Making connections: Handshake talks ‘First Dates’ at the ISE HE Conference

March 23, 2021

Hundreds of education experts gathered at this morning’s virtual ISE Careers Advisors and Employer Engagement Conference, to discuss how universities can best support their students in a tough recruitment climate – and how employers can attract the best people.

As part of a packed schedule, Handshake’s UK Country Founder David Shull took to the stage to talk about careers fairs, and why, when we think about connections between employers and students, we should think back to our good and bad dating experiences.

Just as with dating, David told the audience, students are looking for long-term connections with employers and are increasingly focusing on the attributes they want them to have. Indeed, Handshake’s 63,000 UK student users report that they want mission driven, diverse and inclusive employers, who, most importantly, offer a friendly place to work. It’s crucial, says David, that businesses are able to convey who they are and what they stand for as they look to recruit graduates.

We know that employer and student connections are often formed around careers fairs, and more recently at virtual fairs. It’s here where Handshake warns that employers can miss out on those long-term connections which students believe are so important.

As the largest global provider of virtual careers fairs (having hosted more than 3,000 during 2020 alone) Handshake says that while valuable connections are formed during the fairs themselves, the most successful businesses also proactively contact students in advance of, and after the event.

One of the big benefits of virtual careers fairs, says David, is that they level the playing field for employers and for students alike. All too often, the biggest employers just focus on visiting the most prestigious campuses, missing out on talent from other institutions. And SMEs with less well recognised brands can better make their mark at virtual fairs, getting the opportunity to show students what they’re about and why they’re a great employer.

The way we connect virtually is also important, says David. Students want a mix of group interaction and 1:1 conversations – and both can be facilitated online. David tells us that it’s during the more personal interactions where employers are most likely to convert students into applicants, but that both ways of connecting are important.

As the country slowly reopens after the Coronavirus pandemic, many of the events’ speakers looked at what recruitment may look like in the future. 

Executives from Tonic, Deutsche Bank, PwC and FDM all believe that the road back to normality is likely to be a long one. David agrees. Virtual Recruitment isn’t going away, he says, and many are reaping the benefits of a more accessible recruitment landscape. Handshake’s research shows that students find virtual interactions less intimidating, and benefit from easier scheduling too. Of course, virtual recruitment will continue to evolve, David concludes, as we learn even more about how students and employers want to interact with each other on and offline.

To view and download the deck from today’s presentation that contained Data & insights from running 3,000+ virtual careers fairs - click here

Finally, Handshake has undertaken and commissioned extensive quantitative and qualitative research to investigate the post-Covid jobs landscape and implications for employers, students and society. To be one of the first to receive the research paper as soon as it drops, register your interest here.