Etiquette & Professionalism

Conducting yourself professionally will aid you no matter what other tools you use during your job search process. The lack of professionalism and appropriate etiquette will likely result in missed opportunities.

Appropriate Dress

(Photos): Women's and Men's Dress for Success - Presented by Tailored Brands & Men's Wearhouse

Your professional image is an important part of the job or internship search, especially during the interview process. Choosing conservative attire rather than a fashion statement is always best. Wherever an employer is present (such as an employer information session or an industry career day), remember to dress in business professional attire.

A polished "dress for success" appearance creates a positive first impression and is essential so that the employer can focus on your qualifications, free from distraction. You should invest in modest attire with industry-appropriate colors and designs that convey confidence and professionalism. Plan ahead! Don't wait until the night before your 8:00 a.m. interview to verify that the clothing you plan to wear fits and is appropriate! 

And for those jobs/industries that are less formal, wearing business professional attire to the interview demonstrates that you are a professional who takes this process seriously. If you believe a business suit may not be the right choice, call the receptionist or administrative assistant at the prospective employer's office for tips on what constitutes appropriate employee attire.

If you are ever in doubt about what is appropriate, we encourage you to ask a professional in the field or a member of our staff.

General Tips for Creating a Great Impression

  • A suit, in black, navy or gray, is always the best (and safest) choice for both men and women.
  • Clothing should fit well and be clean and pressed. Shoes should be polished and in good condition with any scuff marks removed.
  • Deodorant is a must, but it's best to avoid cologne, perfume or body sprays.
  • Keep interview accessories professional. Take a briefcase or nice leather- or vinyl-bound portfolio to carry your resume, references or other pertinent documents. Leave tattered manila folders or college logo folders at home.
  • Turn off your cell phone and place it, along with your watch, in your jacket pocket or hand bag once you make it to the front door so that you're not tempted to look at them before or during the interview.
  • Do NOT bring backpacks, gum, iPods, coffee or soda into your interview. Avoid putting keys or coins in your pocket. This ensures they will not rattle when you walk or cause your pocket to bulge.

Tips for Creating Professional Profile Photos

A professional head shot photo is an essential part of your LinkedIn profile, and can be used on your website or any blog postings you publish. A good-quality photo can be taken by a friend or classmate with the camera found on most cell phones. For best result, follow these tips:

  1. Select a location with ample lighting. Standing outside on a sunny day with a building on campus as a backdrop might be a suitable option.
  2. Avoid busy backgrounds. Neutral, light-colored background are preferred.
  3. Dress appropriate to the position or industry you are pursuing, and style your hair, attire and makeup as you would to meet an employer.
  4. Have your friend take several up-close photos, framing you at eye-level in each shot. Don't forget to smile.
  5. Review the photos taken and select the best of the bunch to upload to LinkedIn or other social media profiles.

Profile photos should be of you only. Avoid pictures of you and your bestie, group shots, or pictures that include pets.

Guidelines for Requesting Letters of Reference

From Faculty

The first thing to keep in mind is that the vast majority of professors understand that writing letters of reference is part of their job and take pride in being able to help students succeed professionally. Many students however, may not be aware of how to best approach faculty to request a letter of reference. Here are a few helpful tips on how to get the references you need.

Who to ask

  • Choose faculty members who know you well, preferably in a variety of contexts.
  • Select professors in courses where you excelled.
  • Employers read many reference letters, most of which are filled with generic praise. Specific reference letters are more likely to get noticed. The more a professor knows about you, the more specific the letter will be.

How to ask appropriately

  • Make a formal request of your professor, by email or appointment, asking if he or she would be willing to write a reference letter.
  • Explain the purpose of the recommendation and why you have chosen the professor.
  • Give the professor time to consider your request.
  • Arrange an appointment to discuss the recommendation a few weeks in advance of the deadline, especially if you need multiple letters. Professors have very busy schedules and need ample time to write a thoughtful and distinctive letter, so ask early.

What materials to send or bring to an appointment

  • Provide information about the position (job description). The more professors know about the position the more easily they can tailor the letter toward a specific audience.
  • Bring the application forms and materials, with the deadlines clearly indicated and the relevant portions completed.
  • Provide a written description about yourself and why you are applying to this position. The more professors know about your past academic work, extracurricular interests and your aspirations, the more specific they can be about your talents and motivation.
  • Have available your graded papers and assignments that you completed for the professor’s class.
  • Provide an updated resume that highlights the experience and skills relevant to the position. When sending resumes electronically, please include your surname in the name of the file.
  • Offer a pre-addressed envelope with proper postage.


  • Double-check that the letter has arrived by the deadline. If not, contact the professor.
  • Always send the professor a thank-you note. 
  • Let the professor know whether you got the position.