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Early talent trends

What we learned at Handshake Access 2024

Get 10 key takeaways on early talent recruiting trends, AI in TA, building your brand, and more. Plus, watch sessions on-demand.

Handshake Access is the leading conference on the future of early talent. At Handshake Access 2024, nearly 10,000 recruiters, career services professionals, and industry thought leaders came together live for conversation, data-driven insights, and future-focused strategies for early talent recruiting.

In case you missed it this year, check out these top 10 insights from employers, higher ed, and students on Handshake. Plus, save your spot for Handshake Access 2025 to stay updated on announcements!

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Handshake Access 2024: 10 key takeaways on the state of early talent

1. Ensure authenticity and consistency in employer branding and communications.

Gen Z gravitates toward genuine behind-the-scenes content and employee stories shared on the platforms they frequent most. Meet students on channels where they are: digital, mobile, and video.

"How do we express and share our culture in a way that's hard to translate? How can we help talent envision themselves here? How do we help talent be their whole selves at work?"

—Michele Militante, Senior Director, Early Talent Acquisition and Global COE, PepsiCo

Approximately 3 in 4 students read employer reviews before applying and are more likely to apply after seeing behind-the-scenes employer content, according to a Handshake Network Trends report.

2. Engage talent early and often.

Christian Garcia, Associate Dean and Executive Director, Toppel Career Center, University of Miami, summed it up: “Early career recruiting is proactive recruiting!” Building touchpoints with students as early as freshman year fills your talent pipeline and boosts brand recognition—not to mention can build consumer loyalty. Early talent programming that is transformational for students and for your hiring funnel include, for example, campus events, proactive outreach, and internships.

"I started job searching junior year, both on Handshake and in my network. Starting the job search early meant I could really narrow down what I wanted to do. By the time I approached graduation I knew what I wanted and how to lean on my network."

—Sophia Wu, student at University of San Francisco

3. Leverage AI responsibly to streamline recruiting.

Implement AI strategically to accelerate sourcing and screening, but maintain the human touch in candidate engagement. Katy George, Chief People Officer and Senior Partner, McKinsey & Co., shared: "GenAI has something for everyone. More and more people have access, no matter their background and their skills to use this technology."

4. Partner across your organization to expand reach into talent pools.

Wanda Hope, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at Johnson & Johnson, shared how her company has mobilized members of Employee Resource Groups as talent scouts and recruiting advocates to authentically connect with talent.

5. Prioritize accessibility and inclusivity to attract the best talent regardless of background and identity.

“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” said Dr. Xavier Clark, Senior Accessibility Officer, Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Design an equitable recruiting process by engaging diverse talent early, ensuring events are accessible for students with disabilities—such as by providing translation, interpretation, and alternate spaces for neurodiverse students. Keep in mind that virtual recruiting is an important touchpoint for students who may not be able to meet on campus.

6. Highlight opportunity for impact in the role and at your organization.

Show Gen Z the potential to do meaningful work that aligns with their values, and paint a picture of career paths within your organization. Vasavi Rao, Director of Employment Brand and Recruitment Marketing at Enterprise Mobility, shared how they’ve shifted the narrative from being a rental car company to a global mobility pioneer that offers roles with immense room for growth.

"The most important thing to me is finding a company that has a great record with sustainability, and a great culture and strong values. Making sure my personal values align with the company's values is a big one for me."

—Prabhmeet Kahlon, Student, Illinois State University

7. Create content that adds value for students.

Share guidance relevant to students' needs and interests, like interview tips, "day in the life" features, resume best practices, tips on how to transition from the classroom to the workplace, and so on. Don’t be afraid to fail as you experiment with new types and formats of content, such as video—you’ll learn from mistakes!

“Going into something without seeing the behind the scenes is a little employer's social media is a great resource to utilize to get a sense of what you’ll be doing.”

—Prabhmeet Kahlon, Student, Illinois State University

Is your team eager to start creating content on Handshake today? Request to join the Early Access Program.

8. Invest in experiential learning.

Internships, co-ops, apprenticeships and other hands-on programs set students up for post-grad success and feed your talent pipeline. Dr. Michael Rao, President of Virginia Commonwealth University, emphasized the importance of mentorship opportunities to prepare students for success in the workplace. Early talent needs to be able to visualize the career ladder; Ciara Salg, Senior Manager, Recruitment Marketing & Diversity Recruiting from Hilton and Amna Hasnain, Talent Acquisition Leader,Texas Instruments shared how their rotational programs get early talent in the door and foster internal mobility.

9. Make skills central to hiring.

Clearly communicate the competencies you're looking for in your job descriptions to help students translate their academic and extracurricular experiences, and articulate how they can grow at your organization. Mary Faye Cicero, Talent Acquisition Manager at Sherwin Williams, shared how a great candidate can mean a great set of skills. Major-agnostic and school-agnostic recruiting are two ways to progress skills-based hiring; audience members traded tips about searching by coursework for specialized roles.

"I would say the most important factor for me is growth opportunities. I want to work for a company that allows me to grow and promotes continuous skill-building."

—Alexander White, Student at University of Michigan-Flint

10. Communicate clearly and transparently with candidates.

Employers can stand out by sharing with students exactly where they are in the hiring process. Share timelines, manage expectations, communicate outcomes promptly, and make applying as seamless as possible.

“Handshake is an extremely efficient tool that allows our small team to reach a broad population, where and how they want to be met.”

—David Gibson, Talent Acquisition Business Partner, General Motors

Catch up on the Handshake Access Hub

Couldn't make it to Handshake Access live? Check out session recordings on the Handshake Access Hub.

A huge thank you to the Handshake community who made Handshake Access 2024 unforgettable. Let's keep the conversation going as we work together to create more opportunities for all.

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