Empathetic Design

UF MBA MAR 6930 Product Development & Management
Empathetic Design/Contextual Inquiry Report


Career Fair – University of Virginia Spring Job & Internship Fair
January 31 & February 1, 2018
189 Recruiting Organizations
Organized by UVA Career Center https://virginia.joinhandshake.com/career_fairs/3621/student_preview


2,500 attendees, predominantly UVA undergraduate students


Newcomb Hall 3rd Floor, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904

Product Interaction

I observed from a distance while users checked-in to the fair, stored their personal items in the student lounge, and their interactions with recruiters. Their interactions with recruiters included finding them on the map, observing them from a distance, standing in line to speak with them, and direct conversations.


  1. Anxiety: Users have a lot of anxiety while at the event. They feel pressure to attend (and succeed in using the product successfully: establishing connections with recruiters) from society, family, and internal drivers. This was observed in users’ body language, facial expressions, and direct conversations with their peers. One student was having a physical reaction including shortness of breath (I did ask a Career Counselor to assist him because it was the ethical thing to do). Students either walked around in small groups of 2-3 or independently. Most students were balancing executing a positive presentation to recruiters while simultaneously trying to hide strong insecurities. Some students struggled to deliver their “elevator pitch” where they introduce themselves, their interests/passions, goals, and desired engagement with the recruiter. Users appeared anxious, nervous, insecure, and overwhelmed.
  2. Overwhelming Environment: Users are overwhelmed by the product delivery (and I don’t blame them). Nearly 400 individual recruiters with tables, giant promotional displays, handouts, and giveaways are crammed into 5 different rooms that students must successfully navigate to accomplish their goals. Students started checking in at the front of the ballroom and then walked roughly 30-40 yards to a “Student Lounge” to store their personal items. There students hung up their winter coats, engaged with friends, reviewed their resume, and made their plan-of-attack to engage with employers. Then users navigated the 5 different rooms where walking areas were tight – which increased anxious and overwhelmed emotions.
  3. User Goals: The goals of the attendees vary: practicing for future interactions (usually by freshman attendees), networking, career exploration (industry or company questions), and/or inquiring about current job or internship opportunities. The wide range of goals can make delivering the product/event difficult because of the large quantity of recruiters delivering information. If a recruiter is rude to a freshman student that is practicing their networking skills, then the student will have a negative association with that organization and be less likely to attend future career-related events delivered by the University of Virginia.

Unmet Customer Need

Based on the high-stress environment, I would recommend that the Career Center offer counseling and guidance at the event. Career counseling services are available to students on a lower level of the building – but they are needed most during the event. It is clear that students are not going to the counseling during the event. The staff are professionally-trained counselors that can reduce anxious and negative feelings, while also providing career-related guidance and advice. The counselors are already on schedule – they would just have to be moved to a new location where the need is greater.