Tuesday, September 14th, 12:11 am: approximately 12 hours until the career fair…
With piles of clothes draped across the couches, hanging on the stair railing, and shoes piled up on the kitchen floor, I yelled across the sea of clothes to my roommate, “Emma!? Does the gray jacket look unprofessional?”
“Wait…just let me finish zipping my dress…ok, let me see.” With pursed lips and her hand resting on her chin, Emma scans my outfit head to toe. After what feels like an hour of inspection, Emma reaches a verdict, “ I think the plain white shirt is safe, and I like the black pants. I think you can get away with your jacket because of the neutral color and tailored fit. Just make sure you keep your jacket buttoned when you talk to the recruiters.”
“Ok. Thanks! Why do I have to keep the jacket buttoned anyway?”
“WHO KNOWS! Ugg… it is just one of the many little rules we have to follow or we will not have a future. My professional development advisor told me a buttoned
jacket seems more respectful or something.”
Just then my boyfriend, who is frantically re-formatting his resume for the umpteenth time, yells down, “Wait… I NEED a jacket? I thought a tie and button up shirt was ok?!” Emma and I look at each other with eyes wide and our jaws dropped. Emma mouths, “He’s done for…”
Was the impromptu living room fashion show necessary? PSU fall career days warrant a lot of hope, excitement, and stress for students looking for a job or internship. In order to make a day of navigating crowds of sweaty students, waiting in lines, and trying to impress tired recruiters worth it, it takes major prep work. I think that deciding what to wear to these recruiting events is even more difficult than formatting a resume or practicing an elevator pitch. When so many college students do not feel like they can afford a well-pressed suit or are unsure of where to even start, finding an outfit seems stressful and feels like a lot of pressure. After seeing many of the recruiters wearing open-toed shoes, more than one piece of jewelry, or sporting a fun colored shirt, I started to question if it is worth the stress of trying to look a certain way for the fair. Does it really matter if I wear a pink button-up shirt instead of white or blue one? Can my jacket be more blue than navy? Does it matter if I look a certain way for recruiters?
After doing some web surfing, I found an article, “Workplace Wisdom; Successful First Impressions” written by Andrea Nierenberg. She credited the Nierenberg Group and New York University’s Management Institute with surveying United States workers about first impressions. The article lists the top two results as good listening skills (37%) and appearance (35%). The article did not specify the sample size in this correlation study. Since the article noted that it was nation-wide, I assume that the sample size is large enough for the information to represent an overall opinion. (Since I do not know the details of the sample, I cannot know excatly how representative this survey is based on the informaton in this article. ) Assuming the study is representative, I was shocked to see that listening skills had a similar rating to appearance. At the career fair, it is loud and crowded, so it is difficult to actually communicate with employers. If students can show signs of listening like keeping eye contact, nodding the head, and using other non-verbal’s, they can influence the recruiter’s impression of them just as much as their attire can. Regardless of this interesting piece of information, dress and appearance still is a top influencer on first impressions.
Even though this was not an experiment with a manipulated independent and dependent variable, I still think the study has merit. The conclusion: dress to impress. Even though it can be a hassle, it is worth spending time on appearance. If students spend so many hours writing resumes, doing extra work in school and the community, and researching companies endlessly, it would be a shame for sloppy or unprofessional appearance to overshadow all that hard work. If you got an interview after the career fair and are still unsure about your wardrobe, buy the suit!