What To Expect At A Virtual 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. Virtual career fairs are hosted on an online platform; the UW Career & Internship Center uses Handshake (but other departments or colleges may use Zoom, VFairs, or others), which offers students an opportunity to connect with employers in two ways: 30-minute Group Sessions and 10-minute 1:1 Sessions.

Group Sessions are 30 minutes long and open to up to 50 students/alumni at once, and employers consider this format the best for sharing broad information about the company, culture, and open career opportunities. More than one employer representative can be present.

1:1 Sessions are 10 minutes long, and they provide qualified students a chance to meet with one individual representative. Students attending this type of format should be interested in learning more about the company’s open roles and if they’d be good candidates.

What does a virtual career fair look like?

Students should think about their virtual fair participation in two parts: the registration and research process, and the day-of experience.

Registration & Research Process

By the time that student registration opens, employers will have already registered and created their schedules, which are comprised of 30-minute Group Sessions and 10-minute 1:1 Sessions.

Students will need to register for the actual fair, as well as sign up for session slots to create their Fair Day schedule.

Handshake will prompt you to filter companies by your major, interests, and availability. You can view employers’ open roles and sign up for sessions that interest you.

Session slots are first-come, first-serve.

Once you’ve signed up for sessions, your Handshake profile will be released to recruiters. Ensure all empty sections of your Handshake profile are filled out, and upload an updated version of your resume.

Fair Day Experience

On the day of the virtual fair, you’ll need to carefully monitor and manage the Group and 1:1 sessions that you’ve RSVP’ed for.

Handshake will notify you that the fair is occurring and remind you to join the sessions for which you’ve registered.

You will log into Handshake and navigate to a page that displays your Fair Day schedule, and you will join in each session individually as the time approaches. You can join sessions five minutes before their formal start time.

On Fair Day, the UW Career & Internship Center will staff an independent Zoom Room available to both students and employers to provide technical support.

  • A screenshot of the page in Handshake that prompts students to register for a virtual career fair.
  • A screenshot of the pop-up message in Handshake that displays after registering for a virtual fair, which prompts students to register for Group and/or 1:1 Sessions.
  • A screenshot of a sample page in Handshake that displays available Group Sessions.
  • A screenshot of a sample page in Handshake that displays available 1:1 Session time slots.
  • A screenshot of a sample page in Handshake that displays the Group and 1:1 Sessions that a sample student has registered to attend.
  • A screenshot of a sample page that populates when you "Join Video," which displays options to mute, turn off the camera, or blur the background.
  • A screenshot of a sample virtual meeting wherein a recruiter is smiling at the camera, and a list of student attendees is displayed on the right.

Because employers are required to create their schedules in advance of student registration, and students are required to sign up for sessions prior to Fair Day, you might envision the actual Virtual Fair Day experience as you joining a series of virtual meeting spaces—as opposed to the ballroom experience you might envision in relation to in-person career fair events.

Virtual Career Fair FAQ

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

  • You need to sign up in advance for InfoSessions and 1:1 conversations with attending companies. Virtual career fairs necessitate that you conduct advance research in order to sign up for session slots. This is in direct contrast to in-person fairs, which allow you to be spontaneous if time and interest allow.
  • You’ll have dedicated time to connect with company representatives—no more standing in line! Because attendees are required to register in advance of sessions, students know upfront the time that they are expected to log on and be present. Once you sign up for a session, you are guaranteed that time to meet with the recruiter. This is unlike the in-person fair setting, wherein you may be in a crowded ballroom with up to 1,000 other attendees vying for recruiters’ attention.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to sign up for information unique to specific hiring initiatives you’re interested in—no more talking to recruiters about roles you’re interested in but that they don’t represent. Group and 1:1 Sessions may have different hosts that offer opportunities to learn about different roles within the company. In-person career fairs, in contrast, typically only allow two recruiters to be present, which limits the amount of jobs and roles that they may represent.
  • You need to be on-point! 1:1 sessions act as screening interviews—they’re now PART of the career fair, not just a next step after a career fair. 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. This is vastly different than in-person fair settings, in which employers have no way of knowing which students are more qualified than others.

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.

If you don’t see available sessions, it may mean that the employer is in the process of setting up their sessions, or their current sessions are full. Be sure to check back on the fair schedule in the days and hours leading up to the fair to view newly-added sessions.

It also may indicate that your information in
your Handshake profile does not qualify you for a 1:1 Session. Make sure these fields are
filled out in your Handshake profile: major, school year, graduation date, GPA, and work

We also suggest having an open mind when deciding which employers to meet during virtual career fairs. Instead of focusing on the brand names you know, go through the full list of employers who are attending and view their Handshake pages to learn more. You may find a great match for you in an unlikely place.

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.

30-minute Group Sessions are primarily for employers to share more about their organizations with students. Employers may feature icebreaker activities at the beginning or Q&A portions at the end.

10-minute 1:1 Sessions are more personal conversations between you and an employer to discuss your background and experience, as well as current job and internship opportunities. Employers usually reserve these slots for candidates who best align with their job qualifications (like major or school year.)

  • Register for the fair in Handshake.
  • Research the list of participating employers and their open roles.
  • Sign up for Group and 1:1 Sessions that align with your major, interests, and career goals.
  • 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.
  • Find a quiet spot with a neutral background. If you have roommates or pets, make a plan to mitigate interruptions.

Having your video on during sessions is optional. You may also communicate with employers through audio or chat features. However, for 1:1 Sessions, we recommend turning your video on to help employers make a strong connection with you.

For group sessions with more than 15 attendees, student video will not be enabled unless you are asking a question.

Virtual sessions are an opportunity for you to learn about employers and decide which are a good fit for you. Think about what interests you most about the employer you’re meeting with. What do you want to learn more about? Is it company culture? Career growth opportunities? Make a list of your priorities and then fill in questions for each.

Handshake has written a blog article compiling tips for asking questions in a virtual fair setting, as well as examples. You can view that resource here.

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.

Note that the background that will be visible on camera should also be professional. Consider removing distracting items or mess, maintaining optimal lighting, and mitigating audio disturbances like roommates or pets. Handshake offers a “background blur” feature and a mute option.

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.

The easiest way to share your resume with employers is to upload it to your Handshake profile and make it visible. If you already have a resume, be sure to mark it as visible so that employers can view it.

After you attend a virtual career fair, employers will have access to your resume when they download a list of participants from their sessions.

There isn’t a buffer built in between sessions. Employers will be dealing with this too, so just communicate with them that you’ll need to leave right at the end of your session. We recommend keeping your phone or watch nearby to keep an eye on time.

Handshake will give you a one-minute warning that your session time slot is almost out, but it will not “kick you out” of an ongoing session. The only way to end a session is for both parties to exit at or after the formal end time.


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