Ever heard of Michigan Tech? The engineering school, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is a full day’s drive from the nearest metro areas of Detroit and Chicago, and as a result might not be top of mind for corporate recruiters outside the Midwest. As Garrett Lord sees it, that’s a problem for many college students whose socioeconomics and alma matter (and yes, one often dictates the other) make it harder to clinch their dream jobs right out of college.
So in 2014, Lord co-founded Handshake with his former Michigan Tech classmates Scott Ringwelski and Ben Christensen, a “first LinkedIn,” in Lord’s words, that automatically equips college students with bare-bones professional profiles and lets employers get job listings in front of them earlier. Handshake’s co-founders see the platform as a counterargument to the so-called “pipeline problem,” the notion that there just aren’t enough skilled candidates–especially among underrepresented minorities–to hire for open jobs. That still-widespread belief lets recruiters justify retreading the same select handful of name-brand schools in their search for qualified hires.
“We want to help all students,” emphasizes Lord, who himself managed to score an internship and job offer at Palantir, but saw how others might not have the resources or resilience to do the same. So Handshake was built to automate many of the functions of a university career center, to match students with more internships, career fairs, and job opportunities based on their majors and interests.
Nearly two million students are expected to graduate across the U.S. in 2018, according to estimates from the National Center for Education Statistics. Although Handshake’s model isn’t totally unique–platforms like WayUp and Talify also aim to match students with jobs–Handshake has already captured a sizable market share by adding in the university connection to its equation.
When a school joins the platform, every current student is given a profile featuring basic information–so far limited to name, graduation year, and GPA; grades aren’t visible to potential employers unless the student decides to make them public. It’s also on them to flesh out those rudimentary profiles with details that make them better matches.
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