Navigating Career Fairs 101 – Finding the Gaps

The Careers for the Common Good Career Fair is a valuable opportunity for all students. Whether you’re a freshman looking to decide on a major, a sophomore or junior seeking an internship, or a senior looking for a post-graduate career, the Career Fair is an opportunity for all students in any part of their college experience to capitalize on.  One key item for students to keep in mind as they prepare for and then attend the career fair includes learning how to identify and then pursue the “gap” in the recruiting process as practiced by many employers at most career fairs.

What do we mean by the “gap”?  At most career fairs employers indicate their preferences for would-be recruits based on academic major as well as for very narrow job descriptions, and quite frequently many students feel left out in the cold of the career fair recruiting process.  However, in some instances, those employers also have other lines of business for which they are not expressly recruiting for at the career fair but in which you have a strong interest in pursuing as it aligns with your career goals.  This is where some good old-fashioned research, reconnaissance, and preparation on your part come into play to find the gaps.  By familiarizing yourself with the employers that will be attending the Careers for the Common Good Career Fair, you can then go to the website and LinkedIn page of a few of those firms that strike your interest to see if they have a line a business that might have the need for someone with your skills, abilities and interests.  You can then create a short target list of firms you would like to meet, and prepare a 20 second personal introduction to use with the recruiters at the career fair, with the introduction closing with a well-thought-out question that you developed through your research about the firm and the “gap” line of business that interests you.

In some cases the recruiter might respond that they aren’t recruiting for that line of business today and you should pursue opportunities directly through the firm’s website jobs board.  If that scenario develops take heart as, given that you’ve been resourceful and done the necessary research on the firm, you can calmly and politely inquire with the recruiter if they might know of an appropriate individual in the line of business of interest to you with whom you could communicate directly either by email or phone, and would they (the recruiter at the career fair) consider helping to facilitate making the introduction.  In other instances, the recruiter might offer to take your résumé and offer to “send it along” to his/her contact in the line of business of interest to you.  Should this scenario develop, seize the moment, keeping in mind that you must get the recruiter’s contact info –ideally his/her business card with email and phone on it- as you will need to have the means to follow-up with them in a few days if you do not hear back from them or the person to whom they forwarded your résumé.

Finding the gaps at a career fair can be either drudgery or fun, depending upon how you approach the job search process.  If you keep in mind the prize – a plumb job or internship at a top-tier firm– at the end of the journey, you’ll embark on the gap-finding effort with zest and energy; almost like a treasure hunt.  Also, remember to continue your career development effort after the Career Fair by reflecting on your Career Fair experience while making plans to visit the Center for Career Development (Wilbur Cross Room 202) or with your Career Consultant (Paul Gagnon,, to meet to explore career options and learn more about the job and internship search process.

By Paul Gagnon
Paul Gagnon Career Consultant, College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources Paul Gagnon