Handshake Honor Roll: Announcing our January 2022 Winner

Celebrating the people who open doors & make careers happen for early talent.

It’s time to announce our January 2022 Handshake Honor Roll Winner. Drumroll, please…🥁

Marlena Taynor, University & Diversity Talent Attraction Manager at McDonald’s! 🎉

We (virtually) sat down with Marlena to learn more about her experience recruiting early talent, what attracted her to McDonald’s, and the amazing milestones she and her team have accomplished over the past year.

Take a look at our full conversation below:

What was your first job outside of college? How’d you find it?

My first job after college was as an Assistant Merchant for Abercrombie & Fitch. I wasn’t planning to go into the retail space–I actually came across the A&F team at a career fair while I was a junior looking for an internship, and heard about merchandising for the first time then. After my internship, I decided to return full time.

Why are you passionate about recruiting early talent and increasing DEI?

I’m passionate about early career talent and ensuring equity and inclusion throughout the recruiting process for a couple of reasons: 

  1. Being part of the career discernment process for students is exciting and humbling. There is something special about helping someone figure out what they want to do (or what they don’t want to do) and that is pretty unique in this space. 
  2. There are so many amazing candidates out there, so making sure the processes are equitable and fair is the only way to be sure the best people are hired. In creating our processes and strategy with inclusion at the center, we focus on increasing access and then can be confident the people we hire will be the best–not just the best from a certain school or the best in one region–and to be the best, we need to hire the best!
How did you land your current role? And what’s your favorite part of the job?

I was looking for a role specifically focused on university recruiting and wanted a new challenge.

The day I was planning to start my search, McDonald’s reached out looking for someone to build and launch early career strategy and internship programming–I just couldn’t turn it down.

It was an amazing combination: a brand I’ve known for as long as I can remember, a space that I’m passionate about, and the opportunity to build from the ground up. I couldn’t say no!

Now that I’ve been here almost 4 years, my favorite part of the job is watching the people we hire do great things for the brand. It proves a job well done, and seeing their successes brings me tons of satisfaction.

What are some of the accomplishments you were particularly proud of in 2021?

It has been quite a year, and I’m so proud of my team. In addition to navigating the ever-changing landscape the pandemic has created, my team worked through more hiring than the previous year and with fewer people.

We are a small but mighty team and they are what I’m most proud of! I’d also be remiss if I didn’t say I’m proud of the amazing people we hired last fall who will be joining us in 2022–they’re going to do great things!

What advice would you offer to today’s job seekers?

My main advice is to keep an open mind–you never know what industry, company, location, or role could be the next right thing for you, and the answer might surprise you so don’t be too quick to judge a book by the cover.

If you allow yourself to explore, you minimally learn something about yourself or an industry that you didn’t know before, and best case, you find an amazing career you weren’t expecting.

About Handshake Honor Roll

The Handshake Honor Roll is a list that recognizes and celebrates best-in-class DEI, Directors of Talent, CHROs, and HR leaders who open doors and make amazing careers happen for early talent. Each month, our team selects a leader from Handshake’s Honor Roll to feature across our social media channels and our blog.

Interested in nominating a DEI, Director of Talent, CHRO, or HR leader from your organization? Fill out this form. Nominations will be collected on a rolling basis.