Careers events - what to wear and say

Preparing and dressing for a careers event - here are some tips to get you spruced up and nailing those important first impressions. First impressions count - always - so you really want to make the right one, especially when meeting recruiters or other employees. There are plenty of opportunities to meet recruiters from campus events, like careers fairs and employer presentations, to company open days.

These days, if you choose to attend them, are more important than you may initially think. Do a great job and you can get skills, knowledge, useful contacts and - potentially - a head start in the whole recruitment process out of it. Remember you want to be remembered positively - first impressions are important.


Preparation for careers fairs and employer events

Before attending any event it is important to do your research and come prepared - giving you the  impressive ‘I am organised and sharp’ look. See which organisations will be attending, find the ones you are interested in and do your research. This doesn’t mean hours of intensive research but rather a brief  look into the industry they operate in to give yourself some more context. If you are not sure what to look at check out Employer research.

If you can find out which employer representatives will be attending, even better. Do some research into who they are and the positions they hold. You can even think of questions you want to ask them - there is no point asking them questions they won’t be able to answer. Prepare and write down some questions, make sure they are original questions and not ones that a 5 minute search on the company website could answer. Note that if it is a formal Q&A session, you may have to submit your questions before the event.


Your outfit

Match your outfit to the situation. If it is a formal event then dress accordingly, think of it like a job interview,  just like if it is a casual event, avoid ripped jeans but, dress comfortably.


Formal outfit for men:

  • Wear a suit, shirt and tie.

  • Wear matching socks - and preferably a tonal colour (not white and not neon green - especially if they are visible)

  • Smart shoes - don’t wear trainers, regardless if they’re black or brand new.


Formal event for women:

  • Appropriate skirts and dresses - they should end no higher than an inch above your knee, check when or if it rides up, especially when you sit down, to make sure that it is still appropriate.

  • Avoid the awkward bra/boob show - make sure that your bra and boobs are well covered, in every position (even leaning forward) especially check button gaps. You really don’t want to be remembered because of that.

  • Wear comfortable shoes - especially if you have to walk a distance. Pack some flats for backup if you choose to wear heels, or are if they are just are uncomfortable.

  • Chipped nail polish and scruffy bangles are a definite no.


Formal outfit for both:

  • Don’t flaunt piercings, be discrete.

  • Messy hair is a no go, try to look professional from head to toe.

  • Remember to remove those festival bands - nothing looks worse than tattered ribbons hanging from your arms while in a smart suit.

  • Religious dress is more than okay to wear.

  • Make sure that your outfit can be adapted for different temperatures. Just incase the office might enjoy Dubai heat or an Alaska chill, make sure you will be comfortable in both.

  • Colour is fine! Just because you have to be smart doesn’t mean you can’t throw colour in there, just be comfortable in what you wear.


Careers fairs outfits:

Careers fairs are a little more casual than an event, so you do not need to go in a full suit. But do remember that if you turn up hungover, ripped jeans, and generally looking a mess you risk leaving employers with a rather bad impression of you. If you want to make the best impression, you will need to look tidy and presentable - especially for sectors like finance, management consulting and law. If you are worried - then just stick to the guidelines above, recruiters won’t mind if you look more formal than your peers. They won’t  penalise you for looking formal.  But looking too informal may lead them to struggle to see you dealing with customers or clients.


Employer presentations outfits:

Definitely be on the smarter side of casual for presentations. While there is no need for suits or formal business dress, it is very important that - while you feel comfortable, you also make sure that you will leave the right lasting impression with the employers. If you would wear the outfit down to the local pub, then do you really think it would be suitable for the presentation? Think more along the lines of what you might wear to a works drinks (no trainers, trackies or ripped clothing!). Jeans are acceptable so long as they look smart and presentable and are not fashionably ripped or studded.


What to bring

  • Something to write and take notes with - if you are relying on your phone/tablet/iPad/etc, then have a backup plan - preferably with the questions you want to ask already written down.

  • If the event is not on your university campus, then make sure you get the right directions and a contact number for the reception or organiser just in case you need to call to check or inform them of a delay in your journey (and have a backup plan if you are only using technology).

  • Ladies - ladders in tights, not a good idea, so bring a spare in case.

  • An extra layer of clothing.

  • Any other personal things you may need - medication, glasses, a drink or snack.


Communicate your needs in advance

If you require particular needs or special requests let the organisers know BEFORE the event, as early as possible (like when you sign up) to allow time for them to organise it accordingly. This can include anything from an allergy or intolerance in food to having to have handouts printed a particular way for sight impairment, just let them know and remind them on the day as well.