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The Best Professional Interview Attire on a College Student Budget

Male dress shoes and orange fruit socks

The first impression in a job interview is especially important and can be difficult for college students on a budget. Maintaining professionalism with personal attire is a great way to solidify your capability as an emerging professional. A thoughtful, polished presentation during the interview can boost your confidence and help assure the employer of your commitment to excellence in the position. Here are some tips to consider for affordable, professional attire that will fit within a college student’s budget and make a good impression in your next interview

Research Company Expectations

Dress codes may vary from company to company, and it is important to research what level of professionalism is suitable for your job opportunity. A dress code reflects the company culture, and the interview is an opportunity to align yourself with the values and goals of the company with an intentional, communicative dress. Take time to look up images from the company website of workplace attire or recent social media posts that could highlight the commonplace dress. Consider contacting the company’s HR department and asking what the appropriate dress code would be for an upcoming interview. Equipping yourself with the company’s expectations for professional dress is a fantastic way to prepare for your interview. Below is a foundational breakdown of the differences between casual and formal attire as well as affordable locations to shop.

Business Casual or Formal?

Business casual refers to the middle ground between formal and informal dress. This is the safest option for job interviews in nearly every interview. Business casual describes an outfit that maintains a professional quality without the formality of a suit. Often considered a step up from jeans or a t-shirt, business casual is a more relaxed workplace standard than traditional dress.

Formal attire elevates business casual dress to a traditional standard. Although casual dress codes are more prominent, business formal is required by certain job environments such as business, finance, and law. When interviewing for positions that require business formal attire, it is important to show hiring managers that you will be a great fit within the company.

Stores such as Target, H&M, Old Navy, Marshalls, and Macy’s have great staple pieces for business casual dress at a reasonable price. To find college budget appropriate formal attire, look for discounts at more high-end stores such as J. Crew, Loft, Nordstrom, and Banana Republic. Express offers great formal and casual pieces at an appropriate cost. Additionally, a high number of stores offer college student discounts or off-price divisions such as Banana Republic Factory or Nordstrom Rack for great deals. No matter your budget, dressing for success can be easy and affordable when shopping mindfully at the right stores.

Women’s Interview Attire

Here are guidelines to consider for interview dress as a woman.


Business casual attire for women begins with simple and professional pieces. An easy interview option would be to pair a neutral button-down blouse with relaxed trousers. Some work environments allow straight length, dark colored jeans. You may also choose a cardigan or blazer to match a skirt. Timeless, classy pieces are best for business casual that provides countless mix and match options for industry environments. Casual dresses are also appropriate and can be as staple layering pieces in an outfit.

Wear comfortable, closed toed shoes during your interview. A polished look is completed with black or navy flats. Low heels are also acceptable. Accessories such as jewelry or nail polish should be classic additions that never distract.


In formal interview situations, women’s attire elevates the classic pieces to a more structured, conservative setting. Modest dress blouses compliment slacks or pencil skirts. An excellent choice would be a pantsuit, with suitable trousers and blazers. Tailored dresses and skirt suits are also options for formal dress codes.

Men’s Interview Attire

Here are guidelines to consider for interview dress as a man.


Men’s business casual attire builds upon collared button-down shirts with long sleeves and relaxed fit dress pants. For your next interview, pairing khaki pants with a button-down shirt and sweater or tie is a great polished option. Including a blazer or professional sport jacket is a wonderful layering piece. Dark colored jeans may be acceptable, depending on your work culture.

Complete the outfit with a closed toe shoe. Loafers, Oxfords, or other leather shoes are the best choices. Pair with solid dress socks and a leather belt to compliment the shoe and pants. Keep accessories and jewelry minimal.


For a business formal interview, men’s fashion similarly takes the pieces of casual attire and elevates them for a conservative environment. Men’s dress code includes suits, ties, and dress shirts. Neutral dress shirts can be paired with conservative ties. Tailored blazers match navy or black dress pants.

What to Avoid for the Interview?

We have discussed appropriate business casual and formal attire for an interview, but there are a few fashion misdemeanors you should be careful to avoid. To make sure you look your professional best, avoid this list below:

  • Shorts
  • Athletic attire or tennis shoes
  • Open-toed sandals or flip flops
  • Jeans with holes
  • Polo shirt
  • Crop tops or shirts with plunging necklines
  • Sleeveless tanks/dresses
  • Flashy jewelry
  • Headphones

Dress for Success

Securing an interview in the hiring process is a great accomplishment, and dressing for success is the best way to make a good first impression. Thoughtful research can help construct your interview outfit, but if in doubt of the company culture, it is preferable to be overdressed than underdressed. Interviews can be overwhelming, and Liberty University Career Services is available to help with further dress guidance and mock interview prep. Schedule a Career Coaching appointment to make the best impression in your next interview.

Written by Ashley Light  


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