How to Dress for a Job Fair
A job fair can be a great opportunity for you to get your resume in front of many people at once, as well as for you to meet these employers in person and assess whether the company could be a good fit for you. You’ll want to be sure to present yourself well, and while part of this is how you act, another key component is how you dress.
What Should a Woman Wear to a Job Fair?
Women do have more options than men when it comes to attire, but the rule of thumb is to remain simple and conservative when dressing for a job fair.
For women, professional attire encompasses a few things. An oxford shirt and dress pants is one such option, as it is now much more common, and comfortable, for women to wear pants in the workplace. You can also wear a skirt and jacket combination, or a skirt with a button-down top. When choosing a skirt, you will want to ensure it is no shorter than an inch or two above the knee. A tailored dress with a smart jacket on top is also another option for women when dressing for a career fair. No matter which option you choose, you will want to ensure that your clothing is unwrinkled and free of stains or holes.
While women have more options than men in the case of garment styles, the best color options are still fairly traditional. When it comes to colors, neutrals such as black, khaki, gray, or navy are still recommended. Some patterns, such as a pinstripe, are so subtle that they can almost be considered neutral as well. These are also great options.
When accessorizing, less is more. If wearing jewelry, low-key, classic pieces are a must. For example, a set of pearl earrings or a simple pendant are good options. Women should wear closed-toe shoes, such as flats or pumps. Heels are not necessary, and flats are a viable option-- however, the length of your pants should be considered. Some dress pants have a longer inseam as they are expected to be worn with heels. You will want to ensure that your pants do not drag on the floor, so pair your slacks and shoes accordingly.
What Should a Man Wear to a Job Fair?
It is important to dress the part, as first impressions are key in the hiring process. Be sure to do your research on the types of companies attending the job fair, and on the industries themselves. This will help you gauge expectations on both how to act and how to dress.
Generally, men should wear professional attire to a career fair. This includes dress pants or slacks and an oxford shirt. A streamlined, simple jacket over the top of the outfit is a nice touch as well, but not always necessary. In this same vein, a suit or tie will lend a nice touch, but is not required. You must dress according to the industry and level of professionalism required for the job. For example, a job in finance or banking may require you to dress smarter than a job in journalism or publishing, which may be more business casual. However, if you are trying to decide between two levels of dress and are unsure, it is always better to show up a bit overdressed than underdressed.
For shirts, we typically recommend that men wear a light colored button-down to a job fair. However, patterns-- if done right-- can also be a good look for you. You’ll want to avoid bold, loud patterns and go for small patterns instead. For example, a small floral pattern or narrow stripe is a good choice. Patterns can inject a bit of personality into your outfit, but they can also act as camouflage. Patterns can hide pet hair or lint. If you have a pet at home, patterns can distract the eye in case you’ve missed a couple hairs before walking out the door.
Simple accessories and accents can also help to pull an outfit together. You’ll want to wear nice dress shoes-- no sneakers!-- and these should be in good condition, not scuffed or dirty. A pair of leather dress shoes in black or brown are a good choice. It is also important to match these to the colors of your shirt and slacks. For example, if you are wearing black slacks, do not wear brown shoes-- wear black shoes. A leather belt is also a good way to pull your outfit together and look a bit more polished. As with the shoes, be sure to match the color of your belt to your outfit. You should also stay away from flashy or ornate belt buckles. Simple is better in this case.
What Should I Bring to a Job Fair?
Bring extra, printed copies of your resume to leave at the company booths after you speak with them. It is typically recommended to bring 20-40 copies, depending on the size of the job fair. As with any networking event, it is also helpful to have business cards with your contact information on hand.
Your elevator pitch is not a physical object, but you should have practiced what you want to say to potential employers. Having your elevator pitch prepared will also help you in that it provides a script that highlights your unique features and what you are looking for in a job.
How to Prepare for a Job Fair
Just as you would prepare for an in-person job interview, you must also prepare and do your research before attending a career fair. If possible, look into the companies who will be attending. Research the industries and their expectations as well.
Take the time to research the companies that are looking to hire at the job fair you are attending. It will help, when you arrive, if you have a list of companies you are interested in speaking with. Doing your research on the industry you are trying to enter will also help you to make a good first impression. Knowing more about the industry and its expectations will help you to know how to dress for the event as well. If you show up to a career event and do not look the part, you will look out of your depth.