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Career Fair Fashion Guide

Courtney Cox | Monday, September 6, 2010

With the fall career fair coming up Wednesday, students are so busy worrying about their résumés and interviewing skills that they barely have time to think about what to wear. It may even seem frivolous to spend time thinking about clothing when there is so little time as it is. Are clothes really that important for a career fair?

A good first impression is essential to future employers and should not be taken lightly. Kim Weisenberger from the Notre Dame Career Center said first impressions are important.

“It’s often the only face to face time you have with a recruiter, unless they ask you back for an interview, so you want to convey a positive image the first time you meet them,” she said.

Clothing choice happens to be a large part of that first impression. Students should allow clothing to be a part of that positive first impression.

Appropriate attire for the career fair, according to Weisenberger, is to dress as if you are going to an interview. For men this means wearing a suit and tie. For women this means a skirt and blouse combination, a pantsuit, a skirt suit or possibly even a dress. It’s also encouraged that women wear high-heeled shoes, or some other form of nice dress shoes.

The numerous options available for women make deciding on an outfit that much more difficult. When trying to find an outfit to wear to the career fair it is best to edit as much as possible. The less busy an outfit is, the easier it is for a recruiter to focus on a student’s abilities and personality. Weisenberger said it is okay for students to showcase a little creativity in their outfits, but it is important not to go crazy.

Wear a more unique shirt under a classic suit for a look that stands out in a good way. It is important, however, to make sure that the outfit still looks sleek, polished and professional.

Another good way to make a suit less boring is to add a few well-chosen accessories. A necklace or a watch can add interest to an all black suit without making the wearer appear overdressed or, worse, unprofessional. It is important, once again, to take time to edit the outfit that is going to be seen by countless employers. Don’t simply throw on a piece of jewelry because a suit seems boring. Think about the options available and pick something that is classic and modern without being stuffy and boring.

Draw inspiration from movies and TV, but do it with caution. Elle Woods may be your style icon, but Weisenberger warns, “a pink suit isn’t a great idea.” Look instead to people who have portrayed upper level professionals in movies and on TV. Rashida Jones’ character on “The Office,” Karen Filippelli, is a good example of a stylish yet professional woman. John Krasinski’s portrayal of Jim Halpert is a good example of how to dress for men.

Inspiration can also be drawn from the way suits are styled in retail catalogues. J. Crew has one of the best selections of women’s suits and they are often styled in an effortless manner that doesn’t distract from the person wearing the suit.

Makeup and hair can often be just as important as the outfit itself towards creating a positive first impression. Make sure to style hair in a manner that isn’t distracting or crazy. A sleek ponytail can often be the best option when trying to appear professional and ready to work. Makeup should always be kept simple, it is important that the recruiters are able to see who they are talking to instead of trying to look past layers of overdone makeup. A light blush and mascara always serve as a good way to appear enthusiastic and awake without being too dramatic.