Professional Appearance

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Your first task will be to build rapport with the person who greets you at the organization (front desk/reception staff), and later with your interviewer(s). Building rapport involves three things: attitude, nonverbal behaviors, and verbal behaviors.



Think positively! If you don’t think you are the best candidate for the job, how can you hope to convince the employer you are? The fact that they have selected you for an interview shows that they are already interested in learning more about you.


How you communicate verbally involves your ability to:

  • Use active verb and provide concrete and concise answers (think STAR method!).
  • Summarize and make transitions.
  • Be positive and confident and “own” what you have done and what you know.
  • Create a dialogue by asking relevant questions, requesting more information when you are asked vague or difficult questions, and avoiding yes/no answers that close the conversation.


Project positive behaviors that contribute to rapport:

93% of Communication is Non-Verbal

  • Eye contact: Should be open and direct when listening, asking, and responding to questions. Eye contact is usually broken when concentrating or reflecting on what you want to say or what has been said.
  • Facial expression: Conveys sincerity, can add to or detract from your words. Don’t be afraid to smile!
  • Voice tone: Should be firm, warm, and relaxed.
  • Timing: It is alright to pause before and while you are answering a question.
  • Hands: Should be used in a relaxed way for animation, communicating excitement, interest.
  • Handshake: Make sure to give a strong, firm handshake when meeting your interviewers. But remember to not squeeze their hand... it is not a strength competition.
  • Posture: Should be well-balanced, upright, relaxed, forward-facing, and open. Know your nervous habits and practice controlling them. Leaning forward slightly can help communicate interest.

What to Bring

  • At least 5 copies of your resume and cover letter.
  • A professional briefcase, purse or messenger bag. Try to avoid a backpack unless it is neutral neat and professional.
  • Gum and mints
  • A padfolio with a notepad and pen to take notes. Tip: Write down the names of everyone you meet with so you can send a thank-you card afterwards.

Dress for Success

Note that these are general guidelines. The standards of dress may vary between industries and even companies. Be sure to research prior to the interview to adhere to company culture.

Example 1

Men's Professional Attire

  • Grooming: Have your hair neatly trimmed (including facial hair). Do not use cologne. Nails should be clean and neat.
  • Ties: Tie with a businesslike print. Avoid clip-on ties and bowties.
  • Suit: A single-breasted suit is best for interviews in any field. Color should be charcoal or navy; pinstripe, herringbone and solid are also appropriate. Two- and three-button suits are fine, but the four-button suit is too fashion forward for most interviews. Leave the bottom button undone. Traditional cut suits are the most conservative; they have minimal padding and are less fitted to the body. European-cut suits are also acceptable.
  • Shirt: Iron your shirt! 100% cotton is best because it breathes well. Wear a white t-shirt underneath to hide perspiration and protect your suit. Point collars without buttons are best; make sure to leave yourself an index finger’s worth of breathing room. Your shirt should fall ¼ to ½ inch below your suit sleeve.
  • Accessories: Leather belt that matches the color of your shoes.
  • Socks: Solid dark socks that match your suit, worn over the calf.
  • Shoes: Comfortable black shoes with laces.

Example 2

Women's Professional Dress

  • Grooming: Wear a neat professional hairstyle; don’t try anything new the day of your interview. Use minimal, natural looking makeup, and don’t wear perfume. Nails should be clean and neat, with either no polish or a neutral color.
  • Suit: Skirt or pant suits are both appropriate. Color should be charcoal, navy, black, or brown. Skirt suits should be knee-length with conservative slit.
  • Shell/Blouse: Wear a professional top and be prepared to take off your jacket. The color should be conservative (pastels or neutrals).
  • Accessories: Minimize accessories and keep jewelry simple. Carry either a purse or professional bag, but not both.
  • Shoes: Wear polished flats, closed-toe pumps or slingbacks that coordinate with your outfit. For comfort, you might change into dress shoes upon arrival at the interview. You may be given a tour or walk to a meal or other interviews, so make sure your shoes are comfortable but professional.

Career Fairs

Consider the career fair you are attending, and ask a UVA Career Services staff member for advice if you are unclear. It is always best to appear as professional as possible as this is the first impression you are making on an employer. Wearing a suit or business casual attire (nice shirt and tie, or blouse and pants or skirt) can both be appropriate in different scenarios.

Wear a name tag if possible (you can often get these when signing in at the fair registration table). The employers will be meeting many students, and this helps them remember who you are.

More to Explore

Mock interviews are a great way to gain experience and confidence with interviewing, as they provide the opportunity for a formal “dry-run” of an upcoming interview.

Handshake: Select “General Mock Interview” under the “...

Schedule an appointment through Handshake, or by calling the UVA Career Center at 434-924-8900 M-F from 8 am-5 pm.

Check out upcoming events to build your resume, develop job search strategies, meet top recruiters, and more.