Professional attire has varying meanings when it comes to career fairs, job interviews, and post-hire.  Some basic facets of dressing for success are grooming, choosing appropriate accessories, learning how to dress on a budget, and allowing personality to shine through in a professional way.


Grooming, in its most basic form, involves having a polished appearance. This looks different for men and women:


  • Have your outfit professionally pressed or, if the fabrics allow, iron it at home
  • Keep nails and make up subtle – Professionals recommend neutrals for your skin tone
  • Tame your hair and ensure it’s not a distraction – long hair is best pulled back


  • Have your outfit professionally pressed or, if the fabrics allow, iron it at home
  • Clean and trim your nails
  • Cut that hair! Recently trimmed or cut hair, and well-groomed facial hair are a must


One career fair accessory that is helpful for everyone is a pad folio. They are reasonably priced and really bring a career fair look together.  Jewelry should be understated and simple – the same goes for men’s watches.


Budget-friendly professional attire is of the utmost necessity for college students.  Luckily, Kohl’s Department Stores, Target, and Walmart ALL offer incredible deals for professional attire.  Blazers, dress pants, and mix-and-match suit pieces are available for men and women through all three vendors.


Personality is always a must when it comes to an interview, career fair, or networking event.  Personality gives employers a reason not to forget you! Finding a professional outfit that suits your personal style is a great way to accentuate your excellent characteristics.  For men, ties, belts, socks, a shirt or even a fun pair of eyeglasses are options to incorporate your personal style into a professional look.  Women can choose from blouses, belts, shoes and subtle jewelry to express themselves.

When choosing an outfit, keep your field of interest in mind. In fields like marketing, fashion merchandising and graphic design, colors and trends are typically more acceptable.  Conversely, the fields of accounting, law or business management might require more conservative looks.  The key conservative pieces should not be overshadowed by your unique add-ons.  For example, a neon yellow blouse may overpower a navy suit, while a butter-yellow cardigan would add a perfect pop of color.

Professional dress is one of those grey areas that we are expected to just know once we enter the workforce.  Having a class on professional attire would be ideal for many of us, rather than figuring it out on our own.  Luckily, that now exists!  If you want a crash course on proper career fair attire, attend the Career and Leadership Development Center’s Prepare for the Fair Workshop: Dress for Success on February 13th from 11-12pm in Baker 503.

Remember our fool-proof checklist and you should be ready to work the career fair:

  1. Groom yourself

  2. Accessorize professionally

  3. Keep it budget friendly

  4. Incorporate personal style

By Gracie Freireich, CLDC Former Graduate Assistant

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