Updated: May 26, 2020
Want to look like a million $$ for your job interview/negotiation but don't have the funds? Don't worry, we've got you covered. This post is all about planning strategically so that you can feel confident in what you wear and nail your job interview without breaking the bank.
What wardrobe items do you feel the most confident wearing? Dresses versus pants? Polo shirts versus suits? As in life, your career journey is all about YOU and being true to yourself. Figure out what works well for you and stay true to that. That said, if you prefer to wear athletic pants and crocs all day every day, you're probably going to have to make some changes for your career outfits.
Check out these 5 books for more money-savings ideas!
Know Your Company
If the company is focused on trendy fashion or tv/media then you should make different wardrobe decisions than if the company or job/role is focused on working outdoors all day. Learn more about your company ahead of time and plan accordingly. Prior to your interview with the company, it's okay to ask the hiring professional about the general attire at the company and what is commonly worn day to day. Your interview outfit should be dressier than the day-to-day job attire. A good guideline is that it's always better to be overdressed for an interview than too casual. Additionally, for professional attire, modesty matters. When choosing interview outfits, it's always better to go with something more conservative and modest over something that might be too short/too low-cut/too trendy. This is relevant head to toe - outfit, shoes, and jewelry.
General Career Wardrobe Tips:
Purchase and wear the highest quality items you can afford. For key wardrobe pieces, such as a suit jacket and shoes, the higher quality will be worth it in the long-run as the item will last much longer and you can wear it more.
Trends Aren't Trendy for Career Wardrobe
You're not getting hired based on what you're wearing so skip the trendy clothes and opt for conservative and more simple items. Trends don't usually translate well into the professional environment. Just because a clothing item is popular with you and your friends on the weekends doesn't mean that it's a good idea to wear it during a job interview.
For even more tips, I recommend "10,0001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget", a great book by the writers of Wise Bread, with literally thousands of tips for saving money. I personally own this book and reference it often. When you're ready to buy, you can use this link to purchase on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3fauU4C
Keep it Simple
Relax, you don't need to completely overhaul your entire wardrobe when you are starting your career, much less interviewing for jobs! You only need 1 to 3 good
outfits during the job interview and hiring process. To get started, go through your closet and set out all of the items that you think could work for job interviews etc. Based on what you already have, you get a better idea of what you NEED to get. You can also work with multiple wardrobe pieces that you can mix and match with your other wardrobe pieces in order to save money!
Build Your Career Wardrobe without Breaking the Bank
Why Brand New?
You don't always have to buy a career outfit brand new. There are so many other options out there! Below are the Top 5 options to get started.
1. Borrow from friends/family/colleagues
This is THE BEST option when you're just starting out because it's FREE! Why buy anything when you can raid your friend's closet and borrow some great pieces first. For job interviews, you'll only need to wear the item for a few hours and so it will be minimal wear and tear on your friend's clothes. Even if you borrow just one item, that's one less thing you need to spend money on!
2. Thrift Stores
Second best option for building your career wardrobe is to utilize your local thrift stores. These are great resources for clothes and other items! It takes some time and digging but you can find great options at extremely low prices. Most thrift stores also offer additional deals on items marked with special tags - On Tuesdays all red tagged items are an additional 10% off. To save even more money, buy one of the thrift store's reusable bags if available. The bags can cost around $5 initially but then typically provide you with a discount later every time you use it for shopping. As an example, I save 10% on my shopping with my thrift store bag. It all adds up!
3. Consignment Shops
This is a great option to sell some of your gently-used quality wardrobe pieces that you no longer wear. You can then use any money made from selling your clothes to purchase your career wardrobe pieces at the store at a discount. Note though that if you choose to sell some of your items, you typically won't get paid until your items actually sell. Keep that in mind for your overall timeline if you're counting on selling items to make money before you buy new pieces.
4. Clearance racks at retail stores. Sales racks at retail stores
Who doesn't love a deal?! If you prefer to shop at regular retail stores, swing by the sale and clearance racks. From 10-75% off, you can find some great items at great prices. Why pay full price if you don't have to? If you have time before you start interviewing for jobs, start watching the sales at your favorite stores so that you know the best time to go shopping. Better yet, use an app to keep track of retail deals more easily. Here are just a few examples:
* Cartwheel - Target discounts and sales
I also recommend "Shop Smart, Save More", a great book by Teri Gault, the founder of TheGroceryGame.com. Hundreds of tips to save money when shopping for groceries or anything else! I own this book and have used its many tips and yes, have saved some serious money. Ready to buy the book? Use this link to purchase on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2zQe22V