While the term “professional dress code” may mean different things to different people, one thing is certain: you need to look polished when you attend a job interview.
For the uninitiated, a job fair outfit is a little more complicated than a regular interview outfit. When you prepare for a job interview, you know what company is hiring and what they do there. You also know what job you’re searching for.
There are many traps and blunders that can cost you when getting ready for your first career fair. While you’re perfecting your resume, It’s important to plan your wardrobe as well. This includes choosing the right suit, dress, shoes, and ties.
First Positive Impression Matters
As you enter the interview room, your clothes will play a major role in creating a positive first impression even before you get to greet your interviewer. You may need a complete makeover, but you should give yourself plenty of time to groom yourself properly before the day of the fair.
It’s common to feel offended in today’s day and age when you are sometimes told what to wear and not wear (or expected to wear). Now would be a good time to point out that you are free to wear whatever it is you want. Wearing clothes that gives you comfort and raises your self-esteem should be a good starting point.
However, just as you feel free to construct a meticulous and killer resume, there are societal norms that many employers have become accustomed to expecting from interview candidates.
Dressing within those parameters is a good way to show a potential employer that you understand the “in thing” and are willing to be a team player.
Dressing for Success
Employers are not oblivious to the fact that donning your best for success is important for landing that coveted post.
They know that dressing up pays and come looking for the smartly dressed candidates, in the hope that their dress code will complement their skills.
So dressing up for career fairs is no less important than donning your best business attire for an official interview. Jobs have always been hard to get and in a job fair, you want to dress to impress selecting aficionados.
Recommended Dress Code
Employers and hosts of career fairs often offer tips on what they expect job seekers to wear, either through newspaper ads or online outlets. For instance, engineers work in filthy conditions, wearing simple dust coats or overalls. So a simple dust coat or clean overall is enough.
Career fair hosts can also recommend dressing in a full, professional business suit.
You may also search an industry’s dress code based on the job fairs as well as websites of companies that are planning to set up the career fair.
The business casual attire is an acceptable dress code and when you’re meeting professional recruiters you don’t want to appear lazy and unprepared.
You’re better off wearing a two-piece matched suit at a career fair.
The job you’re getting interviewed could have attracted a host of other candidates. Possibly hundreds or even thousands. You may have to wait in line outside the building for several hours before your turn or even before meeting the hiring team.
If the place records high temperatures on the day of the job fair, you may be allowed to take off your jacket or blazer and leave it inside your car or carry it around in your arm. This is perfectly understandable.
Consider bringing along a professional-looking umbrella in case a storm passes overhead as you wait in line.
Even if you’re looking to get hired at tech firms or engineering companies that are known for casual dress codes, it pays to dress conservatively. Good clothes can be expensive, but if you plan you can dress conservatively on a small budget.
You can start by selecting neutral colors for your jacket, pants or skirt. Popular colors include blue, black, and plain white as they look more professional than say bright colors like pink, red or yellow.
Match these with a natural white shirt or beige skirt, or ivory shirt or top. You can save the bright colors for the tie or jewelry accessories.
Career Attire for Men
If you can’t afford a suit, that’s fine. A well-fitting, clean jacket with black, gray or navy pants will score just as well. Wear a white shirt and a bright-colored tie. Or look for a patterned shirt.
If you have a problem tying a tie, YouTube has you covered. A bright-colored tie is okay but you should make sure to avoid too much flash.
Avoid any tie that might be distracting or controversial. Don’t forget a belt and polished black or brown shoes.
Going for an interview with a Mohawk hairstyle and bright red shoes is a NO NO!
Career Attire for Women
When it comes to career tips for women, women have more options than men. But the keyword is still to remain conservative. A business suit with a skirt or pants is always a winner, and a skirt or dress and blouses are sufficient in most situations.
A well-fitting dress gives an easy professional appearance. It can be a fantastic feminine option for a job fair since there is a little worry in coordinating several pieces. Buy something that is well-fitting, but not too tight. Look for an A-line, sheath or shift wrap dress that is classic and business-like.
As for a blouse, ensure your dress neckline is modest. To remain safe, aim for necklines that don’t go lower than your collarbone.
The hemline of your dress should remain conservative so you don’t have to worry about it accidentally riding up. Look for something that hits just above your knee or slightly below.
As for shoes, wear heels less than 3 inches. Avoid flip-flops, sandals or flimsy shoes. Keep off eye-turning stilettos or other shoes that make it difficult to walk.
How About Jewelry
Wearing jewelry is a good idea in a career fair. When it comes to jewelry, select basic, non-flashy variety.
A classic clean look is often best for job fairs. Avoid the fancy-celeb-style culture of splashy multiple rings, necklaces, and bracelets. Instead, consider wearing a simple watch and a tiny pair of earrings for the classic feminine look.
Wearing one large piece of jewelry is enough, especially if you’re appearing in a more creative or less formal business. A pair of striking earrings or statement necklace can spice up your outfit and help employers remember you. Just ensure to balance by minimizing your other beauty accessories.
Buy a nice watch to add to your outfit. Avoid anything flashy, digital or overlay sophisticated. A simple metal band or leather is enough.
A Briefcase or a Small Bag
You may bring along a small bag or briefcase to carry your resumes. A large briefcase or bag can become clumsy when shaking hands or when navigating inside a crowded hall.
Instead look for a small bag, a purse for the ladies or slim briefcase. In most cases, a simple leather portfolio will do.
If you plan to bring along an over-the-shoulder bag, make sure to test it with your outfit before the job fair day. If it messes you jacket lapels or gets entangled in your jewelry, its best to look for another option to avoid appearing disheveled when talking to your recruiters.
A combination of a neat suit, dress and resume are the only items you need to focus for a career fair. Any other item can be left out.
What to Avoid
- Athletic paraphernalia that comprises sneakers, sweat pants, yoga pants. Leggings are okay if worn under a skirt or dress.
- Other don’ts include jeans, shorts, t-shirts, baseball caps, and sandals.
- Khakis and sweatshirts
- Shirttails not tucked in
- Stains or wrinkled items
- Worn-out shoes at the heels, scuffed or unpolished
- White socks
- Low necklines
- Hemlines on skirts that are two inches above the knee
- Pants above ankles
- Revealing or provocative clothing
- Dirty or unkempt clothing items
- Visible tattoos or body piercing as well as unshaved beards
- Cell phones calling while the interview is in progress
- Heavy colognes or perfumes
- However much you love pets, they’re certainly not welcome in a career fair
- Appearing drunk and smoking while the interview is going on.
Dressing for a career fair can be tricky: You’ll need to remain comfortable and strong enough to spend hours on the long queue, and also professional enough to impress the hiring managers.
The truth is that hiring managers often pass judgment quickly based on how you look and chances are they’ll remember you more favorably if you are dressed formally and professionally.
To make a memorable impression, aim for business casual, even if your future job will require you to dress more casually on the job itself.
Finally, an important aspect of dressing up for a career fair is the cost of your clothes. Popular opinion would want to portray the more costly the clothes you wear the better chances for success in the interview. Nothing can be further from the truth.