Expanding Our Impact to Further Our Mission

Handshake CEO Garrett Lord shares how we’re evolving to meet new needs.

My co-founders and I started Handshake to ensure that all students are able to find meaningful work, regardless of where they’re from or where they go to school. This year that mission has been more critical than ever, as many college students and early job-seekers have had their worlds turned upside-down due to COVID-19. As students have grappled with new complexities like campus closures, widespread unemployment, and uncertain futures, they’ve had to boldly embrace the unknown—and Handshake is committed to helping them through it.         

Today, I’m thrilled to announce an $80 million financing round led late last year by GGV Capital. This will enable Handshake to serve an expanded universe of students and build innovative solutions that revolutionize how employers hire early talent to build a truly diverse workforce.  

Expanding our efforts to democratize opportunity

Since day one, our vision for Handshake has been to build the largest, most inclusive community for early talent. Currently, the Handshake network supports more than 1,000 institutions of higher learning and nearly 17 million students and young alumni. We want to continue to use our resources to expand Handshake’s impact across the early talent landscape by supporting students who are building skills and earning credentials from community colleges and bootcamps. 

This new capital will help Handshake expand our reach to serve the more than 6 million students who are enrolled in community colleges and bootcamps. Today, our team is already working with over 70 community college partners, and helping employers across industries actively recruit highly-skilled talent from these partner schools.

Handshake is also evolving to serve students beyond the US. We recently launched our platform in the United Kingdom, where we’ve already partnered with eight higher education institutions including the University of Cambridge, University of York, and University of Liverpool. We’ve seen over 20,000 students in the UK activate their accounts since mid-September alone, connecting them with thousands of employers including FDM, Clifford Chance, and Nestle as they make the shift to virtual recruitment. 

The leading platform for virtual recruiting

The onset of the global pandemic created an acute challenge for our students, employers and higher education partners. Career fairs with thousands of people in a tightly packed gym are no longer possible. In response, our team quickly pivoted to build and launch an end-to-end virtual recruiting solution this summer. We have become the leading virtual platform for early talent—Handshake will host thousands of virtual career fairs for more than 650 institutions of higher education this year alone. Almost 300,000 students have already participated in a virtual fair, and we expect to have 600,000 students participating by year end. 20,000 employers have leveraged Handshake to recruit early talent virtually, and we anticipate 4,000 more to do so this year, all while campuses have remained largely closed. 

Since the start of the school year in mid-August, we’ve heard from many of our students, employers and higher education partners about how Handshake’s virtual career fairs and our new suite of tools have changed the virtual recruiting game. A senior at St. John’s University shared: “You’re not standing in line, anxious, in a loud gym. You’re not fighting for a couple minutes with your pitch ready. Handshake’s virtual fair was more intimate and I built a better connection with the recruiters. I actually learned more being in the virtual version.” Another senior at the University of Delaware told us: “I liked having an intimate session with smaller groups during the fair and bouncing questions off of each other. I really enjoyed seeing recruiters be themselves and being open to wanting to help us in any way possible.” 

Our virtual product is also equipping employers with a game-changing remote recruiting solution to proactively engage candidates by replicating meaningful connection of in-person recruiting. RingCentral was able to maximize time-spend by engaging qualified candidates beforehand: “We’ve used at least four different virtual fair platforms, and Handshake is by far the best and smoothest. The ability to invite students using campaigns and have a set schedule really puts you way ahead of any other platform out there.” With Handshake Ambassadors, employers can now leverage their alumni networks to more authentically connect with students. Recruiters are able to set up candidates for friendly, one-on-one virtual information sessions with employees in relevant roles from across the business. Post-event, employers have all the tools to nurture their talent pipeline with seamless follow-up for candidates, converting attendees into applicants with automatic campaigns. 

According to a Handshake survey of career services administrators, over half of respondents believe that virtual fairs and events will become the norm moving forward even once students are back on campus. Of the fair experience, Bill Watts, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Advising & Career Development at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, said:

“From my perspective our fairs have been a great success…To have maintained engagement from last year is a testament both to Handshake’s fair functionality and to our local team’s efforts to promote and incentivize student engagement. Thank you to Handshake for proactively jumping in to meet the needs of students, schools and employers in the midst of a pandemic. One day what you all pulled off should be a case study in business and computer science programs of how to respond to, and meet fast changing needs.”

Messages like Bill’s continue to motivate our team to innovate, evolve, and provide the absolute best experience possible for our customers. This financing round, along with our expansion into exciting new markets, brings us another step closer to our mission of democratizing opportunity for early talent job-seekers around the world. 

To our students, higher education, employer partners: thank you for taking this exciting journey with us. 

By Garrett Lord, CEO