Advice from Career Services on Hosting Virtual Fairs in Handshake

September 21, 2020

Korrie Gernert—Assistant Director, Events @ Arizona State University

What was your biggest challenge in pulling off the virtual fair?

Wrapping our heads around the fact that virtual fairs are not going to be exact replicas of in-person fairs. Virtual fairs are a different type of event, and provide a different type of event experience. There are positives and negatives to both; just remember they are not the same thing.

What was the best part of the virtual fair experience with Handshake?

The ease of having the event run inside of Handshake was amazing.

What piece of advice would you give to a University hosting an upcoming virtual fair on Handshake?

Create some kind of way (either by making yourself an employer registration within the fair or an external Zoom link) to be available and provide support to both students and employers. We found one of the things we missed the most was the lack of personal interaction our team is used to having with students and employers. This helped mitigate that.

Selena Hart—Recruiting Specialist @ The University of Texas at Austin

What was your biggest challenge in pulling off the virtual fair?

UT Austin is a distributed campus with 15 College and University career centres, 8 of which are exclusive users of Handshake. We were the first to host our virtual fair in early August focused on work-study and part-time employers. The biggest challenge in pulling off the virtual fair was getting employers to create their schedule. This part is not as intuitive since traditional in-person fairs did not require advanced scheduling, and it took a handful of email reminders and two instructional office hours to get our number of created schedules up to about 75%.

What was the best part of the virtual fair experience with Handshake?

How easy it was for students to navigate. Our students are at a hectic time in their lives and being able to set their schedule to ensure they met with their desired employers was a huge win for them.

What piece of advice would you give to a University hosting an upcoming virtual fair on Handshake?

To remember what is in your circle of control because this is a new environment for all of us. You may see lower numbers in student registrations and employers may not create their schedules, but that does not mean your fair isn’t going to be a success!

Melissa Scholten—Director of Career Services @ Southwest Minnesota State University

What was your biggest challenge in pulling off the virtual fair?

Ensuring that employers were completely set-up in the fair. It was fairly intuitive, but employers do not receive notifications about session signups. We also had employers log in and stay logged in for students to “walk-up” to the fair. Lots of information was given by our team and Handshake, but it seemed there was more of a learning curve than we anticipated. We are preparing for our next fair now and will have a better idea of how to coach and educate employers and students. Timing was also difficult for students (it was the second day of classes) so we are hoping that the next fair is better suited.

What was the best part of the virtual fair experience with Handshake?

I actually attended our part-time fair as an employer and it was a really seamless integration and went really smooth. Our campus employers had great feedback with one department finally filling two (typically) empty work study positions.

What piece of advice would you give to a University hosting an upcoming virtual fair on Handshake?

Talk to peer institutions and try to learn as much as possible in advance. Really require/encourage student pre-registration and follow-up so that sessions are filled. Have employers check their IT and make sure everything works on their end in advance.

Megan Hellmer—Assistant Director of Cooperative Education @ Lakeland University

What was your biggest challenge in pulling off the virtual fair?

The amount of follow up that we found was needed. Whether it was following up with employers to build their schedules, or following up with registered students to be sure that they were signing up for time slots, there was a great increase in communication from our office prior to the fair.

What was the best part of the virtual fair experience with Handshake?

The fact that it has greatly decreased the prep work needed to host a fair (no setting up tables this time!) and it has also shown us some very quick results. We are able to have students complete group sessions, complete interviews, and receive offers all within a few hours of time—sometimes even without leaving their dorm rooms!

What piece of advice would you give to a University hosting an upcoming virtual fair on Handshake?

Use the resources that Handshake provides! I was overseeing our employer communication prior to the day of the fair and being able to provide employers with step by step instructions, videos, screenshots, etc., that Handshake had already created saved me a large amount of time!

Carolyn Sutphin—Employer Engagement and Experience Coordinator @ Radford University

What was your biggest challenge in pulling off the virtual fair?

Our biggest challenge for the Part-Time Job Fair and our upcoming career fair was getting employers to put their schedules in so that students could sign up. It’s also the same with students; they register for the career fair, but then don’t remember or think about signing up for sessions. We have decided to add deadlines for employers to get their schedules in before the fair.

What was the best part of the virtual fair experience with Handshake?

I can’t say enough about all the resources and training provided by Handshake provided to Career Centres, Employers and Students. The support has been great from Handshake.

What piece of advice would you give to a University hosting an upcoming virtual fair on Handshake?

Our employers really enjoyed us providing virtual office hours and doing mock career fairs before the fair. We have offered two mock career fairs so far and employers have commented that these have been very helpful to them in preparing for the fair. Also providing a Zoom Room during the career fair for students/employers to join if they have questions or need assistance.

Matt Belt—Technology Support Analyst @ Appalachian State University

What was your biggest challenge in pulling off the virtual fair?

By far, our biggest challenge for a virtual fair was getting employers to create their sessions in advance so students could sign up for them. We had several employers wait until the day before or on the day to create their schedules, which resulted in them meeting with fewer students.

What was the best part of the virtual fair experience with Handshake?

The best part of the virtual fair experience is the ease and autonomy during the day of the fair. Since most of the work involves communications and prep-work prior to the fair, when the day of the event came, there was a lot less hassle and stress than compared to an in-person fair.

What piece of advice would you give to a University hosting an upcoming virtual fair on Handshake?

Communication is key to a successful virtual fair. We recommend reaching out to employers often to get them to set up their sessions in advance, as well as messaging students to sign up for these sessions and check back often as employers create their schedules.