What to Expect At An In-Person Career Fair

A career fair is a connection opportunity for employers who have open roles and students who are currently in the job search phase. At an in-person career fair, events are hosted on campus in a large meeting space, wherein employers set up booths for students and alumni to visit. In-person career fairs are a great way for students to meet face-to-face with representatives of companies that appeal to students’ majors, interests, and goals.

What does an in-person career fair look like?

In-person career fairs hosted by the UW Career & Internship Center will typically always be hosted in the Husky Union Building ballrooms. The event can take up half the ballroom, which allows for up to 60 employers, or both the North and South ballrooms, which allows for up to 100 employers. Career fairs hosted by our office generally welcome all majors and all school years, so you may expect to see companies that represent all types of industries, as well as all types of job and internship opportunities.

  • This is the Husky Union Building Ballrooms prior to employers arriving. This is the standard set-up for a career fair.
  • This is one of the entrances to the Husky Union Building. It faces west, towards the HUB lawn and the Allen and Suzallo buildings.

At an in-person career fair, each registered employer will receive a booth, which they will decorate with a table linen, signage, company merchandise (like keychains, water bottles, or candy, for example), or paper handouts. Students and alumni will enter the venue after employers have set up, and they will receive a map that details employers’ booth assignments. Plan to visit the booths of companies who are hiring for roles that align with your career goals. Upon visiting, you and the employer will have an introductory conversation, wherein the employer may ask you questions about your background and qualifications, and wherein you might share your interest in working for the employer and ask questions about the opportunities available.

  • Employers have set up their booths with their signage and decor, and a few students are beginning to walk through the walkways.

Interactions with employers at in-person career fairs are typically no more than 2-3 minutes, though they may be longer if the recruiter has the availability. Once the employer indicates your time at their booth has come to an end, employers may have a request for action, such as applying to the open role online or reaching out to their workplace email address for more information. Action items may vary from employer to employer, but you can ask the employer for direct next steps if you are unclear.

  • Two employers meet with a student at a career fair. One employer is male-presenting and wears a black suit and tie. The other employer is female-presenting and wears a gray dress and chunky red necklace. The student is male-presenting, wearing a short-sleeve dress shirt and black vest. The student is talking animatedly with a smile on his face. The employers are also smiling and look engaged.
  • Two employers are meeting with a student at a career fair. The employers are both female-presenting and are seated at their table, covered with a drape that says "Peace Corps." The student is standing and is male-preseting, wearing a blue short-sleeve dress shirt and khaki pants.

Students and alumni should not expect to leave the fair having received an interview or job offer. Rather, expect to leave the fair having received contact information and a professional connection.

In-Person Career Fair FAQ

Due to the face-to-face nature of in-person career fair settings, an in-person career fair has some marked differences from its virtual counterpart.

  • You have the ability to be spontaneous with employers. While we recommend you research attending employers in advance of Fair Day to familiarize yourself with companies and their open roles, it’s not crucial to your success. You may see a company on Fair Day that intrigues you and decide you’d like to begin a conversation. This ability to be spontaneous does not exist in the same way in virtual fair settings, which necessitate advance research and registration.
  • You should plan to stand in a line. In-person career fairs can see up to 1,000 student attendees! With that many folks in the ballroom, it’s wise to expect that you will need to wait to speak with recruiters. This is in contrast to virtual fair settings, wherein students are required to register in advance of sessions, and therefore have a dedicated time to connect with recruiters.
  • Everyone has the same opportunity to meet with recruiters and make an impression. On an in-person Fair Day, employers have no way of knowing which students are more qualified than others. However, in virtual fair settings, employers are given students’ Handshake profiles ahead of time, and are therefore able to conduct their own research on the students that are good fits for their open roles. Virtual fairs also allow for 1:1 session scheduling, which employers can use as preliminary screening or pre-interviews.

You will learn information about the company you are interested in, including how you might stand out in the application process.

You will learn about companies you didn’t know much about, or didn’t know at all.

You have an opportunity to create a personal connection beyond the application, which may increase your chances of getting interviewed.

You will gain valuable insight from seasoned professionals, such as company culture or application tips.

An elevator pitch is a short overview about your background, studies, and career goals. The UW Career & Internship Center recommends a length of about 30 seconds, and it should encapsulate a “Past / Present / Future” structure. Here is an example:

“Hi, my name is Jane, and my pronouns are she/her. Currently, I’m studying Business with a Marketing emphasis. Through my academic courses, I’ve grown to understand the importance of understanding the customer or audience in communicating a compelling story. So I completed an internship with Nordstrom this past summer and earned the title of top selling intern. I’m looking to apply my skills in relational storytelling as a Marketing Events Summer Intern for PitchBook. I’m really excited to be here and hoping you could tell me more about what it’s like to work there.”

Note that Jane’s elevator pitch ended with a connection to the company, showing what motivated her to speak with the company and what she is hoping to learn.

We recommend practicing ahead of time and keeping a conversational tone.

In-person career fairs hosted by the UW Career & Internship Center will gather employer RSVPs on the event page on Handshake. There, students and alumni will be able to view a list of employers who plan to attend as well as conduct research on their open roles.

The UW Career & Internship Center will release a booth map on Handshake two weeks in advance of Fair Day, detailing the placement of employers in relation to each other, as well as venue entrances and exits.

The booth map will also be displayed in some fashion on Fair Day, either with physical paper copies of the map that staff will distribute, or digitally via large-scale projection, which students can then photograph.

  • Research the list of participating employers and their open roles.
  • Prepare your resume and fill in all parts of your Handshake profile. If you need help with resume creation or editing, schedule an appointment with a Career Coach.
  • Consider attending a webinar or workshop focused on career fair preparation.
  • Plan your outfit ahead of time.
  • Make a Fair Day plan. Look at the booth map ahead of time and plan your route through the venue. Note that exit and re-entry are allowed at fairs sponsored by the UW Career & Internship Center—you can step outside the venue to take breaks, assess your strategy, or escape the noise.

The UW Career & Internship Center recommends you adhere to a “business casual” dress code. If you are unfamiliar with this principle, please review our Husky Career Closet Style Guide. If you are in need of clothing that complies with a business casual dress code, please visit the Husky Career Closet for free, gently-used workplace attire.

We are committed to helping all students successfully engage with employers. Students with disabilities who anticipate challenges effectively navigating a career fair environment, with or or without the support of DSO (see below), are encouraged to reach out to us in advance at cicevents@uw.edu.

To request disability accommodation, contact the Disability Services Office. Requests can be responded to most effectively if received as far in advance of the event as possible, preferably at least 10 days.


Please feel free to email us at cicevents@uw.edu.