Corinne Kenwood / Sun File Photo

Students connected with recruiters in Barton Hall during Cornell's fall career fair in past years. But this year's virtual event didn't go as planned.

September 11, 2020

Cornell Postpones Virtual Career Fair After Disastrous First Day

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Students entered this week’s career fair hoping that even if they couldn’t meet recruiters in person, they could still speak with them online. They weren’t able to do that, either.

Cornell’s fall career fair was forced out of Barton Hall and onto a virtual platform, and the first trial did not go as planned. After facing many technical difficulties on the first day, Cornell postponed the fair before its Thursday finale.

The University virtually hosted its Virtual Engineering and Technical Career Fair Day Wednesday and tasked Brazen, an online career fair software, to run the event.

Students would browse employers’ “booths” and sign up to wait in a queue for the ones they want. Once they reach the front of the line, students enter a messaging chat with a company representative and can meet in a face-to-face video call.

Becky Borrazzo ’22 logged on at the start of the fair, hoping to talk with software engineering employers. She never got that opportunity.

“I went into my first booth and waited probably five or 10 minutes. I was waiting in line to chat and [the system] kind of just kicked me out of the line and redirected me back to the home page,” she said.

The only group she was able to talk with was Cornell Career Services.

After messaging with career services, Borrazzo had trouble ending the chat, and was then logged out of the website and couldn’t log back in for 45 minutes.

Other students were able to reach employers, but only from a messaging feature, which had its own glitches.

Brandon Schran ’21 only managed to get into two chats in the more than four hours he spent on the site, and the video chat function didn’t work for him either.

He called one of the chats “completely useless,” as glitches in the messaging system only allowed Schran to ask one question in the 15 minutes he spent on the chat.

Hahnbee Lee ’22 messaged the first employer of her choice, but when the recruiter tried to start a video call, she was disconnected. She never was able to reconnect with that company, and when she tried getting in line at other employers’ booths, she was kicked out of the queue.

The only other chat she was able to enter was for a company that she didn’t sign up for.

“They were looking for chemical engineers, so it was literally like ‘Oh, you’re a computer science major, we don’t have jobs for you,’” Lee said.

One particularly odd glitch was students’ inability to remain logged in as themselves.

“A lot of times that would happen if I would go to a different part of the site or I would refresh the page, [the program] would change me as a different profile,” Borrazzo said.

“At one point I was a recruiter,” Lee said.

But Brazen noticed the glitches before the career fair even started. Brazen told students in an email after the fair that they noticed problems at 10 a.m., two hours before its start. They were still unable to solve the problem during the five-hour session.

“While the platform vendor is diligently working to resolve the system issues that are resulting in unsatisfactory performance in today’s event, that does not change the fact that you are not having the experience you expected,” said Cornell career services Executive Director Rebecca Sparrow in an email to students. “We will be working in the next several days to address this shortfall of performance, and will communicate with you to let you know next steps.”

The email also said the University was “expecting the performance issues to be resolved” for the Employers from Various Industries Career Fair Day on Thursday.

But Thursday came and went, and students didn’t have the chance to make professional connections.

Cornell decided to postpone the career fair, Sparrow told students in email only about an hour before Thursday’s event was supposed to begin.

“Given the breadth of the issues we experienced and out of an abundance of caution, we have reached the conclusion that we must postpone today’s event to give the vendor sufficient time to address all of the technical issues we experienced yesterday,” the email read.

Sparrow also wrote that career services is working on a new date, and students will be informed as soon as Cornell sets it.

“We deeply apologize for the inconvenience this creates for you,” Sparrow said. “We honestly believe that this delay is necessary to prevent you from experiencing the even greater inconvenience of devoting time to an event that does not meet our mutual expectations.”