career services teams were actually legitimate small businesses. These employers generally tend to be small businesses with bare-bones websites or have a home address listed for the company location.
  • Only 19 of these employers couldn’t be verified as 100% legitimate and remain blocked from Handshake.
  • These numbers demonstrate that schools are being vigilant and using Handshake’s flagging tools to alert the network about any negative or suspicious recruiting activity. We always encourage career services teams to err on the side of caution and to submit a flag if there is any doubt, and we will investigate.

Fraudulent jobs are also incredibly rare. Of the 750,000+ jobs posted to students in the past year, only 75 jobs (0.01%, or 1 in every 10,000) were determined to be fraudulent. Each job was found and removed, generally within 24 hours of being approved.

Our Systems

Fraud is so low on Handshake today because we focused on building safety into the network from the beginning.

When we first built Handshake, it was revolutionary for universities to join together into a network to share jobs and opportunities across all schools. That has turned out well for our schools and students, who now see 3-4x the number of employment opportunities at their school with Handshake. While Handshake has more college-focused employers than any other site, students are always asking to see more jobs from small businesses, non-profits, and local employers, who can’t jump through as many hoops as larger employers. This means it’s important that we keep the job posting process as streamlined and easy as possible.

As we were starting Handshake, every school also asked how we would help keep their students safe. How could we do that while also making it easy for small employers to post? Our solution was to use the network itself: a combination of data, machine learning, and the Handshake community working together to keep itself safe by flagging and alerting when anything slips through the cracks.

Handshake does a lot in the background using our data, before turning to the community:

  • We have automatic checks in place to block fake accounts.
  • We block known suspect email domains.
  • We provide extra alerts when an employer’s email domain doesn’t match the company domain, or when they use gmail or unknown email domains.
  • There are also additional steps and methods we use, and we make regular improvements, but we can’t always expose all of the details for security reasons.

Next, we use the Handshake Network itself:

  • The Handshake Trust Score. Handshake automatically calculates and assigns a Trust Score (0-100) for every employer on the platform. The factors that determine this score include: flags received by the employer from other schools, whether the employer has a valid web address and email domain, and the employer’s duration and activity on the platform, among other factors. The Trust Score also gets smarter: as more schools either approve or reject an employer from recruiting at their school, the Trust Score can increase or decrease to reflect the growing or decreasing trust that Handshake’s customers have in that employer.
  • Flagging Suspicious Employers. Career services team members and students also have the power to “flag” employers that may be creating a negative recruiting experience for students, including suspicion of fraudulent activity, spamming, or a general poor student experience. These flags also inform all 700+ other school teams on the system. This means that if one of the 15,000 career services professionals on Handshake identifies and flags an employer, all 700+ schools on Handshake benefit from this information, which is unique to Handshake.
  • Handshake Fraud Team. As soon as an employer is flagged as suspicious, our 20-person support team receives an urgent notification that prompts immediate action and investigation. Designated members of the support team investigate the following to determine whether the company appears suspicious, including calling and emailing the company to see if it checks out. If the company appears suspicious and has taken some action on the network – posted a job, messaged an applicant, etc. – our team will immediately notify the respective career services centers with information to help them resolve the issue and discuss with students and others on campus.

What’s Next

While our systems are working well today, we want to continue to increase trust and safety on all sides. Our teams have already been working on improvements in three areas, and will report back with updates and continued advancements over the coming months.

  1. Strengthening student educational resources on employer fraud. This is our main priority. Even with low fraud rates today, we want to ensure every student is equipped to make informed decisions about an employer. We will start sending information to students after their first application on Handshake, including tips about how to have a great hiring experience, whether on Handshake or elsewhere.
  2. Working towards further technical improvements to better validate employers. We are constantly adding in more advanced improvements to the proactive validation we do on employers. This ranges from additional verification steps to advanced behavior-based models.
  3. Continually fine-tuning internal protocols for escalating fraudulent employer instances.

How You Can Help

To help educate your teams, employers and students, we have produced a set of resources in Handshake’s Help Center and within Handshake’s career services community. These serve to inform staff members and students on best practices for managing employers and identifying suspicious activity.

Handshake Resources on Employer Approvals / Vetting

Best Practices from the Handshake Community:

Help Center Articles

Thanks for your support. We’re eager to hear more thoughts and ideas from career services partners on how to continue to democratize opportunity for students while also keeping everyone safe.