How To Dress for a Job Interview Using These 10 Low-Cost Optionss

You worked hard on your resume and cover letter and have landed an interview. You do a happy dance. But, once the elation wears off, you face a new quandary: What to wear?

Now that many companies have returned to in-person interviewing, chances are that you will have to clothe your full self — top and bottom — rather than the bifurcated video-conference interview outfit pressed from the waist up and rumpled below.

But have no fear. It’s actually possible to look well-put-together while being cost-conscious about your wardrobe selection. The trick is to know where to look for those standout career-boosting items.

Keep in mind that even if the work environment where you’re interviewing leans toward casual, dressing informally for an interview sends the wrong message. Your interviewer may perceive your laid-back look as an indication that you aren’t serious about pursuing the position or that you may not know how to conduct yourself professionally.

If anything, you want to err on the side of dressing more businesslike. You want to be you on your best day.

Strive for a look that says you’re sharp, competent, and driven without overdrawing on your bank account.

Here are some general principles to follow:

1. Update an Article in Your Closet With a Single Purchase

You don’t have to splurge on something new. You can update something in your closet with a single, versatile piece that pulls the outfit together. In the transition months between summer and winter, a wool-blend cardigan can be a less pricey choice than a suit jacket or blazer.

For women: take a dress you already own, then buy a cardigan in a matching color. For men: pair a new cardigan with a pair of grey slacks hanging in your closet. Most hiring managers tend to notice the top half of outfits more than the bottom half, the key exception being shoes.

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2. Borrow Nice Clothing From Your Friends or Family Members

Friends don’t let their friends show up poorly attired to their all-important interviews. Friends and family who have made their foray into professional positions probably already have items in their closets that they can lend you.

If any of these folks share your size, ask if you can borrow a suit or jacket. Always dry-clean afterward if you want to enjoy this privilege again. Men, don’t be shy about asking to borrow Dad’s ties and belts.

3. Stick to Dark Colors

If you decide to purchase a suit, dark clothing (black, navy blue, dark green) hides more sins than light clothing. You will get far better cost-per-wear with dark clothes than their paler counterparts. Because dark clothes hide most dribbles and stains, you can wear them more times without taking them to the dry cleaner.

If you have worn the item before your interview, be sure to stroke a hot iron across the garment to make sure it looks fresh.

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4. Make Any Purchases With Your Future Job in Mind

Choose an outfit that will serve as two pieces down the road. Once you land the job, you can separate the jacket and skirt of the interview suit and wear them with other pieces. Make sure you match them with the other items in your closet. Investigate low-cost options for women at department stores.

If everything is still too expensive, ask a salesperson when the clothes will go on sale. Look for brands that will hold up to plenty of wear.

5. Look to Double Your Value When Investing in Any Apparel

When you have to spend a bit, make your money go twice as far by purchasing reversible items. Scarves and belts go further when you can reverse the sides. Search online for reversible dresses that take you twice as far. Some skirts, too, are crafted to be worn in two colors, hence, twice as often. Or, get a two-fer by buying a stylish messenger bag that doubles as a laptop carrying case.

6. Pick Accessories That Give Your Outfit Some Pizzazz

The monochrome suit will paint you as a professional, but a well-chosen accessory will provide a splash of personality. This could take the form of a scarf or jewelry for women or a tie for men. With all choices, keep the color subdued and the size modest, so they don’t come off as garish.

Secondhand stores are fun to peruse for the perfect piece, although studying for your interview must remain your top priority. Glasses with distinctive frames can also add some flair. Purchase them at a drugstore, such as CVS or Walgreens, instead of an eyeglass store, and you will save substantially.

7. Polish Up Your Shoes

Instead of purchasing a pair of brand-new shoes, you can bring scuffed shoes back to life with a cloth and some shoe polish or leather conditioner for leather boots. If the scuff marks won’t come out, scrape them with a dull knife. When reviving old shoes, it may pay to go to a professional shoemaker.

Here, for a few dollars plus a few more for a tip, your shoes will receive the smartest shoe shine of their life. Taking this step is well worth the cost since, surprisingly, shoes are often the first item HR managers notice! At least according to some surveys, 80 percent of hiring managers believe that wearing the correct shoes to a job interview is vitally important. (Pity most job seekers don’t realize this.)

8. Choose DIY Grooming Options

Regardless of your attire, you can mar your entire look if you show up with unkempt nails or grown-out roots in your dyed hair. But you don’t have to pay a professional to tidy things up. Give yourself a manicure with a nail file (and polish from a discount drugstore if you desire). The same is true for touching up your hair color.

Buy an off-the-shelf product for a fraction of the cost of going to a salon. Men: if you sport a beard, be sure it looks kempt and groomed the day you show up for your interview. Women: if you have a few springy hairs on your chin, ensure they are trimmed or tweezed out of sight on this all-important day.

9. Give Yourself a Facial

When you go for a job interview, it pays to study hard. But, after all that work, ensure you look well-rested. You may not have the wherewithal to pay for a fancy dermatologist, but you can correct certain skin issues with little financial outlay. If you suffer from rosacea, invest in a Vitamin K cream.

Vitamin K heals wounds and promotes collagen formation. Slather it on to reduce redness in the skin. (You can also take Vitamin K orally, and it’s found naturally in lettuce, kale, spinach, and broccoli.) If you have dark circles under the eyes, put cucumbers on them.

Or try soaking two black or green teabags in hot water for five minutes, then chill in the fridge for twenty minutes. Once cold, apply teabags to your closed eyes for ten to twenty minutes. Then rinse your eyes with cold water.

10. Actually Rest

You can achieve the look of being well rested or actually try to build in the sleep your body requires. Between the two, real sleep tops over-the-counter solutions each time. Study for your interview, but then get a great night’s sleep beforehand so your answers will be razor-sharp. Nothing gives you more of a confidence boost than knowing you look your finest. But sleeping well also assures you will answer those tough interview questions better.

To look worthy of the position you seek, you don’t need to splurge on expensive clothes and accessories or lay out more than your first paycheck sprucing up at a salon. If you stick to this budget-conscious advice and opt for these low-cost options, you will assuredly be able to stand tall and proud in any job candidate’s line-up.

When you know that you look the part, you will be able to exude the confidence and professional persona that can catapult you into your sought-after position. Meanwhile, you will have managed to save enough from the cost-cutting tactics that you can treat yourself (along with the friend who loaned you the suit) to a celebratory dinner once you land the job.

Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books, including Live Like a Millionaire (Without Having to Be One) (Skyhorse, 2015), 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks 2005), named in the top 10 list of “Best Books for HR Interview Prep,” and Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers, and Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks 2008). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media source, having made over 901 appearances in broadcast, print, and online outlets. For more information, visit vickyoliver.com.   

This article was produced by and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.