Dress to impress: How to make a good first impression

When it comes to making a good first impression, appearance definitely matters. Carnegie Mellon students have a reputation of not caring too much about (supposedly) trivial things like attire. But at job fairs, recruiters are judging students not only by their résumés, but also the color of their suits. With this in mind, it is imperative that students look polished and conservative. Finding the right pair of heels or the perfect tie is just as important as fixing the formatting on your résumé.


Since the dress code for the conferences is business formal, women should stick to a conservative suit or skirt in black, navy, or gray. Wearing a suit jacket is a must, or you will end up looking too casual for the event. Also, try to avoid wearing lacy or silky camisoles under your jacket. A crisp shirt in a solid color is a much better option — not only is it a safe, conservative bet, but it also looks smart.

When it comes to styling, all attempts should be made to create a clean and polished look. Hair should be tied back neatly in a pony tail or pinned back so that it doesn’t fall on the face. Nude pantyhose are a must if you are wearing a skirt, and if you are wearing a pant suit, wear thin, nude socks.

As for accessories, the choice of shoes is an important one. Don’t pick the stylish, open-toed heels you would wear on a night out. Instead, go with a sensible pair of pumps. A quick tip: Make sure you are comfortable in your heels. Job fairs involve a lot of waiting in lines, and you don’t want to be doing all of it with sore feet. Add some simple jewelry to make your look more elegant and attractive. Stay away from large, chunky necklaces and long, dangly earrings. Find simple studs and a small pendant that suit your outfit and you’re good to go.


A business suit is a necessity for men. While colors like black, navy, and gray will all work, men can also impress in a pinstriped suit. A white shirt is the safest bet, and it is important to make sure the shirt cuffs are close to one-half of an inch longer than their jacket sleeves.

A special feature of the men’s look is the tie. Remember, the tie is supposed to serve as an accessory, not an attention-grabber; leave your Jerry Garcia tie at home and wear something more suited to the occasion. Additionally, if this is your first time tying a tie, practice a few times before the day of the conference; YouTube has some good video tutorials. Make sure your tie is not too long and hanging below your belt, or too short and stopping above it.

An important thing to keep in mind is that even though you may have put the perfect outfit together, all of it will amount to nothing if you are not confident about your appearance. While adhering to the dress code and smartening up your attire are essential, remaining cool and confident is even more important.