OK, first let's start by saying that what you wear to events does make a difference. Most of the advice in this part is standardized across most businesses, and is a 'best practices' kind of advice. Some people will have differing opinions on some of this stuff - for example I know that some people insist on wearing a black suit. I'll cover it later, but standard business attire does not include black suits; but people can apply other standards at their own risk.
My experience pertains only to men; I have no clue what is appropriate for women to wear at various events and there seems to be a lot more flexibility. I do have one suggestion though; I think women shouldn't have bare legs at business attire events. That's all I have to say about that, and it's just my opinion. The other stuff isn't my opinion; it's the rule (or at least think of it that way). My training and experience comes from two years of law firm recruiting, 2 years working at law firms on both coasts, close contact with lot's of bankers and consultants, and probably most importantly, a sorority house mother that instructed our chapter on etiquette - this was particularly important because failure meant not being invited back to the sorority house. Failure wasn't an option.
Before we get into specifics, just keep this in mind when deciding on what to wear to recruiting events: there is absolutely no reason why anyone should ever remember what you wore to a recruiting event or interview. That's rule #1 I've heard this many many times, most recently over a chuckle with a guy from a top bank. This applies on all fronts; you don't want to dress poorly, but you also don't want to be the best dressed guy in the room. You want to look a little hungry.
OK, on with the show.Suit
Your suit should be charcoal gray or navy blue. If you don't know what this means, charcoal gray would apply to the 2-3 darkest shades that you can find at a suit store and navy blue is the shade that looks black under dim lighting. It does not mean any lighter shade of gray, it definitely doesn't mean royal blue, it doesn't mean brown or olive or anything like that. If you want a pinstripe or pattern, make sure it is really subtle. Really really subtle. Let me say that again, extremely subtle. Do not get chalk stripes, or wide pinstripes, or some type of noticeable plaid pattern on your suits. Just don't. I'd recommend getting at least two suits. Keep it simple and get one charcoal and one navy, one with a pinstripe and one without.
Some people insist on wearing a black suit. Black is generally not considered business attire. GQ says no. I have heard from many different people that it makes you look like an undertaker or a G-man. Not everyone thinks this way, but please refer back up to the part where it says 'you should never be remembered for your clothes'. A lot of people won't care that you're wearing a black suit; a few people will. The few people that do remember may ding you. Yes, it's true. I have a friend who's been in consulting for about 9 years now. He dings people that wear black suits - they probably don't even know why.
Your suit should be of high quality material, and should be tailored to your size. A good quality material is wool, that's it. Don't be the guy wearing a velvet jacket (yes I actually observed someone that did this a bunch of times last year). This doesn't mean it has to be really expensive - I've seen good discounted suits for $250. Try to avoid 'fashion' cuts, and unless you're European (or in Europe) avoid those types of cuts as well. Make sure you get it tailored so that it fits properly and looks good. If it's cut and tailored properly, it should feel very good when you put it on. Your pants should be cut so they don't drag on the ground, but don't show off your socks when standing. A good tailor will take care of this for you. Don't get mohair or sharkskin (shiny types); those are for throwing down on the dance floor, they aren't for recruiting.
Unless you're close to 7 feet tall, your suit should have 2 or 3 buttons. In my opinion, the number of buttons should depend on how tall and wide you are. 3 buttons if you are tall, 2 buttons if you are short, and adjustments based on if you are lean or fat. Your suit should not have 4 or 5 buttons (unless you're extremely tall); your suit should not have 1 button (unless you're attending a black tie event because that's a tuxedo jacket).
You should never ever carry anything in the front pockets of your suit. This isn't a problem for many suits because the front pockets are not real pockets; but even if they are real pockets do not put anything in them. Speaking of pockets, if you have a huge wallet or phone, put it in the interior pocket of your jacket. Don't have a huge bulging wallet on your @ss (consider taking some stuff out).Shirt
I'm going to give you my personal advice on this subject, and it's something that has evolved over the course of the fall recruiting season. I would suggest sticking with basic white, light blue, ecru and other solid, basic colored shirts. I used to think it was OK to wear a striped shirt and the occasional French cuff, but I've come to believe that these are best avoided during recruiting. Save them until you've landed the job.Note: there is no such thing as a short-sleeve dress shirt. OK, that's all I'm going to say about that.
Your shirt sleeve should be long so that 1/2-1 inch shows from beneath your suit. If you're getting ready to attend business school, I recommend getting measured - any decent department store or menswear store would be happy to do this for you. The neck shouldn't choke you, but if it's too loose it will look sloppy. Get measured so you can buy stuff that fits right. It will look a lot better.
Back to the colors and patterns. As recruiting wore on, it was really just a whole lot easier to stick with a solid shirt with basic colors. You can get away with wearing a striped shirt, but as I dressed up for event after event day after day, it just dawned on me, why bother? It's really not worth the effort trying to get coordinated and it's just easier to stick with basic white, blue or ecru. Frenched cuffs (with cuff links) are probably a bad idea for recruiting - they can draw attention which violates rule #1. DO NOT wear shirts with white collar and cuffs. I remember a briefing where a guy wore a royal blue shirt with white collar and Frenched cuffs; he also decided to wear some plaid pants and I'm not kidding, in a room full of peoplein dark suits he looked like a clown. Literally. People still remember it. You don't want to be that guy.Tie
You have some flexibility with the tie that you choose. I have some tips that you might find useful, but it's up to you to decide.
try to avoid anything that is really shiny. For some reason, people that don't wear suits often seem to select shiny ties. Don't do that. I'd also avoid anything that is really gold or predominantly black. They just seem to reflect poorly in recruiting situations.
The other basic advice relates to how you should put it together. There are 3 key pieces to business attire (suit, shirt and tie) and there are three basic patterns (solid, stripe, circle/dot). Generally try to avoid selecting the same pattern for all three pieces. For example, don't wear a pinstripe suit, and striped shirt and a striped tie. It just looks funny. If you're wearing a solid suit and shirt, go with a slightly (and I mean slightly) more unusual tie. If you're wearing a pinstripe suit, then go with a conservative tie. After you put it together, just ask yourself, 'is this tie making me stick out'?
The final thing about ties is that your knot should be tight and tidy. For some reason, people of certain cultures like to tie really strange looking knots. There's an Italian guy I know. I have no doubt that he's got a lot more style than me, and that his clothes are really nice; but he refuses to tighten his the knot on his tie. He basically just slips it through, and that's it. It looks really really sloppy, and I notice that when talking with him, it's impossible not to stare at his tie. That's bad. Generally avoid bid ostentatious knots like full Windsors. Just go with your basic four-in-hand (I think that's what it's called) and put a dimple in the middle. You'll look classy, neat and tidy. That's exactly how you want to look.Shoes/Socks/Belt
Wear lace-ups. Do not wear loafers. Again, this seems to be a cultural thing, but some groups really like to wear loose fitting loafers. I really really really advise against this. It looks really sloppy and not business-like. Certainly, there are some loafers that are tight-fitting and classy, but I've definitely seen more mistakes than hits with people that wear loafers. Unless you're a managing director or law firm partner, do not wear tassled loafers and for the love of god, don't wear shoes with buckles.
For lace-ups, avoid fancy patterns like wingtips. Go with a plain toe, capped toe or perhaps split toe. Make sure the leather is high quality and shines up nicely. Make sure your shoes are shined and polished regularly; it really does make a difference. Your shoes should be black. Let's just leave it at that. You can wear whatever you want once you have the job, but for the purposes of recruiting and interviewing, just wear black shoes.
Your socks should be black. Really black. In fact, if your socks are faded from washing, get some new black socks. They should go far enough up your calves so that when you sit down and your pants ride up a little, you do not bear any skin. Black, long, that's it. No more talk about socks.
Your belt should be black. It should have a plain silver or gold buckle. By plain I mean really basic. Your belt should fit pretty snuggly; you definitely don't want something that flops or shifts around. OK, that's all there is to know about belts for recruiting.When to Wear What
Okey dokey, so now you know how to put together some effective business attire. The next question is, when should you use it? At the early on-campus briefings and presentations, you don't need to wear a suit. Wear a nice shirt and slacks and try not to stand out too much. Later invite only events will often specify what you should wear. If they don't say specifically, make an educated guess based on the type of event, time of day and who you anticipate will be attending. Here are some terms you'll likely encounter:
Casual - this doesn't really mean wear whatever you want. It's a recruiting event so wear slacks and and a nice (clean and pressed) shirt. If it's really hot (and it could be early in the recruiting season), a nice polo shirt should be alright. It depends on the event, of course. If you're playing golf, be dressed for that, etc.
Business Casual - these days, this seems to mean suit and coat, but no tie. In a broader sense, businesses generally think of business casual as slacks and shirt, and possibly even polo shirt, but for recruiting events, business casual really doesn't mean polo shirt.
Business Formal - Generally you'll get this for sit-down dinner type events. This means suit and tie. It's really important to look business-like when this is specified, so don't get cute.
Business Attire - Kind of between business casual and business formal. I'd just go with suit and tie in most cases. If the event is in the afternoon or in a very casual setting, I might go without the tie.
Any events at the firm's offices - wear a suit and tie. This applies even if you're invited there for lunch, or if you're just doing informational interviews.
What about firms that are casual? - You should always, at minimum, wear slacks and a pressed shirt (or polo shirt if it's really hot). It doesn't matter if you're interviewing with Apple and Steve Jobs doesn't wear socks. That doesn't mean you should go without socks. I was reviewing for an interview I have with Google - their website specifically says that while their dress is casual, people interviewing should wear business attire. Once you become CEO, you can wear your underwear outside your pants if you want. Until then, keep it basic and tidy.
Alright, that's about it for what to wear. I know I'm forgetting some stuff, so I'll add it as it comes to me. Everyone should add their input as well. Remember, we're talking about recruiting and schmoozing, so it really doesn't matter how you, as an individual, likes to dress for your job. Remember rule #1.
Next up, I think we'll cover etiquette, manners and respecting your classmates.links to parts 1 & 3http://gmatclub.com/forum/guide-to-recruiting-and-schmoozing-part-58003.htmlhttp://gmatclub.com/forum/guide-to-recruiting-and-schmoozing-part-3-etiquette-59520.html