Career Fair Ecampus

What to expect at a virtual career fair

laptop on a desk showing a screen with two people having a video conversation

If you think attending a career fair means putting on a suit and handing out paper resumes in a crowded room, think again.

Yes, in-person career fairs are still an option, but in recent years virtual career fairs have become a valuable way for employers to connect with capable candidates they might not encounter otherwise.

If you’re thinking about attending a virtual career fair, here’s what you need to know:

1. Register on Handshake, Oregon State’s virtual career fair platform.

Handshake is a tool widely used by universities as a connection point between college students and the employers who want to hire them. All OSU students already have free access to Handshake’s job boards and career tools. Before you attend a virtual career fair, log in to Handshake and update your profile.

Treat your Handshake profile like LinkedIn or a virtual resume – it’s your way to show off your skills to employers. Make sure that your major, GPA, work authorization status and other information is correct. When you’re done, update your profile privacy settings – OSU student profiles are private by default, but before attending a career fair you should update it so that it is visible to employers.

2. Select your virtual career fair.

In Handshake, navigate to “Events” and then use the filters at the top of the page to select “Category – Career Fair” and “Medium – Virtual.” Click on the fairs you’re interested in, and select “register.”

Screenshot showing a Handshake landing page listing multiple virtual career fairs.

3. Decide which employer sessions to attend.

Employers from all over the globe attend Oregon State virtual fairs, creating either one-on-one or group info sessions for students. Browse through the listings, and register in advance for sessions with companies you are interested in. On the day of the fair, you will only be able to attend the sessions you’ve registered for!

4. Double check your technology.

You’ll need a good internet connection, and a device with speakers, a microphone, and a supported browser (note: Internet Explorer is not supported). See Handshake’s guide to technology for virtual events.

5. Prep for your sessions.

During sessions, employers will spend some time sharing info about their organization, and you’ll also have the chance to talk about yourself via audio, video, or text chat. Plan in advance so you don’t have to think of things to say off the top of your head!

Research employers. Look at their Handshake profile and their company website, and think of a few questions you can ask about what they do.

• Prep an elevator pitch. This is your chance to shine! It’s easy to get tongue-tied when someone says “tell me about yourself,” so use our elevator pitch tips to pre-plan a few sentences talking about who you are and what you’re interested in.

Dress for confidence and comfort. Even at a virtual career fair, you should treat the experience like a professional networking event. Make sure your entire outfit is presentable and you’re wearing clothes that make you feel confident. See our tips for how to dress.

6. Follow up afterward.

Even if you’re not ready to accept a full-time job right now, the connections you make at a virtual career fair can help you build your professional network. After the fair, stay in touch!

When a session ends, a pop up will automatically appear allowing you to message the hosts.

Screenshot showing a Handshake screen titled "continue the conversation" with links to message session hosts.

If you’re not ready to send a message immediately, write down their name. Later on, you can find them on Handshake or LinkedIn and connect with them.

Need help? We’re here.

Have questions about how to register or participate in a virtual career fair? Contact us and ask!

If you need help at any point during a virtual career fair, real humans from the OSU Career Development Center are available for the duration of the fair via the Virtual Help Room. Click on the “Join Virtual Room Help” button in the top right corner of your screen and we’ll be happy to help.

Screenshot showing a Handshake screen with an orange arrow pointing at a button that says "Join Virtual Room Help."

Learn more about virtual career fairs

Handshake’s guide to attending a virtual fair

10 Tips for Attending a Virtual Career Fair

Career Fair

A guide to career fairs

(for when you don’t have it all together)

speech bubble with no words, just three dots, placed on a corkboard background
Sometimes we all need help figuring out what to say.

Sure, we all want to be the person who walks into every room confidently, wearing a stylish outfit and smiling a perfect smile. But what if you’re actually the person who walks into the room, gets nervous, feels awkward, and doesn’t quite know what to say?

Here’s the secret: all of us are the second person sometimes, and if making conversation with new people tends to leave you feeling flustered, try these tips to help you navigate events like a pro – while still being your authentic self.

Plan your day in advance.

You don’t have to visit every table at the fair to consider it a success! Look at the event page online to see a list of employers before you come, and decide which companies you want to talk to (whatever feels like a do-able number to you).

Tip: Once you get to the fair, check in with the event staff and take an info booklet – it will tell you where each company is located in the event space, and you can plan your route to to the tables you’re interested in.

Plan your script, too.

Rehearsing things in your mind will help to avoid that frozen feeling that happens when you open your mouth and don’t know what to say! Practice a 30-second “elevator pitch” about yourself:

  • Start with a quick introduction:
    • Hi, my name is  _____, and I’m currently completing a degree in _____ at Oregon State University. I am interested in (a career/an internship/getting some information) in the _____ field/industry.
  • You can leave it at that, or add a little more detail. Mention an experience (a job, a class project, a club) that you’ve learned from.
    • I have worked  _____ with _____ and discovered that I really enjoy _____. 
  • Then turn the conversion back to the other person! 
    • Could you tell me more about _____ ? 
    • I’m interested to learn more about (Name of Company.)

If you want to keep the conversation rolling:

  • Tell me about what it is like to work for your organization.
  • What does a typical day look like for new team members at your organization?
  • What are some of the biggest projects your organization is working on right now?

Remember, this is your chance to interview the employers, just as much as it is their chance to learn about you!

If you’re ready to exit the conversation:

  • You have given me a lot to think about, thank you!
  • I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me! I will follow up with you if I have any questions.
  • Thank you for the information, have a great day.
  • Thank you, do you have a business card that I can take with me?

Don’t be afraid to eavesdrop.

If you’re walking around the fair but feeling nervous about approaching anyone, listen to what other people are saying. If someone near you has a great line, use it! If an employer is having a conversation with a different student, feel free to stand nearby, smile and nod, and look at the information on their table. You might learn just by listening whether this company is for you! You can also bring a notebook and take a few notes – it will make you look involved, and will help you remember later on if there are jobs you wanted to apply for or companies you want to email.

You can also just browse.

It’s totally fine to approach a career fair as an information-gathering expedition. Companies will have informational brochures, business cards, and small free giveaway items on their tables. Take information and freebies from as many companies as you want – that’s what it’s there for! If anything seems interesting, email the representative later:

  • I gathered some information from your table at the Oregon State University Career Fair this week, and I’d love to know more about the ____ position mentioned.

Recruiters will be delighted to receive after-the-event followup!

After the fair, it’s time for self-care.

You just took the time to invest in your own future. Now congratulate yourself! Whether it’s going out for a celebratory coffee with a friend or relaxing at home to watch your favorite show, make sure to leave time after the fair to do something that will help you decompress after a busy event.

You went to the career fair…now what?

Ready to keep moving on your career journey? Here are three ways to follow up after a career fair.

  1. Apply for jobs you learned about at the fair.
  • Apply via company websites directly.

2. Send a nice, professional email to follow up or request more information.

3. Thank people who took the time to talk to you.

Remember, you can always contact the Career Development Center if you need help strategizing next steps!

Career Fair Internships Success Stories

Internship exploration

Can an online search really lead to landing an internship?

Oregon State student Adam Henderson found that if you’re searching in the right places, it actually can.

Adam, a finance major, already had solid work experience and a foundation of coursework from the OSU School of Business when he began thinking about internships during his junior year. In the past, he had worked in retail, at The Home Depot near his hometown of Sammamish, Wash.

But as he pictured his options for the summer going into his senior year of college, he was hoping for something more directly related to his goal of a career in finance – and something that would allow him to stay closer to the connections he’d formed while in school.

“I was trying to get ahead, and I knew I wanted to stay in Corvallis if I could,” Adam said. “So I went on Handshake and started looking up job offers and internship offers in the Corvallis area.”

Handshake, a job and internship site designed for college students and recent graduates, allows students to personalize their job search experience, setting up custom filters for job types, locations, and roles they’re interested in. Handshake job postings are vetted for legitimacy before they’re made visible to students.

As Adam browsed through the Handshake listings that met his criteria, a position with State Farm Insurance caught his eye – it was local to Corvallis, it would give him relevant business and sales experience, and it was with a company he trusted.

Adam Henderson, wearing a black OSU polo shirt and khaki pants, poses in front of a sign that says "State Farm, Jim Kuhlman Agent"
Adam Henderson, a finance major at Oregon State, found a local internship via the Handshake job search tool.

“I have State Farm insurance,” he said. “I feel like it’s a very reputable company. So I thought, why not give it a shot?”

His application caught the eye of Jim Kuhlman, an independent State Farm insurance agent in Corvallis. After the application, Adam was invited for a phone interview, followed by an aptitude test and in-person meeting with Jim, where he was offered an internship with the agency. 

Six months in, Adam’s summer internship has been extended into the school year, and he’s still glad he gave it a shot.

“I’ve really enjoyed it and I’ve had pretty good success,” Adam said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and how much potential I have.”

His internship involves everything from shadowing the sales team to working on marketing projects and meeting with customers. Through what he learned in his position with State Farm, he was even able to complete required state testing and is now officially licensed to sell insurance.

Now mid-way through his senior year, Adam is keeping his options open when it comes to jobs – he enjoys his work in insurance, but is also interested in careers in finance. Regardless of where his career takes him, he can already see skills he’ll take with him from his internship.

“The whole aspect of creating value is something we talk about a lot. When you’re selling insurance, a lot of times customers only think, ‘What’s the cost?’ You can break that down and go through it with them, but it’s really the value that sells the customer,” he said. 

“That overlaps into a lot of other jobs. When you create value for someone , they’re more likely to trust you and want to work with you. Learning to create and display the best value you can bring to someone is definitely something I’ll take away.”

Handshake internship search tips

There are thousands of positions posted on Handshake — here’s how to narrow down your options to find the internship or job that’s right for you!

  1. Use Handshake’s custom filters. Narrowing jobs by “location” (the cities you want to work in) and “job type” (part-time, full-time, internship) will help you key in on relevant opportunities.
  2. Use keywords. If you’re interested in any job that’s somehow related to “marketing” or “sustainability” but aren’t picky about the specific job title, do a keyword search on your filtered jobs. Handshake’s keyword search will search all text in job titles and job descriptions to find matches.
  3. Save jobs that catch your eye. When you hit “save” on a job posting, Handshake will automatically start showing you similar jobs next time you log in. It will also send you reminders about deadlines for jobs you’ve saved.

Learn more about getting started on Handshake.

Career Fair Success Stories

She took a chance at a career fair — and landed a post-grad job.

Isabel Nieman at a construction site, wearing a hard hat and safety vest, and giving the camera a thumbs-up.
Isabel Nieman, a 2022 Political Science graduate, found a job with the US Army Corps of Engineers after meeting a representative at an Oregon State University career fair.

Liberal arts and engineering don’t mix, right?

Not true for Isabel Nieman.

When Isabel attended a spring career fair at Oregon State University a few months before graduation, the political science major made a point not to limit herself when it came to networking. With a B.A. in Political Science, focusing on International Affairs, and a minor in Spanish, Nieman was confident she could bring value to a variety of organizations – it was just a matter of making the right connections.

“I treated the event as if I was interviewing the companies present, rather than have them interview me,” she said. “Also, conversing with all companies, no matter what they may have been looking for, was important, because you never know what opportunities might arise or what connections you can make.”

Nieman’s tenacity paid off. She walked away from the event with contacts at State Farm, Trex Co, and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) who were all interested in hiring her.

Aaron Riojas, the San Francisco-based U.S. Army Corps of Engineers talent specialist who attended Oregon State’s spring career fair, was initially looking for engineering students, not liberal arts majors. But when Isabel struck up a conversation with him about a shared experience (she’s from the Bay Area, and was familiar with the neighborhood where the USACE building is located), it led to further discussion about how her experience in international affairs might be useful to the Corps of Engineers.

Isabel Nieman in a graduation cap and gown

“You never know what opportunities might arise or what connections you might make.”

Isabel Nieman, ’22, Political Science

Now, Isabel works for the San Francisco District of the USACE, assisting their Public Affairs and Equal Employment Opportunity teams.

Her advice to other OSU students who aren’t sure whether they’ll find a relevant job or internship at a career fair: give it a shot!

“The people at the career fair were so nice, and the companies present were ready to hire and excited to get to know students,” she said.

Resources for making the most of a career fair

Tips for in-person career fairs

Tips for virtual career fairs

Networking overview, tools, and elevator pitches

See upcoming Oregon State University Career Fairs