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Attire for Interviews or Career Fairs

  • Your clothes should add to your image, not distract from your qualifications and skills.
  • Be conscientious of how much perfume, cologne, or aftershave you wear. It’s best to use these sparingly or not at all due to others' sensitivities.
  • If you think the industry in which you're interviewing would frown on a suit, or the interview will involve going to a work site where a suit would be inappropriate, look for advice through professional organizations, your professors who have been employed in that industry, or by asking the employer directly and politely. One alternative is to wear pressed pants (like khakis) and a dark jacket, which is less formal than a suit, but still business-appropriate for both men and women.
  • Everything should be clean and wrinkle free. Don't forget to remove external tags and tacking stitches from new clothes.
  • Keep your nails clean and trimmed.
  • If possible, cover body piercings and tattoos .
  • Bring a padfolio, business tote, or briefcase to hold documents and be able to take notes.
  • Backpacks are not appropriate, so be sure not to bring them to an interview or an event. We provide a coat room for the Campus-Wide Career Fair and On-Campus Interviews so that you have a place to stow your backpack if you are coming directly from class.

Workplace Attire

The following clothing suggestions provide a basic, versatile wardrobe for your first year on the job. Check out more gender neutral attire considerations.

Feminine Masculine Gender Neutral
  • Two suits in dark or neutral colors
  • One dress jacket to go with pants or skirt
  • Dress pants
  • One skirt
  • Six shirts
  • Two pairs of dress shoes
  • Accessories like jewelry, scarves, and handbags, which will add versatility to your outfits
  • If the organization you work for allows you to wear jeans occasionally or daily, make sure they are a deep blue and a traditional cut. The jeans you wear to work should not be the same pair you wear casually. The same is true for corduroy.
  • One blazer that can be worn with dress pants or khakis
  • Two suits of different colors in either black, navy blue, gray, or charcoal
  • Black and khaki dress pants
  • Three dress shirts for every suit
  • Six ties
  • Two pairs of dark shoes that match with your belt
  • Two belts
  • If the organization you work for allows you to wear jeans occasionally or daily, make sure they are a deep blue and a traditional cut. The jeans you wear to work should not be the same pair you wear casually. The same is true for corduroy.
  • Two suits of different colors in either black, charcoal, or navy
  • Three light coloured dress shirts for every suit
  • Two belts either brown or black to match your shoes
  • Two pairs of dress shoes either black or browns
  • Makeup should conserative and mostly natural
  • Accessories should be minimal at max five
  • If the organization you work for allows you to wear jeans occasionally or daily, make sure they are a deep blue and a traditional cut. The jeans you wear to work should not be the same pair you wear casually. The same is true for corduroy.

What Suit Suits You?

Suit Handout

Online Presence 

Every webpage that appears with your name collectively creates your online presence, as well as social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If websites are appearing in your Google search that you no longer want featured, contact the webmaster to have the information removed or updated.

If used correctly, social media can portray a positive, professional image and can be used to your advantage! 

How to Take a Professional Headshot From Home

Check out this article detailing out how you can take a professional headshot from the comfort of your own home!

Current Information

Keep your profiles up to date; continually update and manage your profiles as a way to stay active. Show employers that you are not dormant by keeping them active.

Status Updates and Pictures

Radiate positivity! Show professional connections and potential employers that you have a good attitude. Complaining about day-to-day stresses creates a negative image. What are your pictures saying about you? Untag or delete any pictures that may be considered unprofessional.

Privacy Settings

Even if you consider your privacy settings to be airtight, get into the mindset that anyone could see your profile. Before posting anything online, think to yourself, “Would I want a recruiter to see this?” or “Could this affect my job search?” Be cautious with your posts, even if you feel like your privacy settings are as secure as possible. Always take a better safe than sorry approach.


In addition to utilizing the tips for improving your professional image through social media above, creating a LinkedIn profile provides a great professional option to enhance your online presence.

PDF file image LinkedIn Profile Checklist

LinkedIn can serve are your online resume to market yourself to recruiter, and showcase your recommendations, connections, and skills. You can also use LinkedIn to network with people in your field and find opportunities! If you'd like to get started on LinkedIn, check out their wide range of videos and guides for college students.

Communication Through Phone

All forms of communication should have a professional tone. Attitude is a critical component of communication, so be sure to represent yourself in a positive light. This means having a positive attitude about challenges that may come along with a job. For instance, you will want to show recruiters that you have an optimistic outlook on finding solutions for problems, both personally and professionally.

When you begin to provide your phone number to recruiters, including having it listed on your resume, you want to make sure you have the following:

  • Standard ringback tone (e.g. no songs)
  • Brief, clear, and professional voicemail greeting that states your name

If you include your cell phone number, it’s best to only answer the phone from an unfamiliar number when you are in a quiet, appropriate environment to receive a business call.

When leaving a recruiter a voicemail, keep your message short and within the context of the job. Be sure to include your name and phone number, as well as when you can be reached. Always speak clearly and be in a location that minimizes that background noise so that your message can easily be understood. It is professional to repeat your name and number in case the recruiter cannot hear your statement the first time around.

Email and Your Job Search

Email Considerations

While email has become the primary means of communication during the job application process, some situations require more formal correspondence. Email may not be appropriate when a company specifies that printed materials need to be mailed or electronically submitted via the organization’s website. Use discretion discussing job offers, salary, and benefits through email. A phone conversation regarding these topics is the best means of communication to eliminate any misunderstanding.

If you use an email address other than your JMU address, make sure your email address sounds professional and reflects your name (e.g. james.madison@gmail.com).

Like you would with printed correspondence, keep copies of all job search emails you send and receive. Create a system to store these emails.

Composing Your Email

When composing an email, follow the guidelines for writing a cover letter or business letter. You do not need to include the date in your message, since an email is automatically stamped with the date. Treating an email as a cover letter means there is no need to attach a separate cover letter to the email. Choose a descriptive subject line for your email (e.g. Application for Position #112).

Despite the informal nature of email, it is still important to maintain a level of professionalism that mirrors any other formal letter. Like a cover letter, you need to start with a salutation (e.g. “Dear Mr. Smith:”) and end with a formal closing (e.g. “Sincerely, James Madison”). Under your signature, you should include your full name and contact information (i.e. address and phone number).

Attach resumes and other attachments as a .pdf file, if possible. It is also wise to label attachments with your first and last name. Try not to send large attachments, and keep your file size to a minimum.

Learn More About Professionalism

Professionalism is one of the top eight career competencies that employers are seeking. Learn more about demonstrating your professionalism and other career competencies by visiting our Career Ready Dukes page.

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