Your Professional Image

Why is it important that you "dress to impress" at the Encounter and other career fairs?

These events are your opportunity to market yourself to an employer as a potential employee. You need to understand the type of job for which you are applying and present your image accordingly. The saying goes that first impressions are made within the first five minutes of meeting someone new, so spend some time reviewing the following information to ensure you put your best foot forward. 

While the Encounter is less formal than a traditional, full-time career expo, you still need to dress in a professional manner. Conservative, business-casual attire is highly encouraged for this event. 

General Tips for Everyone

(from NACE's Job Choices 2012 magazine) 

  • Err on the side of conservative dress. Conservative, classic, traditional dress transcends the fickleness of fashion.
  • Practice good grooming. Guys: ensure hair is trimmed and clean, and face is clean-shaven (you can always grow it back after you get the job if the employer allows it). Ladies: keep makeup and hair natural; you do not want to be remembered for blue eye shadow. 
  • Make sure your shoes are in good repair -- no rundown heels, no scuffs.
  • Minimize your jewelry. For guys, a watch and wedding or school ring are appropriate. For ladies, limit jewelry to a watch, a single ring, and small earrings. 
  • Cover tattoos and body art. Body piercings may also be viewed negatively. As possible, remove or cover piercings. 
  • Avoid cologne/perfume. You never know who is allergic or sensitive to scents. 
  • Forgo carrying a lot of items with you. If possible, leave your backpack in your dorm room and instead carry a notepad in a portfolio with your resume and a pen. Women can also carry a small purse. 
Rule of 12's 

Remembering the Rule of 12's can help you make a strong first impression. 

  • 12 inches up from your feet -- wear a closed-toe shoe in good condition. Guys: wear socks, especially if wearing a shoe that would normally require it. Ladies: keep heels to a conservative height in which you can comfortably walk. 
  • 12 inches up from your fingertips -- keep nails trimmed and make sure hands are clean. If wearing nail polish, choose a natural hue. 
  • 12 inches down from the top of your head -- ensure hair is clean and out of your face. Guys: clean-shaven is always best for job interviews. Ladies: keep hair and makeup natural and conservative. 
  • 12 accessory maximum -- avoid wearing more than this. Accessories include earrings (each ear is one), necklaces, rings, watches, bracelets, belts, flashy buttons, pins, and glasses. Less is more. 
  • First 12 words you say -- always express your appreciation for the opportunity to speak with a recruiter. 
Additional Resources

The following websites address the topics of Business Professional, Business Casual, and Casual Attire, as well as What Not to Wear. 

Interactive Business Casual Guide (source: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Career Services office) 

Business Professional vs. Business Casual Guide (source: Tarleton State University Career Services office)

What Not to Wear Guide (source: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Career Services office)


"Clothes and manners do not make the man; but, when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance." - Henry Ward Beecher

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