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Can't afford suit for MBA interview...


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I have a hunch that I will be invited to interviews for at least one MBA program. The problem is that I don't own a suit and currently my finances are such that I could buy a suit but that would be cutting into my living money a good deal. Should I just bite the bullet and spend all my money on a suit? Or should I just show up in nice pants and a nice shirt?

If I do go with the pants + shirt outfit, should I make some sort of apology at the interview for not having the proper attire? Or should I not mention it and hope they let it slide?

Thanks for any advice.

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You don't have any similar-sized friends that would loan you a suit to wear for the time being?  Or a sportsjacket at a minimum?  Regardless of what you decide to wear, definitely don't make any apologies!


I personally try to dress up as much as possible for an interview, within the "socially acceptable" limits.  For my field, that means I show up in slacks & a sportsjacket (even though some candidates will be in jeans), which is usually dressier than the profs (but not always).  You want to portray an image that shows you're confident and mature, which is why you never want to apologize for your attire...


If you're going into business, a suit would probably be a good investment as you'll have lots of elbow rubbing & future interviews that will require a suit (conferences, summer internships, etc).

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If you can't afford a suit now, Target has really decent-looking slacks and sports coats. In my experience, they don't always wash well, but for $80-ish you could have a nice outfit for an interview that will work. 

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You might try local thrift stores or the local Goodwill (especially one in a good neighborhood). You may be able to find an affordable suit or one that will work with a bit of tailoring.


This is a great suggestion. You'd really be surprised what you would find. Also, look into consignment stores. They tend to have higher end labels for accessible prices.

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For an MBA interview I'd consider a suit an absolute necessity. Every other applicant will likely show up that way and this isn't one of those occasions where you don't want to stand apart. It will seem as though you're not taking the interview (or your future career) seriously.


It doesn't need to be a Brioni power-suit, but nearly anything (within reason) is better than nothing. I agree with the previous suggestions to try second-hand stores, places like Target or Ross, or to borrow one if you have that option. Stick to navy or gray and remember that a cheap suit that fits well is better than a flashy suit that doesn't.


If you do end up being able to sacrifice a little cash, you would do well to look into Indochino who makes quite nice fitted suits for [relatively] cheap (but you'll have to budget a few weeks for delivery).


Other tips (just as far as overall appearance/presentation on interview day):

* avoid jewelry except a decent watch (and wedding ring if applicable)

* for the love of god don't wear sneakers with a suit (as with suit buying advice above, if you don't have proper shoes pick some up at a second-hand store in brown or black - they don't need to be the greatest shoes ever made, but they should not look casual). And if your only belts have been chewed up over time, grab a cheap leather belt while you're at it (black).

* and get dress-socks! These should go up to mid-calf or a little higher. (You'd be surprised, but people do show up with the suit and the shoes and then sit down to reveal gym socks and leg hair. Don't be that guy.)

* as ties go, keep it simple. Just go with a flat color (no pattern), and nothing too bright/contrasty. And go with a classic white dress-shirt.

* get a hair-cut, foo'! And shave well, or just clean up beard, etc nicely if you have facial hair. Keep nails trimmed close. Nose hair and unibrows be gone!

* bring something to write on - a padfolio is a good option, and the way I'd go (and for MBA programs, have a few copies of your resume handy just in case). Some folks might show up with briefcases and the like, but I'd see that as overkill or trying too hard (unless you have to bring a portfolio of work or a laptop for some reason).

* it may help to think of your MBA interview as interviewing to be a VP/COO/CFO of some company. How would you want to look for that interview? Showing up looking sharp will not only present well, but it will help you feel confident about that presentation (of yourself). The more you feel like you mean business, the more you'll exude that notion, and it will make an impression. This is [probably] your first real sale, and you are the product. An interview is a competition and there are no points for second place.

* when asked a question, take a breath before answering. Smile. Be cool. There's no rush, and consciously remembering to breathe will help keep you calm and collected.

* Make eye contact and smile. Don't cut jokes but try to laugh a little. If you seem happy to be there, your interviewers will be happy to have you there.

* be prepared for the "What are your greatest weaknesses?" kind of question. Have a thing or two in mind that reflect some forethought and introspection, but don't be self-depricating. It's a fine line, so it helps to prepare.

(Apologies for getting off-topic a bit on some of those.)


Summary: clean up, dress up, look sharp, be confident, make eye contact, smile, and breathe!


[For reference, though I'm finishing undergrad now and applying to PhD programs in this cycle, I spent about a decade at the executive level in various businesses prior to returning to school.]

Edited by Vincenzo
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Second-hand consignment shop. At a minimum, find a nice blazer and pay what you need to for it. You can get a cheap button-down white shirt, and you can have a little bit more flexibility with your skirt/pants (ex. grey, black, print, etc.). Go conservative though- a full-blown suit would be best, but hey, gotta do what you gotta do.

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PS If you're female, Jones New York has been having suit sales like crazy- they just had one a week or two ago to make your own suit for $99 or something like that. Maybe see what other offers you can find there, or coupon codes at Macy's, or something like that. That being said, if you're going to go for your MBA, you're going to need a suit (some of them even wear suits like, on a daily basis for no reason). Probably should just bite the bullet. And I wouldn't draw attention to what you're doing- what are you going to say, "sorry I'm dressed like this but I'm poor"? Just rock it with confidence.

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  • 7 months later...

On interview you can wear a formal dress like dress shirt and dress pant with formal shoes. You also can wear a tie. I try to quote a saying by http://www.fitcustomshirts.com/


Nowadays there are elegant, graceful and decorated pants are available for men. It has not flaps, pockets and valves. Cuffs must be relatively balanced to leg’s length. The cuff for average height’s men should be ¾ inch higher and can be 2 inches larger. Rules for shirts and trousers are mentioned below….! Cotton trousers are men’s favourite!

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I have really broad shoulders. I have to have suits fitted or they look ridiculous.


This does not always jive well with my present income or need to interview.


I wear "dress sweaters" as a compromise. Works great if you're interviewing in the fall/winter. Not so good if it's the middle of summer. Hopefully their office is cold. We're not talking cute office worker argyle sweaters, but the nice ones that many fashionable types would wear under a sports coat.


This could be awful advice, but I've gotten away with it for years. I like to wear bright pops of color with a complimentary ties that makes a nice solid knot and then the sweater, with the licks of color peaking out from the cuffs. I also work in the arts, so, your mileage may vary.

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