What To Wear To A Job Fair

By Chris Kolmar - May. 4, 2021

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If you’re looking for a new career, a job fair or a career fair is a wonderful place to start. It’s a chance to get noticed, meet people in different fields, learn about the jobs, and maybe even make a connection that leads to your new career.

Let’s take a closer look at job fairs and how you can turn them into your best career move.

What Is a Job Fair?

Job fairs, also known as career fairs or recruitment events, are events that bring companies and job seekers together. Sometimes they have a theme and are centered around a particular industry, a location, or even a time of year or seasonal work. But the goal is always the same, to introduce companies and potential employees.

What to Expect At a Job Fair

Some job fairs will ask you to pre-register for the event. This is always a good idea, but it’s not always required.

Typically, the fairs are held in large auditoriums or meeting spaces and each company that is represented will have a booth or a table. You’ll find representatives from the company there along with a lot of information about the company.

In many cases, you’ll get to meet hiring managers or recruiters so it’s a foot in the door and a chance to make a first impression that you might not get otherwise. Think of it as a chance to apply for a job in person, because that’s what you’re doing.

How to Prepare for a Job Fair

A career fair is not an interview. You haven’t been selected for a job, but it takes just as much preparation as a job interview. It might even require more for you to make the most of a job fair.

  • Register. As noted, registering for the event might be required.

  • Research. Job fairs often have a pretty extensive online presence, and they’re chock full of good information. Typically, each company will have a brief description of who they are and what they do on the website for the fair. This is very valuable information as it will help you prioritize your visits.

    Yes, it’s probably possible to visit every booth, but you’re going to get exhausted and at that point, you’re not putting your best self forward. Pinpoint the jobs and companies you’re most interested in and hit them when you’re fresh and excited.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary
  • More research. You’ll also find the career fair’s website will have links to each company’s home page. Dig deep and go to the home page of your dream job or dream company and learn more about them.

  • Mark the map. Find the job fair map and create your plan of attack. Some of the booths are going to be very busy and getting your chance to speak to the right people might be tricky. It’s best to know where they are so you can laser in on them and don’t miss anyone because you can’t find them.

  • Bring your resume. Having a paper resume in hand is useful. It’s not something people print and carry around much these days, but at a career fair, it’s essential. Print several copies so you can hand them out to everyone who wants one. Use good quality resume paper, not regular printer paper.

    And make sure to include the URL for your LinkedIn profile and your professional website, if you have one, as well as your email address. You want to make it easy for the recruiter to switch to a digital connection.

    If you get a chance to speak with someone, connecting with email or phone numbers at the job fair is even better. You’ll want to follow up the next day and thank them for meeting with you.

  • Consider the interview. If all goes well, you will be interviewed right there at the job fair. Be prepared for this. Practice answering questions they might ask, and make sure you’re clear on your objective and what points you want to stress. It’s good to have a solid elevator pitch.

  • Practice. If possible, practice a potential interview scenario with someone so it’s not as uncomfortable or unfamiliar when you’re in that situation.

What to Wear to a Job Fair

One of the most important things to consider when you are applying for a job is how you present yourself. There’s a lot that goes into that, but your wardrobe is pretty high on the list. It’s the first thing people see and notice so it’s very important. Think of the career fair like a job interview and you want to dress appropriately for that interview.

Wardrobe Tips for Everyone

Each profession has its own dress code of sorts. For example, if you work in landscaping, you wear casual clothes that you plan on getting dirty. Similarly, if you work in sales, you wear business attire as you will probably be meeting with clients you want to win over.

But in an interview, everyone is on the same level, especially at a career fair. Leave the casual attire at home and put on your best business clothes or, at the very least, go for a business casual look.

  • Aim for a professional appearance

  • Be conservative in your clothing choices

  • Make sure your clothes are clean and ironed

  • Have a complete look from top to bottom that includes your hair, nails, and shoes

  • Try your clothes on before the event to make sure they fit

What to Wear for Men

If you’re a man and wondering what to wear at a job fair, the following suggestions should help.

  • Dress shoes that are not scuffed or worn, typically you’ll want ones that match your pants

  • Dress pants or suit pants are preferred, khakis can work but they’re a little too casual so you might want to up your game

  • Button-down dress shirts are the best option for a man’s top

  • A tie isn’t necessary but if you’re comfortable in one then, by all means, wear a tie

  • A jacket or suit coat gives a better impression than not wearing one, so if you have it you should wear one

  • Remember to complete the look with impeccable grooming of your hair, facial hair, and fingernails

What to Wear for Women

Women typically have a few more clothing options when it comes to all situations, job interviews included. Use the following tips to help.

  • Opt for dress shoes that aren’t too high and are close-toed

  • Dress pants or skirts that land at or below the knee are appropriate if you’re dressing with separates

  • Likewise, dresses should land at or below the knee, be conservative, and usually in a neutral tone with muted prints. A shirtdress can be a good choice, especially when paired with a blazer

  • The jury is out on whether you need tights or nylons, this trend comes and goes and it’s currently beginning to be popular again, especially in conservative situations

  • When it comes to tops or blouses, plan on something conservative, a button-down dress shirt is never out of place. Interestingly, this can be a place where you let a little personality show, especially if you’re wearing a jacket. A hint of a bright or happy color under a jacket can create a pleasing impression and still be professional

  • Jackets or blazers are optional, but they do tend to pull the look together nicely

  • Jewelry should be minimal, but a modest statement piece can be a conversation point and make you memorable

  • Your overall look also needs to be impeccable with attention paid to your hair and nails

Tips for Standing Out at a Job Fair

Now that you have an idea of what to expect and what to wear, how do you make a good impression and stand out? This is important because each hiring manager is probably going to be interviewing hundreds of people throughout the career fair. Being that someone they remember and want to pursue is critical. So how do you do that?

  • Give a good interview with personality, comfort, confidence, and authority in your field

  • Show enthusiasm for the company. Knowing about them gives a good impression

  • Collect business cards and send thank yous to the people who spent time with you, contact those who weren’t able to give you time, and follow up

  • Be courteous and even complimentary. A compliment can go a long way and, if it’s genuine, it can endear you to the person you speak with

  • Don’t stand out for the wrong reasons. Not dressing appropriately, carrying yourself in an unprofessional manner, and not being prepared will make you stand out, but not in a positive way

Final Thoughts

If you have some anxiety about going to a job fair, even after reading this useful guide on how to dress for a career fair and other tips, we have a solution. You can go to a job fair and wear anything you want, wander around, and see what there is to see.

Typically, job fairs are huge events with tons of people. If you attend one simply to see what it’s all about, there’s no harm in that.

They often go on for a few days, so you can pop in on the first day, make observations, and consider it a dry run. Then you can return the next day dressed to impress and begin making those important connections. This can do a lot for your confidence and give you ideas on ways to stand out positively.

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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