How to Dress for a Job Interview - on a Budget

How to Dress for a Job Interview - on a Budget

Sabrina Collier

Updated February 21, 2023 Updated February 21

It’s no secret that job interviews are nerve-wracking, but your nerves are made even worse by the stress of choosing an outfit that screams “hire me”. While obviously your skills and qualifications are going to be far more critical in getting hired, first impressions count, and what you wear can impact your interviewer’s lasting opinion of you.

When deciding what to wear to an interview, you want to pick something which makes you feel confident, professional, and well prepared to answer whatever strange or difficult questions your interviewer throws at you. Finding this perfect outfit isn’t always easy though, especially if you’re trying to buy a new outfit without breaking the bank.

When in doubt, wear a suit


A failsafe if you’re stuck for what to wear to an interview, a suit is particularly ideal if you’re interviewing for a role in a very formal, corporate environment such as banking, accounting, insurance, finance, sales or management. Other workplaces may have a more relaxed dress code but unless you’ve specifically been told otherwise, there are few occasions when a suit won’t make a positive impression.

Suits are worth investing in and spending a bit more money on for better quality and a perfect fit, but if you’re on a budget, Asda in the UK have suit jackets for £35, matching trousers for £15, and shirt and tie sets for as little as £8, to a total of £58 (not including shoes or socks). Or if you’re in the US, Amazon has a suit set for $79.99, (including the jacket and trousers). As well as checking budget stores, try searching charity shops and thrift stores – you might find a total bargain.

For shoes, guys can’t go wrong with black or brown leather lace-up shoes like this £32/$51/€43.99 pair from ASOS. If you already have a pair of interview shoes, make sure they’re not noticeably worn or scuffed. Investing in some polish is an inexpensive way to make old shoes look much newer and smarter.

Women should be wary of showing too much cleavage or wearing a skirt that ends any higher than just above the knees, as either of these could give the wrong impression about your level of professionalism. In terms of color, pink, orange and red can seem too bright in particularly formal settings so are probably best avoided unless you’re interviewing for a more casual workplace. However, a pretty color shirt underneath your jacket is an effective way to show a bit of personality while still being smart. Depending on how confident you are walking in them, you might like to team your outfit with a pair of low-to-mid heels (these black block heels from ASOS for £22/US$35/€29.99 look quite easy to walk in), but I personally always prefer staying on the safe side with flats like these black ballet pumps, which are just £9.99 (or US$16/€13.49).

It’s a good idea to research the workplace culture of your prospective employer beforehand, which may give you an understanding of how formally employees are expected to dress. If the company culture is quite casual, you may feel slightly out of place in a suit, but it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed, and your prospective employer will appreciate the effort.

Smart dresses

Smart dress

Another excellent choice when deciding what to wear to an interview is a smart, elegant work dress. Neutral colors like grey, black and blue (particularly navy) are usually the best options, but that doesn’t mean others are out of bounds – as usual, don’t go too garish or revealing. This dress from Oasis (£55 or £49.50 with student discount) comes in interview-friendly blue or black, is a great length, and features scallop details on the sleeves and the hem that add a little something different. It’s a little pricey, but will also serve you well as a work dress once you get hired. As the weather turns colder, it’s a good idea to find warmer fabrics such as this long-sleeved dress from Next (£32/US$58/€38), which can be paired with tights and boots to see you through particularly frosty winter days.

Another good choice is this black belted dress, also from Next, which is only £28 and comes in petite for those 5’3” or under. A pencil dress like this $27 option from Amazon is also ideal for job interviews and can easily be styled for other occasions. For a bag, keep things classy and neutral – this one from ASOS is just £20/$32/€27.99 and is a good size for fitting in your CV and any samples of previous work to show the interviewer. If you’re already wearing black, try a different color for your bag, such as this one from Glamorous, which is £28.

Dos and Don’ts to remember when deciding what to wear to an interview

  • Do be yourself – interviewers want to see the real you, and this won’t work if you don’t feel yourself in what you’re wearing
  • Don’t overload on perfume, aftershave, makeup or jewelry
  • Do be well-groomed, with freshly washed and styled hair and clean fingernails (avoid bright nail polish)
  • Don’t wear shoes you’re uncomfortable in
  • Do inject a little personality into your outfit, without being too bold
  • Don’t wear denim or leather (unless it’s leather shoes!)
  • Do pay attention to your body language – make eye contact, smile and don’t slouch. Find an outfit that makes you feel confident, and then project that confidence (without appearing arrogant)

What’s your go-to interview outfit? Let us know in the comments below.

This article was originally published in September 2017 . It was last updated in January 2020

Written by

The former Assistant Editor of, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

Related Articles

Most Shared

Most Read