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Early talent trends

Countdown 21 inspiring moments from 2021

We're proud to reflect on these 21 moments from 2021 with the folks who made it all possible–YOU!

We’re counting down our 21 favorite moments from 2021—from brand new insights into recruiting early talent, to inspiring events with very special guests, to tips and tricks from employers that use Handshake, to incredible outcomes for students. With every day, every month, and every year that we do this work together, we’re well on our way to expanding access to jobs and democratizing opportunities for students—together.

Without further ado… 🥁

21 moments to celebrate from 2021

  1. Employers using Handshake have access to a student pool that grows daily—in 2021, the student network grew to over 9.2MM students across 1,500+.
  2. We expanded our higher ed network to include community colleges—a community that has grown to over 180 community college partners and counting.
  3. In the past 12 months, employers and students exchanged 3.5M messages on Handshake! Gen Z is networking virtually to build social capital; in fact, 87% of job seekers believe that messaging with an employer may lead to a job—so keep up the great work and watch your pipeline grow!

Employers agree about the power of messaging, too. Find out why Evan A., Technical Recruiter at Epic, says that "Handshake messaging is often one of the only ways we might meet students."

  1. We launched the first-ever Handshake Early Talent Awards where 120 employers across 12 categories were recognized for being the best places for early talent to launch their careers. Will you win in 2022?
  2. Our studies have shown that students who engage one-on-one with employers are 36% more likely to apply to that employer’s jobs. That’s why we introduced Virtual Info Chats to give you the ability to schedule informal chats with students via Handshake Video. Build meaningful relationships with students by answering questions, chatting about your company culture, and getting them excited about your opportunities.
  3. This past summer, we launched the ability for students to self-identify their race and ethnicity on Handshake (in whatever way they choose)—whether that’s belonging to multiple racial and/or ethnic groups, or as an identity they provide for themselves.
  4. Unlike most career platforms, which are geared toward mid-career professionals who already have jobs and connections, Handshake is focused on the unique needs of early-career professionals. In June, we announced our Series E funding round, accelerating our efforts to build a world-class team and a platform that transforms the career journey for all early talent.

EY, one of the “big 4“ accounting firms in the US, is a household name when it comes to college and entry-level recruiting. EY has used Handshake to adopt a digital-first early talent engagement strategy; they've seen a 125% increase in engagement from Black and Latine candidates for jobs and events.

  1. We heard from Malala Yousafzai at Handshake’s Find Your Next conference in June. Malala’s story isn’t just about standing up for what you believe in. She is a once-in-a-generation leader (and recent college graduate!) with empathy, courage, and grit to propel us toward a more equitable future.
  2. Our research found that 92% of Gen Z, the “always-connected” generation, prefers connecting with employers by email, and it’s common knowledge that candidates are more likely to engage with personalized outreach. So we took a look at top performing employer messages and put together 7 new recruiting message templates plus an infographic with quick tips that you can use to up your personalization game.
  3. We launched Handshake Network Trends to provide periodic reporting on insights on the path from college to career. We survey proprietary insights on our network of students, schools, and recruiters to develop actionable takeaways from—and for—our three-sided ecosystem and inform the future of work. In 2021, we released “Gender, Equity, and Gen Z,” “Who Wins with Virtual Recruiting?,” and “The New Currency of Social Capital.”

Students surveyed for the “Gender, Equity, and Gen Z Report” overwhelmingly chose "salary ranges in job postings" as the greatest motivator for applying to a position, as well as the greatest motivator for staying in a position.

  1. From our jobs page redesignto new job matches, we made it even simpler for you to post and fill jobs on Handshake.
  2. We made it easier for you to keep your day-to-day workflow organized, including the ability to reply to Handshake messages via email and add Handshake events to your calendar.
  3. To support employers with inclusive and equitable hiring practices, we launched the Guide to Recruiting at HBCUs and the Beyond Pride: Guide to Hiring LGBTQ+ Early Talent. These guides provide tactics, tips, terms, and more to ensure you’re recruiting underrepresented groups authentically and intentionally.
  4. We spotlighted a handful of Fortune 500 Handshake employers who chose a 100% virtual career fair strategy to scale their programs for greater access, equity, and impact.
  5. To consolidate your candidate touchpoints to a single place, we launched Candidate Hub for employers on Handshake Premium. With automatic suggestions and advanced filters,Candidate Hub makes it easy to manage your pre-application pipeline.

With Event Manager, Great Oaks Charter Schools makes meaningful connections with students at scale. Today, 60% of applicants come from underrepresented groups, and students at 1,000+ schools are reached in all 50 states.

  1. While it’s widely documented that Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse in US history, it’s important to note that another form of workplace diversity is employees’ range of ages and experience levels. These multi-generational trading cards are a quick reference to help you think through the authenticity of your messaging, find points of connectivity within your workforce, discover unique generational traits, and relate to one another.
  2. For “Writing a Clear and Effective Job Description in 2021,” one of the key takeaways is to tailor job descriptions for early talent by focusing on coursework, soft and hard skills, and certifications–and removing any mention of “years of work experience,” a barrier that can screen out candidates with incredible potential.
  3. We rolled out the Pathfinders training course and badging program to help optimize how you use Handshake so you can connect with the right schools, source top talent, and curate the best candidate experience.

Folks who take the Pathfinders badging course have shared that their learning goals include “maximizing their reach and efficiency in using the platform”, “better understand needs of Gen Z candidates,” and “effectively building rapport and relationships virtually.”

  1. As a first step to rethinking the Employer Trust Score and improving trust and safety, we implemented changes to our flags taxonomy to focus on identifying fraud and abuse. We also updated the reasons that employers might be declined to recruit at some colleges to give you more transparency into the approval process.
  2. Handshake landed on some pretty cool lists, like Inc.'s 5000 fastest growing companies as well as Inc.'s Best Places to Work 2021. We’re grateful to our community for being a part of this success!
  3. We closed out the year by welcoming Dr. Michael L. Lomax, President and CEO of UNCF, to Handshake’s Board of Directors. His expertise in college readiness and education reform will accelerate our mission to build more equitable career paths for all students.


It certainly does take a village, but we are so proud to reflect on these 21 moments from 2021 with the folks who helped make it all possible–YOU!

In 2022, we look forward to surmounting new heights for students and recent grads along with our 900,000+ employer partners and 1,500+ higher ed partners. Thank you so much for making this a year of incredible impact, and for being a mission-critical contributor to democratizing opportunity for students.

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