How to Dress For Career Fairs

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Posted by The Editors on October 16, 2011
How to Dress For Career Fairs

Your appearance can go a long way toward the impression you make and how recruiters remember you. It’s important to dress for career fairs as if it’s a job interview in the company’s headquarters.

Believe it or not, some job seekers show up to career fairs in hoodies and Uggs. You need to forget the fact that you’re in a college gymnasium. Recruiters want you to know that a career fair is not a roll-out-of-bed-and-head-over kind of event.

Women
For a professional look, most women swear by a navy skirt suit, pearls, and tasteful heels, and recruiters seem to agree that a candidate can’t go wrong with a well-tailored suit in a neutral color (black, navy, or gray are your best bets).

At more conservative companies—such as investment banks and consulting firms—a skirt suit is typical, and anything other than non-textured nude hose and heels is pushing the envelope of what’s acceptable. Otherwise, a tasteful pantsuit with medium-heeled leather loafers will look put-together and professional.

Minimal makeup and non-flashy jewelry can help you look and feel your best in an interview, but they are not required.

Men
The best wardrobe mix for men consist of a suit in a dark, neutral color, a white or blue dress shirt, and a silk tie in a conservative pattern. Stick to natural fabrics such as wool and cotton.

The shoes should be a pair of polished, not ground-down-at-the-heels, leather shoes in black or brown. Beyond that, wingtips send a more conservative signal while shoes with lug or platform soles are more funky than professional. Don’t fall victim to the white-socks-with-dress-shoes syndrome that plagues many unfortunate men, and be sure your socks pass the elasticity test, so they don’t sag around your ankles.

The key word to remember is appropriate. Even if the recruiters are dressed in business casual, you want to dress just a notch or two higher. It’s better to err on the side of overdressing than to aim low, though many recruiters describe students doing just that: men in wrinkled shirts, women showing too much skin, students of both sexes in ragged jeans and generally looking unkempt.

Recruiters are looking for a professional, neat, clean, well- groomed appearance. “You want to take clothing out of the equation,” says one recruiter, “so the focus is on your capabilities.”

Finally, keep backup items of clothing handy. For example, stash an extra dress shirt in your car, if possible. If you spill coffee or do anything else to compromise your appearance, a clean, wrinkle-free backup can save the day.


This is an excerpt from WetFeet's Conquering the Career Fair. For more tips and information on recruiters and the appropriate follow up after the career fair, pick up the Insider Guide!

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