You’re probably thinking that a career fair is an informal event so anything goes right? Wrong! Just like a job interview, a job fair is the first opportunity to make a good impression with a potential employer. Gone are the days when you can just run in, drop your resume off on the table and run out. The current job market insists that you take the time to engage with as many recruiters as possible. Showing up in your jeans and a logo tee shirt, will not make the grade.
In order to understand the appropriate clothing to wear,it’s important to understand the different dress styles. There is a strong need to understand the difference between professional dress, business casual and just plain unacceptable.
Men – Professional attire consists of a suit, dress shirt, tie, socks and professional shoes. No exceptions.
Women – Professional attire consists of a dress, a skirt or pants suit. While a blouse is usually the most acceptable item to wear under a suit, you can sometimes get away with wearing a professional-looking tee-shirt. The tee-shirt, however, is dependent upon how much of it is showing. All jewelry and makeup should be modest. Closed-toed shoes are generally more acceptable than sandals. What about stockings? Though many companies no longer require that women wear pantyhose, you may end up with an interviewer who firmly believes in the appropriateness of stockings. Always err on the side of caution and wear the appropriate pantyhose (no fishnet).
Men – Business casual attire for men consist of slacks, Dockers or other creased pants. The shirt can be a dress shirt with no tie, polo or other collared shirt. Depending on the environment, some companies allow neat, dark colored jeans as business casual attire.
Women – Business casual usually means the same as for men, but can also include professional looking capris. Some companies will also allow women to wear neat, dark colored jeans as business casual attire.
Not acceptable, ever! (This list is not all inclusive):
Tee-shirts (of any kind, except professional women’s tee-shirts)
Faded or ripped jeans
Pants without belts
Pants hanging lower than the manufacturer intended
Spandex of any kind on the upper and/or lower body.
So what outfit should you wear to what kind of job fair?
Job fairs consisting of blue collar, outdoor or manual labor jobs: While it may be tempting to show up in your work uniform, do your best to resist the urge. Take a moment to change into business casual attire to make a good impression.
Job fairs consisting of office work, sales or other professional jobs – Always wear professional attire.
College Career Fairs – Make a good impression and do your best to wear a cross between professional and business casual. There is nothing wrong with Dockers, a dress shirt and tie.
One final note on job fairs, leave the kids at home. It’s understandable that not many people can afford to pay a baby-sitter for two or three hours, however, you’ll have recruiters wondering if you will be able to separate your professional and personal lives. It also goes without saying, but we will, that a cranky child is not the best image you need to give the recruiter when you’re trying to get their attention. Remember that job fairs really are just interviews in disguise.