November 11, 2009

Dos and Don’t You Dare Wear That at the Job Fair

Posted in Men's Wardrobe, Professional Advice, Women's Wardrobe at 2:32 pm by deniserehner

When attending a job fair, always check with the event organizer for the suggested dress code.  In most cases, traditional business, business appropriate or business casual is best. I’d suggest the difference depends on the level of job you are looking for. You can never go wrong with business appropriate. Remember, even if you know a specific employer you are targeting has a casual work environment, you always want to dress a level above the daily dress code. Remember, that company’s employees already have their jobs but you still need to impress the gate keepers.

Your appearance begins making a first impression before you even speak. Be sure your job fair attire supports your image as a professional who takes the job search process seriously and understands the nature of the industry you are targeting. Your attire should be noticed as being appropriate, but it should not take center stage.


  • Eliminate dressing distractions
  • Make it easy for others to stay focused on your eyes to build trust, credibility and clear communication
  • Wear a third piece: jacket, sweater or sweater vest
  • Business Suit: A two-piece matching suit is always the best and safest choice. A coordinating jacket and bottoms are appropriate as well.
  • Clothes should be clean, neatly pressed, and fit properly
  • Wear what fits and skims over your body (nothing too tight or too baggy)
  • Carefully inspect clothes for tags or tacking stitches, dangling threads, missing buttons, lint or pilling etc.
  • Dark neutrals such as navy, gray, taupe and black are safe choices. Solids or subtle patterns are fine.
  • Wool, wool blends, or good quality micro fiber are the best fabrics for seasons. Avoid acetate, rayon and synthetic blends as these can look cheap and hold odors.
  • Collared shirts demonstrate more authority
  • Polish shoes and cover any scuff marks. Make sure heels are not worn. Think professional but comfortable since you’ll be on your feet for several hours.
  • Leather Portfolio:  Use for taking notes, carrying extra copies of resume, letters of recommendation, samples, and business cards.
  • Hair: Should be well maintained. Be sure to keep up with trims and touch ups. If you’ve had the same hair style for more than 10 years, it’s time for a new look. Often, an outdated image sends a message that your skills, thoughts, and ideas are obsolete.


  • Business Casual: Khaki pants, nice collared shirt, comfortable shoes
  • Men’s Shoes: Leather, lace-up or slip-on business shoes, preferably black or cordovan. 
  • Notched-collar shirt: Long-sleeved shirts, even in summer. Choose white or light blue solid, or conservative stripes.
  • Undershirt: Be sure to wear
  • Tie: Select good quality silk ties. Avoid fashion extremes, like character ties, in interviews. Notice what men in your industry wear on the job, at career fairs, at information sessions, when they meet with clients.
  • Socks: Dark socks that match shoes or pants. Mid-calf length so no skin is visible when you sit down.
  • Accessories – matching belt color and fabric.
  • Leather portfolio: Preferred over a bulky briefcase. A small briefcase is also appropriate. But if you have no reason to carry a briefcase, don’t; you risk looking silly.
  • Nails: Clean fingernails.
  • Facial Hair: If worn, should be well-groomed. Observe men in your industry if you are unsure what’s appropriate or are considering changing your look.
  • Piercings: remove all earrings.
  • Jewelry: Wear a conservative watch. If you choose to wear other jewelry, be conservative. Removing earrings is safest. For conservative industries, don’t wear earrings. Observe other men in your industry to see what is acceptable.


  • Pant Suits: Tailored pants suits are appropriate for women. Pants should be creased and tailored, not tight or flowing.
  • Skirt Lengths: Don’t be fooled by what you see women on popular TV shows wearing. Your skirt should cover your thighs when you are seated. A skirt that ends at the knee or just above when you’re standing looks classy and professional. Longer skirts are appropriate too; just make sure they are narrow enough not to look like a prairie skirt, but not so narrow that you can’t climb stairs comfortably. High slits are not appropriate.
  • Business Casual: Skirt (knee length) or slacks, nice shirt, comfortable shoes.
  • Women’s Shoes: Closed-toe pumps are the safest. No open-toed or sling backs. Heels should be 1 – 3 inch and covered (no wood heels). No stilettos or flats. Thin sole. No wedge heels or thick platforms.
  • Women’s Hosiery: Should be simple (no patterns), sheer (not opaque), and in neutral colors complementing your suit. Avoid high contrast between your suit and hosiery color.
  • Purse or Bag: A structured, leather business-like tote bag or purse is the best choice; micro fiber or fine wovens are also acceptable. If you carry a purse, keep it simple. Unless you have a reason to bring your laptop, don’t carry a briefcase as it may look silly or pretentious. Which ever you choose, just bring one (purse, tote or briefcase, as gathering your items will be awkward).
  • Jewelry and Accessories: Keep jewelry to a minimum and choose conservative, simple styles. No dangling earrings or cute jewelry.
  • Make Up: Keep conservative. A little is better than none for a polished look. 
  • Nails: Should be clean and well groomed. Avoid extremely long nails and loud or fashion colors (no blue, black, green, yellow, etc). Be sure you don’t have chips. Clear or light polish is best.

Don’t You Dare:

  • Look shabby (unshaved, wrinkled clothes, scuffed or dirty shoes, chipped nail polish)
  • Show too much skin (no short skirts or low cut tops)
  • Wear fabrics that are too revealing (no see through tops or sleeves)
  • Wear clothes that are tight or clingy (this is not the time for hot pants, you want some room)
  • Wear anything that makes noise (no charm bracelets, bangles, jangling keys, or fabrics that make noise when you walk)
  • Wear too-casual clothing (no shorts, capris, spaghetti straps, tank tops, flip flops, sandals, or jeans)
  • Clothes and accessories best worn on the weekend or for sports (no baseball caps or logoed apparel)
  • Wear sexy, social clothes (don’t wear anything you would wear to a club)
  • Piercings: Remove any earrings beyond one per ear.
  • Perfume or cologne should not be used. No odors in clothes. Don’t smell like smoke.
  • Cell phones should be turned off or on vibrate. Don’t take calls in a potential employer’s booth.
  • No chewing gum
  • Be mindful of what you eat the day before as food odors often find you the next day (especially garlic!)

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