What if your dream job out of college was 300 miles away at a company that never recruited at your campus?
Garrett Lord had the same problem. In 2013, he founded Handshake – a startup focused on empowering the intermediary, universities, with an intuitive platform to better engage and connect employers and students.
Addressing Gaps in the College Recruiting Model
Handshake is in the highly competitive $25 billion job listings market which includes players like LinkedIn and Monster.com. It differentiates itself through its focus on an overlooked segment: colleges and universities. Rather than solving around the shortcomings of postgraduate institutions in matching its students with employers, Handshake aims to develop deep partnerships with institutions to improve their capabilities. In doing so, it provides value to its stakeholders (i.e., universities, students, and employers) in two main ways:
- Reducing labor market search costs associated with mismatching. Students are looking for the right jobs and employers are looking for the right people. Yet information about the nature and availability of jobs and interpreting signals of candidate skill (academics, activities, etc.) are asymmetric. Moreover, resource constraints limit employers and students from optimal matching – students may be in remote locations relative to the locations of available jobs. Handshake widens the funnel for students and employers, allowing greater optionality, clearer signaling, and ultimately improved matching in the hiring process.
- Equipping universities with better data to prove the college “investment.” With tuition costs rising higher than median family incomes, Obama and other key policymakers are putting pressure on postgraduate institutions to improve transparency of student graduation, hiring, and earnings outcomes. Handshake allows its institutions to collect, track and analyze a broader dataset of its own career practices – something very few colleges have done historically and so methodically.
(Student dashboard. From Company Website)
Handshake: A Three-Way Solution
- Student Value: convenient access to better job opportunities. Students and recent alumni have access to a wider array of job opportunities from a broader set of employers. Similar to LinkedIn and other platforms, they offer online, mobile, and social features. However, students have the increased convenience of having basic data (university credentials, contact information, major, courses, etc.) and career activities (campus job fairs, administrative contacts, etc.) already pre-populated as a result of Handshake’s university partnerships.
- Employer Value: lower recruitment costs and wider talent pools. Companies and nonprofits can save money while now recruiting at Michigan Tech, Stanford, John Hopkins and other schools using the same standardized interface and communicating directly with students. Additionally, they can query for key skills and majors across hundreds of candidates and post positions across dozens of schools at a click of a button.
- Institutional Value: More engagement and measurable career outcomes. Colleges are able to collect and analyze more robust data on their hiring processes as more employers and students are using the same platform. Moreover, they can better utilize limited career staff that can now focus less on job search support and more complex advising activities.
Handshake is currently free for employers while career departments at colleges and universities pay an annual subscription fee to use the software system. The fee depends on the level of customization and size of the student body. Handshake’s success depends on the buy-in of educational institutions as well as strong network effects of sufficient growth of both students and employers engaged on the platform.
So far, so good: 100,000 employers — including 95% of Fortune 500 companies like Amazon, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey – recruit on Handshake and over 3 million students and 170+ universities use the platform. The company boasts that colleges see a 2-3x increase in relevant job opportunities within the first 6 months and a 50% increase in student engagement during the year.
- Implement supplemental pricing model for employers. As a viable and valuable platform now, Handshake should rollout a pricing scheme for employers, leveraging currently observed behaviors to match desired system features with a company’s willingness to pay. Handshake could split profits with colleges for allowing employers to build their brands on the platform or to utilize premium search tools for better screening. An added indirect benefit of pricing should be the reduction in fake job postings.
- Automatically embed Handshake in company HR and college platforms. Handshake has already expressed a desire to improve linkages with college alumni databases and student data systems but it should also consider company HR management systems. The benefit of deeper data integration on both ends is not only an improved platform, easier use, and higher engagement, but also increased stickiness of institutions – reducing the risk that colleges or companies decide to build out their own platforms later on. The challenges include developing codes to standardize data retrieval and update processes and building trust among companies and colleges to share sensitive data. Handshake can leverage their strong partnership track record to propose pilots to demonstrate the benefits of such access.
- Data analytics. While Handshake has proven its scaled impact, it has yet to prove its impact on college-to-career outcomes. Handshake could building a consulting practice to help partners analyze and improve their hiring processes. Leveraging data from their diverse platform, they can offer benchmarking of institution- and industry-specific progress and sell research knowledge of generalized best practices. To the extent Handshake has access to student data, the company could even provide predictive analytic services to support major selection and career counseling.
 Here I use colleges and universities synonymously in this blog post, although states define them differently.
 Business Wire. February 3, 2016. “College Career Network Handshake Secures $10.5 Million in Series A Funding” http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160203005570/en/College-Career-Network-Handshake-Secures-10.5-Million
 Mismatching in the labor markets is considered among economists as a driver of unemployment. Moreover, it is cited as a reason behind delays in hiring as employers hold out for better candidates. See Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis July 2011 Publication “The Mismatch Between Job Openings and Job Seekers.” https://www.stlouisfed.org/publications/regional-economist/july-2011/the-mismatch-between-job-openings-and-job-seekers
 Alyssa Davis, Will Kimball, and Elise Gould. “The Class of 2015.” Economic Policy Institute. May 2015 Publication. http://www.epi.org/publication/the-class-of-2015/
 Business Wire. February 3, 2016. “College Career Network Handshake Secures $10.5 Million in Series A Funding”
 Handshake company website. https://www.joinhandshake.com/universities/
 Purdue University Northwest explicitly warns against fraudulent job postings on their website: http://www.pnw.edu/career-center/avoid-fraudulent-job-postings/
(789 excluding titles, headers, and footnotes).