What To Wear To a Career Fair?
Last Updated on November 24, 2022
Career fairs can provide a great opportunity for networking with employers and other professionals in the field in which you may be interested in future employment. It is generally accepted that first impressions take just a few seconds but can leave a lasting impact.
Therefore, it is important that you give exactly the right vibes as you circulate. It is important to get the balance right between setting a good example and feeling comfortable and true to yourself – although it is important to remember the difference between what may feel comfortable in your personal life may not always be appropriate for your working life!
Dressing For a Career Fair
There is a school of thought that says you should dress as if you already have the job. Therefore, it is a good idea to make sure you fully understand the acceptable norms for your chosen profession.
For example, the dress code for a position in the banking or financial world is likely to be quite different from that of the dress code for jobs in agriculture or conservation for example.
The general rule of thumb is to dress one level above what you think the company is looking for.
You should also pay attention to the weather forecast and location of the career fair when you make your outfit decisions. Arriving without a coat to a fair that is outside or when the weather is inclement will not only make you feel uncomfortable.
It could also give the message that you are ill-prepared and there is the risk that you could look like a drowned rat if you forget your coat in the rain. Not the first impression that you want to create!
Conversely, taking some water to keep you cool and hydrated in warmer weather will ensure that you remain comfortable and unflustered due to overheating.
Remember to be:
- Appropriate for the job/ industry
- Weather appropriate
Tips To Dress For a Career Fair
Do Your Research
If the career is company specific, it is advisable to do your research before you go.
- What does the company do?
- Who do they provide products or services for, and what are their values?
Understanding the culture and ethos of an organization can really help you to choose your attire accordingly. There is nothing worse than arriving at an event and feeling like you have completely misjudged the dress code.
For example, turning up in faded jeans when the rest of the attendees are in smart suits and ties could make you feel uneasy. The more you understand the company, the better you will understand how relaxed or formal your outfit should be.
If at all possible, you could try to arrange a meeting with a company representative prior to the fair to gauge the expectations for candidates during interviews and career fairs. They may even be able to give you some tips and pointers to help you understand what to expect.
Keep It Simple But Classy
If the career fair is being held at a company office, then it is best to wear a casual business outfit. But for interviews, it is always best to dress up! You need to look like you care and that you have made an effort.
If possible, make inquiries about the nature of the event and the expectations. For example, are there any rules concerning jewelry or makeup, or shirts with or without ties for example? There are unlikely to be any hard and fast rules as such, but it should be possible to ascertain what the general parameters are.
And if in doubt, try to get a heads-up by observing how other people are dressed.
All in all, your outfit should be stylish and show effort without trying too hard – it is important to try and get the balance just right!
There is a fine line between making an effort and overdoing it completely! If you swan in, completely overdressed, then you could create the opposite of the impression you want and even detract from the content of your portfolio or resume.
Ways in which you could overdress include:
- Too much makeup – Looking overly made-up during an interview or interaction at a career fair could detract from the content of your presentation or discussion. It could also make you look as if you are dressed for a different occasion than the one you are attending and give the signal that you haven’t researched your chosen company’s culture.
- Hats, scarves, and sunglasses should only be worn if the conditions are suitable unless there is some medical reason for doing so. Wearing dark sunglasses indoors, for example, could project the wrong impression and may be interpreted as unprofessional – you are looking for a job, not auditioning to be a rock star! Obviously, if the career fair is outside and the sun is bright, then, of course, sunglasses will be appropriate, as would a hat or scarf if the weather is cold. Just use your judgment and dress to suit the venue and conditions.
- Wear appropriate footwear. You are likely to be on your feet for hours so wear shoes that are smart yet practical. You may regret high heels if you are walking or standing for long periods of time, and you could appear awkward and uncomfortable.
Make sure that your clothes are clean and pressed. They should not be stained or worn. Your shoes should most definitely be clean and polished. Wearing dirty shoes or clothes can really demonstrate a lack of care or effort, and this is not the impression you are looking for.
Similarly, your hair should be washed and brushed in a neat style, and try to avoid any perfumes or colognes that are overpowering. A clean soap smell is favorable to a strong fragrance that dominates or induces headaches!
Dark colors are considered to be more professional than light ones, although dressing entirely in black may not be appropriate either.
It is fine to brighten your outfit with a colorful tie or shirt provided that you don’t overdo it – a bright color could actually serve to make you a bit more memorable than dressing entirely in bland or ‘safe’ colors. Perhaps the best advice is to choose one bright item and keep the rest of your outfit professional.
It is likely that the fair will be held during business hours – usually between 9 am and 5 pm. Your outfit should not look like you have just got home from an all-night party!
Accessories can make or break an outfit and can completely change a look – sometimes for the better and sometimes not! It will not always be necessary to wear a full suit and tie as these can sometimes appear stuffy or too rigid, but something like a watch can add maturity to an outfit.
Jewelry should be conservative and well-chosen and should complement your outfit without looking like you are trying too hard. Don’t forget you will likely be wearing a name tag so people will remember who you are and will associate poor outfit choices with your name as well as good ones!
Belts are a great way to accessorize and can bring an outfit together and make it look more professional. Belts can be worn with everything from jeans to business suits and are, therefore, very versatile.
They can be used to add a flash of color or to coordinate with an existing color scheme. Similarly, shoes and belts can be used together to bring an outfit or color scheme together.
It is important to remember that when you dress for a career fair, you are dressing for success. You need to look professional whilst remaining comfortable and relaxed. Wear clothes that fit you well and make you feel confident – it will definitely show if you aren’t either of those things!
Whether we like it or not, one of the first things people notice about us will be the way that we are dressed. This can have a lasting impression – good or bad. Our clothes can say a lot about our personality, even before we speak, and so it is important to wear an outfit that says, ‘listen to me.’
Take time to plan your outfit in advance, and don’t rush around at the last minute. You will only feel uncomfortable and ill-prepared. Feeling comfortable and well-dressed will make you feel much more confident and relaxed, allowing you to focus on your conversations and connections.
How someone first perceives you can have a huge impact on how they react to you moving forward. It is important to stay modest and stylish if possible and to avoid short skirts or low-cut tops; too much skin can provoke a negative response and detract from your professionalism.
Flashy accessories will distract from your conversation. It is much better to demonstrate your skills and talents through well-chosen dialogue than through gratuitous displays of wealth or success.
Above all, be yourself, but be the best version of yourself based on your research and careful preparations.
Written by Karen Stanley
Karen is a former teacher of 20 years and ten times published author. She writes content for educational organisations and businesses, nationally and internationally. She coaches new and budding writers through to publication and is passionate about creativity; she runs creative writing workshops in schools and fostering agencies.