Interview Dress For Men on a Budget


Men of all ages sabotage their interview as soon as they walk in to meet with the hiring manager or human resources. What you wear does matter. By following the advice outlined in this article you can be sure that you are wearing the right interview attire while at the same time staying within your budget.


You do not have to travel to Savile Row in London or the most expensive men’s store in your city to get a suit that will serve you through a series of job interviews. Most chains have men’s suits. You can buy them as a coat and trousers or sometimes you can buy them separately. If you can do the latter do so. It will require less tailoring and fit better off the rack. If you can only buy one suite get a solid navy blue one. If you can afford two suits get a medium to dark gray one also. For your initial suits avoid pin and chalk stripes, plaids, other patterns plus black or tan.

The suit jacket should site well in the shoulders most importantly. Make sure it is large enough that you can easily button the middle button only on a three button suit and the top button on a two button suit. The suit jacket should have a handkerchief pocket on the front to the wearer’s left breast and two flapped pockets at hip level – one on each site. You WILL NOT use these pockets. At minimum you will need to take the suit coat to a tailor to get the sleeves hemmed. Plan to show a bit of shirt cuff (more on that to follow). The only additional coat tailoring may be in the back of the coat if one is very thin or very narrow shouldered.

Trousers must be the same color as the suit jacket (and of the same fabric – close does not work). Pleats or no pleats are an individual matter. But they must be dress suit trousers – not casual or twill trousers. The waist should have belt loops (more on that later). Wear or bring your dress shoes when trying on the suit trousers. They should touch the top of the shoes and allow for a small dent call a “break” in the front crease of the trousers. If they do not they are too short. If there is more than one dent or break or if the puddle around the shoes then you will need to get them hemmed by a tailor. You can wear them with cuffs or not. Again it is a matter of personal taste (I prefer cuffs).

Note: always make sure the suit has been dry cleaned and is free of spots, lint and wrinkles before any interview.


Even in this age of Casual Office attire and a range of colors and patterns for men – from head to toe – the white shirt is still standard for interviews. Modestly priced white dress shirts can be round at most retail chains. The shirt of choice should not be patterned or textured. The ideal collar is the plain point collar rather than the button down, tab (a small tab with a snap or button under the tie) or pin (worn what looks like a safety pin under the tie) collars. Button cuffs are preferred for interviews over cuff links and French cuffs (too dressy). Make sure the shirt is made to neck and sleeve size rather than Small, Medium and Large. If you need to, try on a couple in the dressing room. The collar should be comfortable and not too loose or too tight when buttoned. The cuffs should come down to the end of your wrist joint. Cotton is better than polyester and cotton but that is better than polyester. Many shirts today are no iron but they are more expensive. If you do not know how to iron well, take your shirts that require ironing to the cleaners to be cleaned and pressed. No short sleeve shirts. No pocket flaps, cowboy themes or epaulettes (unless you are Charlie Wilson).


Again, try the department stores and also the value stores that sell merchandise that has not sold at the big department stores. Look for a tie that is not too thick or too thin. Three inches to three and one half inches works well. For the navy blue suit look for the following ties: red or maroon with small white or blue dots or patterns, light blue with small white, red or maroon dots or patterns or yellow with small blue or maroon dots or patterns. No navy blue, no green or other colors. Silk ties are best. Silk and polyester are next best. Avoid 100% polyester. For the gray suit go with a navy blue tie with small red, maroon or white dots or patterns. The Maroon and the light blue ties work well too. Striped ties are acceptable (the President of the United States wears them) but they turn some people off as they can represent British regiments, men’s clubs and private (“public” in UK terminology) schools. While I like striped ties you have to be careful with them due to the variety of reactions they stimulate. The same applies to bow ties. As has been often said – unless you are applying for a position as a college professor or a pediatrician – forget the bow tie.


Wear a thinner black leather belt with a plain buckle that is gold or silver colored. No woven leather, cloth or brown belts.


While I have written who articles just on the subject of shoes, a couple of points about shopping for interview shoes at a reasonable price. First, look for leather shoes. They should be black. Laced shoes are best. Shoes with rounded toes are better than those with square ones. Thinner soles are better than thick ones. Leather soles are better than rubber ones. The perfect shoes are the oxford, the split mock toe and the cap toe. You can see these at any good shoe department or store. They are more traditional and never go out of style. Avoid anything that looks like a running shoe. While I like dress loafers – which come with and without tassels and can be very expensive – some people react negatively to them and view them like the striped ties. As such it is best to avoid them for interview situations. Make sure the shoes you do buy are polished to a shine for each interview.

Underwear and Socks

Men today wear underwear of all styles and colors. Make sure you wear a tee shirt style undershirt in white for the interview. Wearing no undershirt or a colored undershirt is not acceptable. You are on your own as to under shorts – until you get to the gym or country club locker room that is. Wear plain black socks. The higher the better. Do not go without socks or wear the short athletic socks in any color. Never wear white socks unless it is with sneakers or running shoes.

While none of these points will assure you a job, they will serve to keep your attire from draining your bank account and also making it either a positive or at least neutral so your skills, experience and drive can speak for themselves.

George F. Franks, III is the President of Franks Consulting Group, a Bethesda, Maryland management consulting and leadership coaching practice. George has over twenty-five years of experience working with companies of all sizes plus not-for-profit organizations and individual leaders. He is a member of the Institute of Management Consultants (USA) and many other professional and non-profit organizations. Franks Consulting Group is on the web at:
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