Dressing for a Career Fair: College of Human Sciences and Graduate College


Photo:Kendra PlatheIowa State Daily

Chao Wang, graduate in accounting, talks with recruiters from Weblink for a possible career. The career fair was held Wednesday Sept. 28, 2011, in Hilton Coliseum. 

Mika Brust

For Human Sciences

Tammy Stegman, director of Career Services at the College of Human Sciences, recommends that students, both male and female, “make a positive first impression versus a memorable negative impression.”

Suits are recommended by Stegman for men to wear to the fair. However, if first-year students don’t own a suit, she says that khakis or dress pants with a button down shirt and jacket or sweater overtop are acceptable as well.

As for women, Peterson recommends a skirt or slacks with a suit jacket and a top; professional dresses are okay too.

“It always seems kind of unfair because many of the recruiters are wearing company logo polos and khaki slacks or a comfortable skirt, but the students who take the dress seriously are very much noticed by employers and recruiters at the event and employers recognize those students as the ones taking it most seriously,” Peterson said.

It’s very important that students avoid going to the fair in loungewear and show that they put some thought into their appearances.

“This is a professional event, so we want students to take it seriously in terms of what happens over there. We don’t have bouncers, but we will ask somebody to leave if they’re wearing jeans, shorts, a hoodie, sandals, things like that,” Stegman said.

Peterson notes that employers pay more attention to students who look “talented, capable, goal oriented, and motivated” and that “[how] students dress at these events just helps them communicate that that’s who and what they are.” 

Students should also note that it’s okay to show their sense of style, but in a professional and conventional manner.

“If you look at our apparel merchandising students, some of those students have the ability to show a sense of style that they want to demonstrate. Bottom line, the career fair is really more about professionalism. That’s what we’re telling every single one of our students,” Stegman said.

Stegman also believes that employers are looking at the career fair as a professional event, which is why it’s vital to keep to some sort of dress code. She adds that comfort is a necessity as well. Keeping in mind that there are stairs and a lot of walking around is important, because if something doesn’t fit right, students won’t feel comfortable, which is unideal in a professional environment.

For Graduate College

Mark Peterson, director of MBA and Graduate Business Career Services, adds that older students have an even higher regard at the fairs, but any student of any year should be taking it seriously as well.

“I stress with [graduate] students that expectations are especially higher for them, just because it is an advanced business degree and employers absolutely expect that they take events like this seriously,” Peterson said.

“My advice is true for all students going to the event. You only have two career fairs over the course of the year here at Iowa State, one in the spring, one in the fall and they’re very big, very well attended, very highly regarded career fairs.”