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How to Dress for an Interview on a Budget

Posted: September 2, 2011


Most people looking for work are on a tight budget. Here are 10 tips for dressing well with tight budgets in mind – and some of them won’t cost you a cent…

1. Get Clean and Buffed! Be sure your fingernails are well groomed for that handshake. Women and men should both avoid wearing too much cologne/perfume. Be sure clothes are freshly washed and ironed, and shoes polished or cleaned. 

2. Be sure your hair is well cut, neatly combed and appropriate for the job you hope to get.

3. Keep jewelry to a minimum. It’s best to wear small earrings if you’re a woman. For men, the best bet is no jewelry at all.

4. If you can shop for new interview clothes, try mass-market stores like Target or J.C. Penney’s or Wal-Mart; go to the ‘dressier or career clothes’ departments. Avoid labels that say ‘dry clean only’. Try DSW or other discount chains for shoes.

5. If you’re really stretched for cash, hit the thrift stores that sell gently used clothing. Just be sure the fit is good and that there are no stains, tears or missing buttons.

6. Women: a good business casual outfit can be a long-sleeved shirt and vest or sweater paired with either a knee length skirt or dress pants. Covered toe shoes are preferable to open-toe sandals. Avoid low cut blouses and high cut hemlines! They scream unprofessional. Likewise, clothing that is too tight or too baggy makes a poor impression.

7. Men: business casual for you should mean a solid, long-sleeved, button down shirt with a collar; white, blue or green are all good choices. If you go with a patterned shirt, pick a more conservative stripe rather than a loud pattern. You’ll want a coordinating tie so plan to buy these together. Choose solid color dress pants that fit well. Get them dry-cleaned if needed, or press them. Don’t forget a belt and clean, polished, “street shoes”.

8. If you are interviewing at an office that’s more formal, go up a notch. Buy or borrow one good outfit and don’t worry about wearing it twice. If it’s a neutral color, no one will notice. Women could go with a dress, matching jacket and pants or skirt and jacket/blouse combination. Men could upgrade their look with a sport jacket or a suit. Again, Target, Wal-Mart or J.C.Penney’s will have a good range of value priced clothes.

9. Avoid the latest hot fashions and go for the ‘basics’. Choose classic styles that will last you more than one year. Can’t decide? Ask the sales clerk which styles and brands are in their stores year after year. Pick from those.

10. Don’t forget a smile! Yes, it’s corny, but once you look good, you need to finish it off with a smile. A smile shows interest, a likable personality and appreciation for the interview. It makes everything you wear look that much better.