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Career Services - Students

How to Dress Professionally

Many people have different opinions on how students should dress at the job fairs.  Below is an overview of the different types of dress and what different people feel should be worn.  Our thoughts at SU are wear business professional if possible.  You can never overdress and it will make a good first impression.  If you cannot dress business professional then dress high-end business casual which means sport coat, tie, nice slacks and blouse with matching jacket.  Remember, different majors have different standards and expectations for example.... accounting, finance, education, and others expect you to dress very professionally.

Page Index:

Business Professional:

Guidelines for Men:

Suit: dark blue, gray, muted pin-stripes
Shirt: white, pale blue, pale yellow
Tie: conservative, classic
Shoes: highly polished slip-ons or laced dress shoes; brown, cordovan, or black

Guidelines for Women

Suit, Dress: conservative, below knee length
Blouse: simple style, white or soft colors
Shoes: pumps or medium heels
Hose: beige, tan, or natural
Purse: medium or small size in a color that goes with your outfit
Misc: clear or lightly tinted nail polish, minimal jewelry, light perfume, understated natural makeup

  • Click here to see examples of both Business Professional and Business Casual

Business Casual Career Fair Attire

Career fairs at Salisbury University tend to be "business professional/casual", so refer to the guidelines below. There is always a mix between those students who dress very professionally and those students who dress a little more casual. At SU, business casual does not mean cutoff shorts, jeans, flip flops, and wrinkled khakis! Remember - you want to make the best impression possible, so even though you can be more casual, you should be neat and conservative. If you are attending any career fair off campus, review the fair's web site for attire guidelines. When in doubt, a suit may be best; but again, consider the nature of the employers that will be attending the fair and make a final decision about dress accordingly. Always go on the conservative side.

Business Casual Guidelines for Men and Women

When you are specifically directed to wear business casual, or think that this attire is in order, you can follow the following guidelines.

Pants: Khaki pants, neatly pressed, and a pressed long-sleeved, buttoned solid shirt are safe business casual for both men and women.

Shirt: Polo shirts are an appropriate choice if you know the environment will be quite casual, outdoors, or in a very hot location.

Shoes/Belt: Be sure to wear a belt and shoes that are in good condition. Athletic shoes and flip flops are not acceptable.

  • Click here to see examples of both Business Professional and Business Casual

Specifics for Men's Business Casual

Ties: Ties are great to wear with a sports coat.  Do not wear a ties that has graphics on it that will detract from you and your conversation.

Shirts: Long-sleeved shirts are considered dressier than short-sleeved and are appropriate even in summer. Choosing white or light blue solid, or conservative stripes is your safest bet. Polo shirts (tucked in, of course) are acceptable in more casual situations.

Socks: Do wear dark socks, mid-calf length so no skin is visible when you sit down.

Shoes: Shoes that are in good condition should be worn. No sandals, athletic shoes or hiking boots.

Cologne, Hair, Jewelry, Backpack: Make sure your hair is neat and well-groomed.  Use very little cologne and jewelry.  Do not take your backpack in to the fair.  leave it in the Career Center.

  • Click here to see examples of both Business Professional and Business Casual

Specifics for Women's Business Casual

Pants/Skirts: Women can wear casual pants or skirts. For the most businesslike appearance, pants should be tailored. A knee-length skirt is preferable although a long skirt may be considered.

Shirt/Sweaters/Jackets: In addition to tailored shirts or blouses, tailored knit sweaters and sweater sets are appropriate business casual choices for women. A tailored jacket may also be worn.

Shoes and Hosiery: Closed-toe shoes, sandals which are neither extremely dressy nor extremely casual are appropriate. Regardless of what is in style, avoid extreme. Make certain you can walk comfortably in your shoes. Hosiery should be considered with skirts.

Cologne, Hair, Jewelry, Backpack: Make sure your hair is neat and well-groomed.  Use very little cologne and jewelry.  Do not take your backpack in to the fair.  leave it in the Career Center.

  • Click here to see examples of both Business Professional and Business Casual

Employer Comments

Texas A&M Career Services

AMD: “Appropriate dress for students attending the career fair should be "business professional dress" : Jacket should NOT have to be worn, as it is HOT; however, long sleeve shirt (preferably starched... but definitely ironed, and a tie). Dress pants and dress shoes (polished if possible). For the females... same thing. Jacket should NOT be necessary, especially if it is HOT. I have noticed, however, an enormous difference between the engineering career fairs and business career fairs. Business students are expected by the corporations to "dress-up" for the fairs, while the engineering students are NOT expected to. I have my suspected beliefs as to why this is, but my recommendation above would be best served by Business students (undergrad and MBA).”

Consolidated Graphics: “Business attire or business casual. If the student is a sophomore or junior who is just getting to know the companies and is not looking to get an interview this is not necessary. Something you would wear to the beach or a nightclub is never appropriate no matter what year you are.”

Dresser Wayne, Dresser Inc.: “A first impression can never be made again. Although I think suits are too much, I think business casual is appropriate. When I talk to a student and have their resume in hand, I immediately write down my impressions. I personally believe that shorts and mini-skirts are unacceptable.”

DuPont: “Regarding dress - men - pressed dress slacks/khakis, long sleeve button down collar dress shirt - pressed, tie and sport jacket or blazer, loafers. Guys - make sure your shirt stays tucked in through out the day! Women - dress slacks & blouse - pressed, low or no heel dress shoes, women's matching blazer.”

Guaranty Bank: “Business professional (suits) or business casual. We don't mind if students stop by in jeans while on their way to class, but it certainly makes a better impression if they are at least wearing khakis and a nice shirt. I don't like seeing the girls wear short shorts or skirts and big clunky shoes or the guys with the baggy pants.”

Hope Lumber & Supply Company: “Regarding question on appropriate dress, for males I recommend shirt and tie for career fair...suit is fine but not needed for me...I know they've got to go to class. For women, keep it professional...not short dresses or skirts or cocktail dresses. On a side note, some other schools I recruit at do not educate their women on that. I have always been impressed by the professional appearance of the women at your career fairs.”

Invocon: “One thing I have been disappointed with in the past is student dress for an interview. Unless he/she knows otherwise, a student should always assume professional dress for the interview regardless of how good or bad the current job market is.”

JCPenney Company: “We like to see them dressed professionally. That does not have to mean a suit and tie for guys and dresses only for girls. True Business Casual is well received also. The key is to be well groomed and looking sharp. It tells the recruiter that you are serious about starting to look at your future career.”

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics: “I realize that students are taking time out from going to class and we are happy that they come at all, but, like it or not, their appearance does make an impression. A student wearing nice shorts or pants and a nice shirt is going to send a different impression than a student wearing a tank top, flip flops, with blue hair and their tongue pierced. In the current job market, which tends to favor the employers, the students need to make the best impression they can. That said, we do not think the students should wear any business formal attire (coats, ties, etc.). We don't wear them, so they don't need to. They just need to look clean and presentable.”

Kiewit Offshore Services: “Career Fair attire should be business casual: Men - slacks with pressed shirt (tie optional); Women - conservative lengthed skirts, or slacks with tailored shirt. (The business suit should be reserved for the formal interview, if location is appropriate). Our company fabricates steel structures, mainly for offshore drilling purposes, so we are out in the "fab yard". I usually recommend "Business Casual" for our formal interviews. However, in an office setting, nothing short of a suit should be considered.”

Kennedy Consulting Inc: “First impressions are extremely important. If you’re looking for a job or meeting potential employers at the career fair, then wear what you think the interviewer is going to wear. Career fairs are very long days, so we typically wear business casual. Business casual for students is appropriate as well. Docker style pants with a nice shirt (fairly simple). Extra points are not earned wearing a dress/suit, but points are definitely deducted for wearing flip flops, tank tops, torn up shorts with your skate board on the back of your back pack. Dress as if you were meeting your boyfriends/girlfriends grandparents for the first time.”

Northwestern Mutual Financial Network: “We're in suits daily as recruiters. We're the front lines of the company. Students are not in suits daily and we recognize that. However, first impressions can be pretty powerful. No earrings in strange places. Our financial reps enter people's private lives and a sense of trust is vital!
Try on your clothes the night before and get your roommate to look you over to make sure you have no tags, strings, etc.”

S&B Engineers and Constructors, Ltd: “Student dress - I think that business casual is a minimum requirement, though I feel that a suit is a little extreme. Students should look neat, clean, clothes should be ironed and tucked in when appropriate. Sloppiness is a turn-off - can register as sloppiness in work and attitude (sometimes true!).”

Teague Nall and Perkins, Inc: “Business Casual makes a good impression; professional attire is always good, but not something we would critique at a career fair. We are dressed comfortably and would like the students to feel comfortable too. We approach it as a relaxed setting where we can give out information about our company and meet prospective candidates. Someone walking around in jeans and a backpack going from booth to booth taking brochures and free stuff probably won't get a call.”

United States Gypsum Company: “In my opinion, students should dress from usual class attire “up to business casual” on the day of the fair. First impression has value, but certainly not the final nor only element. I am an older recruiter, nearly as old as dirt, but I think students should remove the tongue things, eye brow jewelry, green hair in four directions, etc. It may be cool, especially for young people, but young people usually are not hiring, and the business world has not evolved with the latest fads.”

Vitesse: “Nice casual is fine for a school career fair. We realize that they are attending classes, but that is not an invitation to wear torn/dirty clothes...or pajamas.”

Other Opinions on What to Wear at a Career Fair

How to Dress for a Career Fair

By eHow Careers & Work Editor

First impressions still count. It is important to put your best foot forward when meeting potential employers at a career fair. If a potential employer is distracted by the way you're dressed, it is unlikely that they are paying attention to your qualifications. Dressing appropriately for the occasion will help make that first impression count.

Step 1:

Wear interview attire. In some cases business casual attire is also appropriate, but it's better to err on the side of caution. Potential employers are much more impressed with those who overdress than those who are under-dressed.

Step 2:

Choose a matching suit. A suit is the safe choice for both men and women. The colors should be conservative. Dark colors such as navy, dark gray and black are appropriate for a career fair.

Step 3:

Make sure that your shoes are comfortable. Since job fairs include a good deal of walking and standing, it is important that shoes don't leave you hobbling before you get through all of the potential employers. Shoes should be conservative and polished.

Step 4:

Attempt to cover all tattoos and body piercings. Although tattoos and piercings aren't as taboo as they once were, covering them up is still a good idea when attempting to look professional. Keep jewelry to a minimum. A conservative watch is a good jewelry choice for a career fair.

Step 5:

Use minimal cologne or perfume. You don't want a potential employer to smell you coming from a mile away. Many people are allergic to perfumes and cologne, so not wearing any could win you brownie points with a potential employer.

Dress the Part

EmploymentGuide.com, The Trader Publishing Company

As with a job interview, first impressions at a job fair are important. How you represent yourself sends an immediate message to employers about how serious you are in your job search. It isn't always necessary to wear a suit to a job fair - unless you are looking for a job that would require you to dress professionally at work. However, you should leave the jeans and t-shirts at home. "Business Casual" is usually the most appropriate at a job fair - nice slacks and a collared shirt for men and nice slacks or a skirt and a blouse for women are appropriate. Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed. Avoid wearing excessive jewelry or clothing that is too short or revealing.

Looking the Part

University of Texas-Arlington

There are benefits to looking professional. Part of staying competitive is portraying an image that co-workers and clients respect. It instills self-confidence. Always dress for the job you want, not the one you have. You need to dress professionally for every job fair or interview even if the company has a casual dress policy.

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