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Improving employer brand

How to build an employer brand early talent loves

Learn how 4 Early Talent Award winners build brands that attract Gen Z with personalized and humanized content.

Is this, or something like it, your mantra?

I want to stand out to early talent. I want to learn how to use Handshake to build my brand for Gen Z. I want to compete with bigger brands for top talent.

If so, we hear you!

Although your brand is a pillar of talent attraction, so many employers are forced to do more with less. While brand resonance is a scoring criteria for winning a Handshake Early Talent Award (ETA), you might be relieved to know that not all ETA winners are household names.

So we thought it would be helpful to showcase some examples of how Early Talent Award-winning employers showcase their brands across channels—and meet Gen Z where they are.

Of course, there’s lots that goes into brand building that we can’t cover all on this page, and we’re acknowledging that these brands are pretty big ones. But remember this: you have the same access to social media, your owned channels like your careers page, and your Handshake employer page as any other company.


Why students love Duolingo:

“Being surrounded by great co-workers and doing something that is changing education has been a transformational experience for me. My co-workers are incredible and inspiring at what they do.”

How Duolingo engages early talent:

Duolingo’s TikTok content for students on Handshake brought their fun, playful brand to life while delivering educational, actionable career advice. Their famous mascot Duo made an appearance on this partner video with Handshake (he even has his own TikTok).

Key takeaways from Duolingo’s careers page:

  • The Students page provides insight and information tailored to first time job seekers. Real employees describe reasons to join Duolingo “impact,” “mission,” “innovation,” and “culture”—all incredibly important to Gen Zers.
  • Benefits are clearly laid out on the Jobs page, including mental health coaching and professional development.
  • A dedicated page for FAQs clearly explains the “why” behind their hybrid work schedule.
  • Team demographics are transparent in their About Us section, which matters to Gen Z job seekers and is a strong way to show prospective employees your commitment to DEI.

The Walt Disney Company

Why students love The Walt Disney Company:

“I absolutely loved every aspect of the Disney College Program. It was definitely the most valuable work experience I have ever had. The hands-on experience was unreal. I hope to return to the Walt Disney Company again in the near future.”

How The Walt Disney Company engages early talent:

Wayne Hampton, Senior Manager, Campus Recruitment at Disney, shared some highlights of working at The Walt Disney Company during a student panel at Handshake. In short, here are just a few of the reasons students love the brand:

  • All internships are paid, and Disney is working on conversion strategies so that internship roles map to full-time roles in the company—with interns’ career goals in mind.
  • After learning at a Handshake-hosted event how GPA isn’t linked to job performance, the team presented data to leadership and now 98% of their roles don’t require a minimum GPA.
  • Disney sets early talent up for success by offering hands-on support like resume and interview prep, included in this TikTok for students on Handshake.

“Maybe the students have never interviewed before, or they may go to a school where they don’t have a lot of resources on campus. We get to know you as a person, and we compare it to the person you are on paper, and then we can help put both of those together to present the best version of you to the hiring manager.”

Wayne Hampton, Senior Manager, Campus Recruitment at The Walt Disney Company

Key takeaways from The Walt Disney Company’s careers page:

  • Alumni stories and intern spotlights on the Disney Programs page are geared toward early talent. There’s also mention of an alumni association, indicating how working for Disney helps you build community and connections to grow your career.
  • There's a compelling call to action to explore uniquely Disney experiences on Instagram. Content includes real participants, important updates like application windows opening, and a dose of Disney magic!


Why students love IBM:

“I really enjoyed the fact that interns were given the opportunity to truly impact the business unit they worked on. People were so friendly and willing to help. There were engaging events throughout the summer.”

How IBM engages early talent:

According to The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, employer branding has become an important talent attraction tool. IBM has leaned in, amplifying their brand among tech talent by using Handshake. For instance:

  • IBM livestreamed a panel discussion and Q&A with employees at the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Convention and tours of its offices.
  • A post-event survey yielded impressive results: 96% of students believed IBM had showcased a “diverse environment.”
  • IBM received 30x more applicants through Handshake during the week of the office tour livestream than its competitors.

Key takeaways from IBM’s careers page:

FTI Consulting

Why students love FTI Consulting:

“Great professional experience and a foot in the door to the consulting industry. The work FTI does is applicable industry-wide, and the experience helped me gain a better understanding of what my strengths and weaknesses were so I could grow as a professional.”

How FTI Consulting engages early talent:

Early Talent Recruiter Annie Rudisill shared with the Handshake community how talent brand is the personification of employer brand, and can differ by audience.

Since early talent and university recruiting is targeting Gen Z, Annie advised: “Their authenticity-meter is extreme—you don’t always want to lead with being super polished.” Authentic early talent recruiting includes, for example:

  • Building relationships across and introducing candidates to people working in the role they’re most interested in.
  • Exposing more junior employee voices and/or alumni who attended a candidate’s school, who are your best advocates.
  • Understanding that word of mouth is always persuasive. Spotlighting junior employees on your brand pages creates trust with early talent job seekers.

Key takeaways from FTI Consulting’s careers page:

  • Gen Zers who want purpose and meaning in their jobs. A call to action like “Make your own impact” can set your brand apart.
  • For social proof on its Students careers page, FTI Consulting shows off its many awards and recognitions for being a place students want to work at…including its Early Talent Award!
  • The FAQs page transparently addresses culture, sought after skills, benefits, and application info.

Build. That. Brand!

Gen Z feels connected to your brand through personalized outreach, customized information, and humanized experiences. Give early talent insight into your values and your overall employee experience. Then they can decide if their own goals are in alignment—and apply.

Hopefully these examples will leave you feeling inspired to get creative, informative, and even silly to engage with your audience and build a brand that early talent loves.

Your game plan for winning early talent

Learn more about how to qualify for an Early Talent Award—with additional tips for building an employer brand early talent loves.

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