I recently attended my university's job fair. While I was there I could help but notice the wide range of clothing that people were wearing. Probably about 40% of people were wearing sports coats or suits, 59% in slacks/dress shirt and the rest...well I did see a few people in sweatpants and a hoodie (gasp!).

While I myself wore a sports coat and dress pants, I was wondering how much of a difference dressing up in say a suit as opposed to just a dress shirt and slacks can make in the little time you get to talk to your next possible employer. (And yes I realize that wearing a hoodie/sweatpants will make a difference.)

Sometimes I feel like wearing a suit to these kind of things can be a little overkill, especially considering that most of the company representatives are wearing some combination of casual dress.

How should I dress at a university job fair?

  • 3
    I see potential in this question. The asker isn't asking for you to pick out their exact wardrobe for them. Answers that weigh the pro's and con's of casual vs comfortable vs professional will probably be the most useful here.
    – user5305
    Feb 16, 2014 at 20:48

5 Answers 5


As a recruiter I would expect to see exactly what you observed. Understanding that some students have limited funds or limited access to nice clothes, the expectations of how they will dress at the job fair doesn't equal how they will dress at the job.

My advice is if you own a suit, and can get to it, then wear it. If you don't have a suit, but have a sport coat or can borrow one, then wear that. Never go in less than a nice shirt and a tie, borrow them from a friend, roommate, parent. The pants and shoes should be appropriate to the suit, sports coat, or just a tie.

You will never be overdressed by what you choose. I understand you may be meeting with multiple companies, and have decided to dress for the one with the highest standards, based on what you have access too. I will also not downgrade you if I feel that this is the best you can do. If your approach to the job air was non-serious it will show through in other ways.

The only wrinkle you have is logistics because of the relationship between your home and the campus, and your other activities that day.

  • I've talked to several people about this and they all seem to mention that the most important thing is to take the job fair seriously and let that show through your attire. Thanks for the answer.
    – codedude
    Feb 15, 2014 at 17:34
  • 1
    I think a bit depends on the type of job you are looking for and the location in the country. If you are in the Northeast and looking for a job at in IB, suit and tie or sport coat. Software development on west coast, jeans and a collared shirt would be fine (and might even be preferable).
    – timpone
    Feb 17, 2014 at 4:29
  • @timpone You make a good point; It depends a lot on the locale too. When I went to a job-fair in my university there were less than 5% who wore a suit, or any form of formal attire. Mind you it was in summer and in a hot climate, so dressing up would just make you look sweaty and uncomfortable. I think the most important thing is to show genuine interest and seriousness about the role you're aiming for.
    – Yury
    Mar 15, 2019 at 9:19

Dressing up is a good idea. It is one of the signs that you are taking the career fair seriously. For men, a suit is fine, as is a sport coat and nice pants, or a dress shirt and nice pants. For women, wearing a suit (either skirt or pants) is fine, as is a nice blouse or sweater and pants or skirt. Clothing should be clean and pressed.

Make sure that you're giving other signs that you're taking the career fair seriously: your resume is up-to-date and easy-to-read, you can articulate what kind of position you are looking for and why you are a great candidate for that kind of position, and you have done research about the companies that you approach and be able to discuss why you are interested in the company (and have interesting questions too). These are more important than how you dress.

For me, as someone who goes to university career fairs to represent the technical team, I don't pay a lot of attention to how a candidate dresses unless it is far outside the norm -- overly formal gets my attention as much as overly informal. As a software engineer from Silicon Valley, I'm going to be wearing jeans at your career fair, since that's representative of my employer and our corporate culture. So yes, you're going to be better dressed than I am at your career fair.


I've had a chance to represent the company at one of these (not as HR but as someone who works there). I knocked it back (because I honestly couldn't be bothered) but I can tell you had I gone I'd expect to see the students dressed as, well students. You're a student exploring what is out there. It isn't a job interview, just a chance to meet and greet. If one day you have the chance for an interview for a job or an internship then get the $200 haircut and wear a nice sharp looking dark suit.

Also it would be a bit unfair to expect students to dress up to a careers fair when half of us are wearing jeans.


I would dress as much or as little as you feel comfortable, because chances are, you aren't getting the job anyway. If you feel you need the practice, dress business-formal (suit and tie).

Job fairs serve two purposes:

  1. It demonstrates to management that HR is doing something
  2. It allows HR to fill their candidate database with all sorts of candidate data, thereby proving to management that HR is doing something

"But, but, but," you say, "how else will I get a job?"

Answer: find the hiring manager and convince her that you are the person she's looking for. That is the person who actually does the hiring, NOT HR. Every single job I've even gotten has been through personal contacts/former coworkers/industry networking. Every single one. Every single person I've recommended for a job has been someone I know (professionally).

As a person on the other side of the table, I've never interviewed anyone whose resume came from a job fair, because the 'fair didn't give me enough information to determine whether the person was a good fit (also, 'fairs result in a flood of resumes and no one's got time to weed through that drek).

See, unless you're applying for HR, the person you meet at the job fair will have no clue whatsoever about the real needs of the position and whether your skills are what the position requires. They will not be able to determine if your skills are the level you say they are.

  • How would you recommend getting in touch with the hiring manager? Is emailing him/her a good option? And if so, what kind of email should one be sending?
    – codedude
    Feb 17, 2014 at 18:23
  • I strongly disagree. Many companies send engineers and hiring managers to university career fairs (preferably alumni of that uni). I've spent the time to build a relationship with my company's HR team so that they would know my team's needs, and I've hired people who HR referred to me from other uni career fairs.
    – nadyne
    Feb 22, 2014 at 1:46

At my uni, the students are not allowed to attend the career fair without proper business attire. I did not know this, got stopped and shown the door by career services. I wasn't going there to look for a job or an interview. I just wanted to see what types of companies were being represented and maybe talk to some people about possible internship opportunities. My uni doesn't really care about it's students. They only care about how the students represent the uni. There is an additional career fair hosted during the fall semester but they require the students to pay to get in the door. My uni just sucks period.

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