University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Connecting UW Students and Employers

Dress for Success

Please note: If you are already in a major, your home career services office may have major-specific career resources to aid you in your search. Search by your major or career word for the appropriate career services office:

Haven't chosen a major? The Cross-College Advising Service and Exploration Center can help you find a fit.

Prepare for Interviewing
Different Types of Interviews
Typical Questions & Questions to Ask the Recruiter
Dress for Success

Look Professional!

When preparing what to wear for an interview, remember that what is safest is best. You do not want your physical appearance to distract the interviewer from getting to know you as a candidate. Note that while we do recommend a suit, if you do not have a suit and cannot get one for any reason, just wear whatever you have that is the next best option (for example, nice pants and a button-down shirt, as long as they are both ironed and conservative in color and style). Below are some general conventions. Remember that business-style dress is very traditional. If you do not feel comfortable following these conventions, just know that there may be risks associated. You get to make your own choices!

  • Well-groomed hairstyle
  • Clean, trimmed fingernails
  • Minimal, if any, cologne or perfume
  • Empty pockets- no bulges or jingling coins
  • No gum, candy or cigarettes
  • Briefcase or portfolio case
  • No visible body piercing (nose rings, eyebrow rings, etc.)

WOMEN-Business Attire

Suits: 100% wool or wool blend is preferred, but good quality synthetic blends are also acceptable. Dark colors, grays, blues, blacks. Solids or muted pinstripes. Conservative jacket and slacks or skirt are same color and fabric. Skirt length: AT KNEE OR BELOW. No tight skirts or pants.

Shirts: Natural fibers are preferred and more comfortable. Conservative color. Shirt collar or jewel (rounded) neckline. Pressed, straight collar. Short or long sleeved. Blouse or shell. Not even a hint of cleavage visible.

Shoes: NO BARE TOES. Black, burgundy, brown leather. Flats or pumps (no higher than 2" heels - no spikes). Polish and clean shoes (don't wear outside, particularly if raining or snowing)

Hose/Jewelry: Neutral or skin tone hose. Bring an extra pair for emergencies. Tights are not as dressy as sheer weight hose. Keep jewelry to a minimum.

MENóBusiness Attire

Suits: 100% wool or wool blend; conservative fit. Dark colors, grays, blues, blacks. Solids or muted pinstripes. Jacket and pants should be same color. Button jacket when standing; unbutton when seated.

Shirts: 100% cotton is best. Broadcloth or pinpoint oxford is best. White or conservative color. Straight collar; long sleeves. Cuffs extending 1/4" beyond jacket sleeve. Tapered or regular fit (not fullcut). Press shirt carefully, particularly the collar. Spend the money on dry cleaning. Wear plain white crewneck T-shirt under shirtódo not wear logo T-shirt's under a dress shirt.

Ties: 100% silk. Same width as lapels (2 3/4" - 3 1/2"). Complementary color. No logo/cartoon ties.

Shoes/Belt: Black, burgundy, brown leather. Lace-up shoes. Polish and clean shoes. Matching belt color.

Socks: No white socks. Dark color to complement suit. Light-weight business sock. Long enough that skin is not seen when legs are crossed.

Business casual is appropriate for career fairs, employer information sessions and for more informal segments on an on-site interview.

WOMENóBusiness Casual

Jackets & Pants or Skirt: Jacket is not necessary. Darker colors best; soft colors-business patterns. Wool blend or professional weight fabric. Jacket and pants do not need to be same color. Stay professionalóno trendy or campus attire.

Skirt length: At knee or below. Skirt length should be at the knee or longer. No short skirtsóat the knee or longer. No tight skirts or pants.

Woven Shirts: Cotton or cotton/polyester blend. Any muted, conservative solid, stripe, or plaid. Button-down or straight collar. Long sleeves are best. Not even a hint of cleavage. Check button closures across chest; not too tight.

Knit Shirts: Cotton, wool, cashmere or silk blends. Short or long sleeve. Sweater sets. Not even a hint of cleavage.

Shoes: No bare toes. Black, burgundy, brown leather. Pumps or flats with 1-2" heel; no spikes. Polish and clean shoes.

Hose: Tights or socks are appropriate.

MEN-Business Casual

Jackets & Pants: Jacket is not necessary. Nice wool blend. Pressed cotton pants are OK. Check for proper rise fit and inseam. Jacket and pants do not need to be same color.

Woven Shirts: 100% cotton or cotton/polyester blend. Any muted, conservative solid, stripe, or plaid. Button-down/straight collar. Long sleeves.

Knit Shirts: Natural fibers and blends. Must have collar. Short or long sleeve. No crew neck (T-shirt) collars. Sweater vest or sweater over collared shirt.

Ties: Unnecessary, but acceptable.

Shoes/Belt: Dark leather slip on or lace-up. Polished and clean. Belt should match shoe color.

Socks: NO WHITE SOCKS. Dark color should complement pants/shoes. Light to medium weight business socks.

A Word on Personal Hygiene

While it doesn't seem necessary to mention the importance of good personal hygiene for career fairs and interviews, we've found that a constant reminder is needed. Don't waste a perfectly good resume, employer research, or an excellent job opportunity by neglecting the basics: Shower and use deodorant. Brush your teeth and gargle. Use little or no cologne; this is not a date. Wash and comb your hair; consider a haircut. Piercings are discouraged during the job search.

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