Interview Attire for Disadvantaged Job Seekers

Young woman at an interview in a job fair setting.
suedhang / Getty Images

There are organizations that can help disadvantaged job seekers dress appropriately for an interview and prepare them to interview effectively. Dressing professionally for an interview is really important. How you dress can make or break your chances of getting a job offer.

Disadvantaged—by definition—means lacking the basics of adequate food, safe housing, medical care, and education. The lack of these basic needs can make it more difficult for an individual to apply and interview for a job. Many organizations and businesses in most cities have programs that can help individuals who live at a disadvantage.

For Men: Career Gear

Career Gear is dedicated to helping men get their lives back on track by providing them with new business suits. Participants can choose from a variety of suits, most of which have been donated by Career Gear’s corporate sponsors, including Brooks Brothers and the Men's Wearhouse. 

How Men Can Participate in Programs Like Career Gear

The first step disadvantaged job seekers can take is to truly believe in themselves and take the personal initiative to begin a job search. Career Gear invests in men who have begun to turn their lives around and are taking a proactive role in seeking employment. Career Gear's philosophy is simple but powerful: successful employment is a catalyst towards men emerging as better fathers and leaders within their communities.

Who Is Eligible to Participate?

To qualify for assistance, each participant must have completed a job-training program, have an interview scheduled, and have been referred to Career Gear by one of its partner programs located throughout New York City and its surrounding boroughs.

These organizations include homeless shelters, welfare-to-work job training centers, and job training programs for ex-offenders, disabled individuals, and recovering substance abusers. The men Career Gear serves come from all walks of life but is disconnected for one reason or another. This includes all ages and ethnic backgrounds, recipients of public assistance, disabled individuals, recovering addicts, Iraqi war veterans, former foster care children, recent immigrants, and the formerly incarcerated.

How Do They Go About Participating?

When a participant arrives for his scheduled appointment, trained volunteers review his resume, identify potential barriers to the upcoming interview, review the work environment and culture in which the interview will take place, and offer specific and concrete tools to overcome potential obstacles in securing gainful employment. The Career Gear team will then work one-on-one with the men to help select an appropriate outfit for the upcoming job interview. Professional clothing provided includes a suit, dress shirt, tie, belt, shoes, and overcoat (when available).

Professional Development Series

Once a participant is employed, he is recruited to become a member of the Professional Development Series (PDS). Launched in 2005, the PDS is a retention program that offers a unique series of workshops aimed at helping men retain their job and advance in the workplace.

Workshops focus on skills that impact an individual’s ability to remain employed, such as budgeting and financial management, emotional coping skills, family and child support, and communication skills. The program also offers added value by utilizing Career Gear's greatest resource: clothing. During each session, participants receive ongoing donations of clothing so they have an entire working wardrobe upon completion of the program.

It enables them to focus on saving their money and spending it on other necessities rather than on clothing.

For Women: Dress for Success

Dress for Success is a similar program for women. Established in 1997, it is an international non-profit program that has helped almost one million women in 150 cities in 28 countries to gain professional attire and the tools they need to become self-sufficient.

Dress for Success operates through a network of affiliate locations that accept donations of gently used women’s professional attire and accessories. They also organize suit drives and provide career counseling.

How Can Women Participate in This Program?

Once a woman has a job interview, she can ask for a referral to her local Dress for Success boutique from local community partner agencies such as homeless shelters, immigration services, domestic violence shelters, job training programs, and educational institutions. If she is not currently working with such an agency, she can also contact her local Dress for Success and ask to speak with its Program Coordinator.

Make a Donation

Donations are appreciated by non-profit organizations that seek to help disadvantaged job seekers. Check their websites to learn how to donate to Dress for Success and how to donate to Career Gear.