4 Budget-Friendly Ways to Dress for an Interview Without Looking Cheap

suit, style, apparel

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You already know what to wear to your next job interview: A suit. For years, men have been told that a nice, properly fitted suit is the best thing to wear if they’re looking to impress a future boss. But the truth is that getting dressed for an interview isn’t so simple.

For one, there’s the question of whether you should be wearing a suit at all. While in most fields the suit is still the most appropriate interview attire, in creative and tech industries, a more flexible dress code often applies. If you show up dressed to the nines you run the risk of looking out of touch.

“You need to know the norms for interview dress for your own field. And not just your field in general, but your field in your particular geographic area. The norms for banking jobs in California can be different from the norms for banking jobs in Chicago,” wrote HR expert Alison Green on the Ask a Manager blog. “When you are unsure and can’t seem to find out, wear a suit.”

Suit or no suit isn’t the only the only aspect of your interview wardrobe you need to worry about. Shoes, tie, your haircut, and even your nails all make an impression on interviewers as well. Guys who are angling for a new job need to put some thought into their entire outfit, whether they plan to wear jeans or something more formal to the interview. But looking good can come at a price – purchase a new suit, shirt, tie, and shoes and you’ll easily be out a few hundred dollars, and much more if you have expensive taste.

Fortunately, you can dress to impress without breaking the bank. If you have an interview coming up and don’t want to spring for an entirely new wardrobe, here are four quick, budget friendly fixes that will help you look your best (and hopefully, snag that new job).

1. Invest in tailoring

suit on mannequin

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If your go-to interview suit is a little saggy around the waist, there’s no need to hit the store for new duds. Find an experienced tailor and have your suit adjusted to fit your new size. Tailoring can also take a dated-looking jacket or pants from drab to stylish.

“Suits can absolutely be altered should your weight fluctuate or stylistic preferences change,” Daniel Lewis, co-founder of Brooklyn Tailors, told Men’s Journal.

While quality tailoring won’t necessarily be cheap, it will probably be less than the cost of an entirely new interview-ready outfit.


2. Focus on grooming

Good grooming is essential to making a positive interview impression. It may sound obvious, but get your haircut a few days before the interview, treat yourself to a nice shave, and make sure your nails are clean. Avoid strong colognes (they can be a major turn-off if your interviewer is sensitive to odors) and consider removing piercings and covering up tattoos if the industry is more conservative. Taking care of those little details shouldn’t cost a lot, but they matter to interviewers. Your expensive suit isn’t going to do you any favors if everything else about you looks unkempt.

“For a candidate to come in unkempt in any way, that tells me he doesn’t respect the process and that he won’t go to any extra effort,” Dan Kilgore, a principal at the Boston-based recruiting firm Riviera Advisors, told Men’s Health. “If he’s not going to do it for me, the interviewer, do I really think he’s going to do it when I’m his boss?”

3. Spruce up the small things

man straightening tie

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Sometimes, the details really make the look. If your suit is fine but the overall look is a bit blah, spending a few dollars on a new tie or shirt can help you put your best foot forward. Taking the time to get your shoes shined will also help you look polished and professional, and you should make sure you know how to properly tie your tie. A nice briefcase or leather document holder makes it look like you mean business.

“Your suit can be impeccable, but if your shoes are unkempt, or the heels are covered in mud or chewed down, it’s a sign of a lack of attention to detail,” Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, told U.S. News & World Report.


4. Spend on borrowed fashion

Women discovered years ago that they could have designer looks for less by renting high-end handbags and pricey gowns for a fraction of the retail price. Most men haven’t been as quick to embrace such services, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not out there.

FreshNeck bills itself as “Netflix for ties.” Sign up for a membership (starting at $20 per month) and you’ll get access to a vast virtual closet of ties, pocket squares, cuff links, and more from designers like Rag & Bone, Prada, and Valentino. Eleven James rents out luxury watches starting at $149 per month – much less than investing in your own high-end timepiece. Users of the service claim it’s paid off handsomely (though you probably want to avoid anything too flashy).

“Everyone I meet compliments me and it’s brought me new business. It’s a real conversation starter,” Eleven James customer Santo Rosabianca told CNN. “I’ve been really blessed by it.”

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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