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Dressing for a Job Interview on a Limited Budget

Above:  Example of people dressed for success at our Cherry Hill campus!

If you are enrolled in a career training program, you probably have learned about the importance of dressing well for a job interview. But many people, especially students on a limited budget, cannot afford to go out and purchase a brand new business suit.

If you are looking for a job, or will be looking for a job soon, what are some of your options, so that you are prepared when you get your first interview? Borrowing clothing from a friend or family member is the least expensive option. But if that doesn’t work for you, you might want to consider some national and regional organizations that seek to provide low-cost alternatives for job seekers.

Below is a list of national organizations, as well as some organizations in the Delaware Valley region that may be a good way to “dress for success” on a limited budget:

National Organizations

Goodwill Industries International

Goodwill collects clothing donations, and sells them at their retail stores at affordable prices. You may be able to find inexpensive interview clothing at a Goodwill store in your region. The proceeds from the sales help the organization to meet its mission of enhancing “the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by helping people reach their full potential through education, skills training and the power of work.” To find a Goodwill retail store near you, use the zip code locator at the top right corner of the Goodwill homepage.

Dress for Success

Dress for Success is an international organization that provides professional clothing to women who are in need. The women are referred to Dress for Success by community-based organizations. Contact the branch nearest you to learn more about how you may qualify for their services.

Philadelphia and South Jersey Area

Career Wardrobe

Career Wardrobe is a nonprofit located in Philadelphia that helps women in transition get started in their career paths. Career Wardrobe’s mission is to “empower women in transition by providing programs that inspire the confidence necessary to achieve self-sufficiency and pursue a productive career.” They do this by providing professional work attire, educational programs, and networking tools and opportunities.

Menzfit

Menzfit is a non–profit organization located in Philadelphia whose mission is “ensuring long–term gainful employment and financial fitness to low–income men who are largely minority with little formal education.” The organization does this by providing rofessional interview clothing, career development, and financial literacy services.

Image and Attitude

Image and Attitude is located in Pennsauken, New Jersey (in South Jersey). It is a nonprofit that empowers women and men in transition by providing career readiness services. One of their many services is a career closet where clients are paired with a volunteer to help them select an appropriate outfit.

Central New Jersey Area

Jumble Store/Career Closet (Union County)

The Jumble Store is a non-profit thrift store owned and operated by the Junior League of Elizabeth-Plainfield. The clothing is sold at inexpensive prices. The proceeds are used to help families in crisis in Union County.

Catholic Charities Free Store

At the Free Store located at 132 N. Warren Street in Trenton, residents of Mercer County can “shop” for free clothing and household items. Call 609-394-8847 for more information.

Delaware Area

Wings for Success

Wings for Success “empowers women in need to pursue employment and economic security through apparel, advice, and advocacy.” The organization, located just north of Delaware in Frazer, PA, helps women access free, work-appropriate clothing.

Hanover Presbyterian Church Clothing Closet

There are many local churches in Wilmington and Dover that run clothing closets. Hanover Presbyterian Church is one suggestion if you are looking for a well-organized clothing closet that may have options for interview-appropriate clothes.

Other Ideas

Thrift Stores and Consignment Shops

Look in your local yellow pages or search online for thrift stores and consignment shops near you. Thrift stores tend to be less expensive, but consignments shops are sometimes more picky about the clothes they sell, so you may be able to find higher-end items in a consignment shop that are appropriate for a job interview.

Craigslist and eBay

More and more people are selling their lightly-worn clothing through online services like Craigslist and eBay. Check these resources to see if you can find a good deal. Unfortunately you can’t try on the clothing, so make sure you know that it will fit before spending any money on it. With E-bay purchases, remember that shipping costs can drive up the price. And with Craigslist, take extra steps to be safe if you are going to meet a stranger somewhere to complete the sale.

We hope this list helps you find appropriate attire for your next job interview, as well as other occasions where you might need a professional look, such as networking events or informational interviews. Here’s wishing you the best of luck!

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This article was provided by the Harris School of Business. The Career Services department at the Harris School wishes all of our students the best as they prepare for their interviews. Remember, we are here to help! We offer online resources to help you with your job search, such as sample resumes and interview tips. And never hesitate to come to see us in person. Visit our department and see how we can help you with getting your career started!