Updated April 3, 2014

What to Wear to a Job Interview, Without Overspending

5 ways you can find an awesome interview outfit…on the cheap

They say you can't re-do a first impression, and that's especially true in job interviews. There's a pretty good possibility that you won't be the only person they interview for this position, so you need to do everything you can to stand out (for the right reasons).

But finding that perfect interview outfit can get a little pricey, especially if you don’t have a job. You really don’t want to show up in jeans and a T-shirt, but at the same time funds are a little tight right now to be splurging on that perfect professional suit. Here are a few easy ways you can save some money and still look sharp.

1. Take a look at what you already have

If you’re anything like me, any time an event comes up, I have this bad habit of staring at my closet thinking that I don’t have anything to wear. But this is rarely the truth. I can always find something in the back that I haven’t worn in years and had completely forgotten about. These little gems can really come in handy, especially if you haven’t had a reason to dress professionally in a while. So open those drawers you never use to see what you may have tucked away for an interview.

Also, you may not realize that you probably have some articles of clothing that work perfectly together. You just have to play matchmaker between your mix of pants and dressy shirts. Who knows what combination you could put together? Turn it into a game to find the best your closet has to offer.

2. Raid your friend’s closet

So you tried out your closet and it was a bust. Chances are, you know someone around the same size as you who has an awesome fashion sense. You may be surprised just how willing your friends and family will be to help when they find out this is for a job interview.

Another plus: Getting your network behind you before an interview is also a fantastic way to know that you have people cheering you on. They’ll be with you to celebrate victories and they’ll be the encouragement you need if it doesn’t work out like you had planned. Just make sure you wash the outfit before you give it back to them.

3. Try a thrift shop on for size

Macklemore isn’t the only one who knows the value of an awesome thrift store find. These stores can really be a big asset in your outfit search. Be prepared to spend some time really getting into the racks and searching hard for that perfect outfit. The effort is totally worth it. Hidden treasures definitely exist; you just have to be dedicated to look for them. We’ve heard from people who have found $300 business suits for just $15!

To start, make a list of thrift stores and Goodwill locations in your area, as well as a list of garments and accessories you need. Then map out a good chunk of a day to make the rounds. You don’t want to only plan an hour and only have gotten through one aisle in one store. If you’re not having much luck, ask people who work there for any ideas. They may know where the perfect jacket is hidden, or they may tell you that they have an awesome pair of shoes in the back that haven’t yet been put out.

4. Start paying attention to all those emails/coupons

You probably get a ton of email every day from your favorite stores but immediately delete them. For once, spend a little extra time to actually read them and keep your eye out for discounts on clothes.

If you’re one of those people who doesn’t have a cluttered inbox, take some time and sign up for emails from stores you think could have the outfit you’ve been looking for. You can always unsubscribe after you’ve taken advantage of the 40%-off deal that only email subscribers were offered.

5. Do a little spying

If you can, take a trip to the place where you will be interviewing to get a feel on what the other employees are wearing. You’ll probably want to be more dressed up than them, but it will give you a feel of the environment and dressiness of the company. You don’t want to be the guy who shows up in a tuxedo, but you also don’t want to be the guy that shows up in khakis when everyone else is in suits. This will help you narrow down the exact outfit you’re looking for and save you some time when going through steps 1-4.

Preparing for a job interview can be a little nerve-wracking. By having the perfect, professional outfit in place, you’ll have one less thing you need to worry about and can concentrate on preparing your answers and getting hired. Good luck!

Kim is a job-search coach at Snagajob, the nation’s number one source for part-time and full-time hourly jobs. With more than 50 million registered job seekers, Snagajob has been serving hourly workers and those who employ them since 2000.

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