There’s a scene in the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” where Will Smith’s character shows up to an interview for a stock broker internship in an undershirt because he has run there after unexpectedly spending the night in jail.
The manager asks interviewee Chris Gardner, “What would you say if a guy walked in for an interview without a shirt on, and I hired him?” Gardner responds: “He must’ve had on some really nice pants.”
The bosses saw past Gardner’s appearance in that true story and gave him an internship, and then a job. But the boss told him for his first day, he’d like him to wear a shirt.
Your interview isn’t the only day when you want to impress on the bosses you’re not some kook who doesn’t understand the company culture. Wearing the right clothes the first day at work is important too. And if the person hiring you doesn’t outright suggest you should wear a shirt, it can sometimes be hard to figure out what exactly to wear when you go to work in finance.
You probably already know finance can be pretty conservative and aren’t likely to show up in something outlandish. But what about the details? Tie width? Black suit, or something else? Suspenders? And for women – what’s the right skirt length? Or a pants suit? How do you know?
Dress How Everyone Else Does
This is the top tip for dressing for success on the first day at any job. Sure, it’s boring and conforming, that’s the idea. You might be able to show your personality later, after you’ve proven yourself, but until then, wear the corporate uniform.
So how do you find out what that is?
During your interview, look around. “You’ve hopefully taken note of what people in a similar position are wearing,” Bethany Lindsey, director of academic affairs at Pinchot University told NerdWallet.
But what if your interview is off-site, or on the phone?
Job seeking experts advise checking the company’s social media feeds for pictures of people at work. Dress like the people in those pictures.
When In Doubt, Go All-Out
OK, not really all out – but overdress, suggests Holly Paul, PricewaterhouseCooper's U.S. recruiting leader. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, she says in a story in US News and World Report.
One reason: it’s hard to dress up your outfit if you’re underdressed, but it’s easy to shift it more casual, especially if you’re a guy. You can always take your tie off.
Don’t Forget Colors
You may have a good idea of what you should wear, but sometimes people don’t know little details. Like do people wear dark suits, or are there other colors in the office?
“We would certainly advise people to keep suits in neutral colors like blacks, grays, and nothing too flamboyant,” advises Selby Jennings recruiting firm director Oliver Cooke in an article in New York Magazine’s The Strategist.
This isn’t to say you won’t ever be able to wear purple, but not on the first day. Don’t wear unusual colors or patterns until you’re sure others at your level do, or until you’re the boss.
See Also: Don't Answer These 4 Job Interview Questions Incorrectly
Know Local Custom
If you’ve moved for a job, don’t assume what people wore in your old office works in your new one. Go to a brokerage in Miami and you may notice brighter colors.
Materials may be different, too, if you’re in the South, where seersucker and light linen are worn even in typically conservative jobs. Even the most traditional brokers don’t wear black suits on the oppressively humid, 98-degree August days in New Orleans.
Remember: It Is Work
Those heading to their first “real” job out of college might not think about this, but you’re not going to work to express yourself. And you’re not dressing for a social occasion.
And try to wear a shirt to your interview.
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