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Selecting Formal Interview Clothes on a Budget

October 10th, 2021

An individual wearing a suit and tie, pulling a white business card out of the suit jacket breast pocket.


The first step to a successful interview is dressing for success. A study conducted by the company Monster found that 62% of employers said that a candidate's dress sense impacts their employability. But what if you don't have the money for formal clothes? Or, what if you struggle with choosing the appropriate clothing for the interview setting’

If there's a job you want, but it requires more formal clothing than what you have or can afford to buy (at least at the time), don't let this stop you. It may require some creativity and some extra work on your part, but getting that job could make a world of difference for your future.

"On a budget" can mean different things to many people. Almost everyone, however, has options for clothing for the job interview coming up — as long as they know where to look.


One convenient option for getting some formal clothing for your interview is to ask a friend or family member if they will lend you theirs. When asking, they might want to know the date and time of your interview, the company you're interviewing for, and what position you're applying for before they can give you a definite answer. This way, they can get an idea of when their clothes will be returned to them and if they even have the style of clothing you need.

You might even want to try the clothing on and see what your friend or family member thinks. If you get permission to borrow the clothing, make sure to be very careful and return them in the condition in which you were given them. You may even take the time to wash or dry clean the clothes.

It's important to remember that just because someone lends you an outfit for your interview doesn't mean that you should keep it after the fact. Make sure to clean and return their clothes promptly afterward.


You can find high-quality second-hand items depending on where you go and how thoroughly you inspect the clothes. There are plenty of thrift stores, outlet stores, discount designer options, and online second-hand stores with hidden gems for sale — and at an affordable price.

When you shop online for clothes, it's not as easy to assess quality by just looking at photos and product descriptions, but you may find great deals. Shop in-store if you need to look closely at the clothes for blemishes like creases, stains, tears, or holes. Be sure to examine clothes carefully because a tiny hole can lead to a much bigger one on interview day. Lastly, make sure the clothes fit appropriately when purchased before leaving the store.


Neatness is just as important for an interview as the right clothes are. The first impression you give to those who meet you may be determined by the neatness of your clothing. Even if you don't have the most expensive and flashy clothes, they need to be clean, fitted, blemish-free, and odorless.

How you present yourself extends past nice clothes, however. Neatness also includes good hygiene, being well-groomed, and preparedness for the interview. In many cases, an interviewer is applying this look to your work ethic. A candidate with a neat presentation who has the same qualifications as an unkempt one will virtually always be chosen for the job — they may even hire a neater candidate who is not as qualified.


A statement piece can help you stand out, especially when it’s incorporated into your ensemble properly. While you don't want it to be a distraction, you do want to be remembered. One timeless and classic piece that ties any outfit together is a nice watch. If a bracelet is more your style, make sure it compliments your overall look. Earrings and necklaces are always viable choices, particularly if you prefer to keep your wrists bare. If you don’t have any of these, there are always affordable stores where you can purchase unique designer jewelry for a good price.

Using one or two statement pieces can help make your outfit stand out. However, you don't want them to be the centerpiece of your interview. Subtly incorporate a statement piece into your apparel to make it effective.


It may be the case that you have some nice clothes, but you stashed them away in the back of your closet and forgot all about them. A nice button-down shirt, blouse, dress, and shoes can all be hiding in your closet, basement, attic, or garage just waiting to be showcased.

Double-check if you have any nice items of clothing with a set of fresh eyes. If you find some nice clothes to wear, you could save time and money, rather than borrowing something or going to a store.


If you do find an article of clothing — in storage or at a store — but there is a tear or hole in it, consider making alterations to it. Sometimes, you may find a perfect shirt or pants but are blemished or the wrong size. Some thread and a needle can fix both of these issues. If you have the skills or know someone who does, making alterations to your clothes can be a fresh way to get to wear a great piece of clothing for your interview.

Getting ready for an interview can be daunting. If you're on a budget, the process of finding what to wear is even more challenging. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to dress well without breaking your bank account or spending hours in front of the mirror working with clothes that don't fit right. Use these tips and tricks to make dressing for interviews easier.