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Freaked Out Recruit Needs Fashion Tips for PwC Leaderhip Program

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Subject: Career Emergency

Well, not really. I’m just freaking out.

I have an office visit with PwC tomorrow. I’m doing a leadership program with them in two weeks. From what I’ve read online, office visits consist of interviews; however, the recruiter said dress for tomorrow is “business casual.” Can I really show up to an interview in khakis? I’m worried as small as wearing the wrong thing could ruin a potential internship offer. Gotta love the superficiality of public accounting. So do I rock a suit despite the recruiter saying busineisk underdressing for an interview?

Thanks in advance,
Freaked out junior

Dear Freaked Out,

No reason to panic, that’s what GC is here for. Since Caleb’s work attire is best suited for the pool these days (aka his “working office”) he asked that I respond to your message.

First off, congratulations on earning a spot in PwC’s two week leadership program. You are correct that there will be interviews at one point during the program, but you should also be viewing the entire two weeks as an interview. You will be evaluated throughout the period – how you interact with your peers; how you involve yourself in the group discussions; how you interview during the formal interview portion. The PwC recruiters will not only be making their own observations but they will also be soliciting feedback from the younger staff professionals who volunteer throughout the weeks. Be cognizant of the fact that every PwC professional you speak to could influence whether or not you receive an offer for the following summer.

Now – back to fashion. Unless you heard specifically from someone at the firm that interviews will be on the first day, you needn’t worry about suiting up tomorrow. They (the recruiters) want you to succeed, so they will tell you in advance about when the interviews will be. That said, it is always wise to make a positive impression on the first day. Below are a few tips on making sure you’re on spot for the first day:

Business casual: There is business casual and then there is public accounting business casual. The latter involves a wrinkled blue Oxford dress shirt and a pair of semi-pressed khakis. Sure, this counts as business casual, but…why? Do yourself a favor and avoid mimicking the Best Buy uniform on your first day.

My advice: If the recruiter said no suit, then don’t wear one (step 1 to receiving an offer is following directions). But it’s possible to have your business casual lean towards business professional without crossing the line. Go with either A) a suit (matching jacket and pants) or B) blue blazer with either grey or olive dress pants or khakis and then match with a pressed button down shirt. Avoid the plain white shirt if you can, as these are best paired with ties and you’re leaving yours at home for the day. The shirt you wear should work well with and without the jacket. These outfit options give you the ability to quickly “dress down” by leaving the jacket on the back of your chair during informal ice breakers but also allow you to quickly formalize yourself on the off-chance you’re meeting with a partner.

Additional tidbits:

• Brown/black – brown shoes and belts generally match with khaki better than black, but wear what you have and what you like. Also, make sure your shoes are polished.
• Suit/blazer jackets – double check to make sure the pockets and vents are open. Any string keeping a pocket closed is left over from production and is meant to be removed; it will come out rather easily. Also, remove the suit’s brand name tag from the sleeve if you haven’t already – only you should know your suit is Hugo Boss or JoS. A. Bank.
• Check the weather – if there’s a probability for rain, bring an umbrella. Don’t chance getting stuck in a summer storm.
• White socks: Just…don’t.

Any other advice from the peanut gallery? Share them in the comments.

Ernst & Young Toronto Invites Employees to Don Their ‘Best’ Denim This Summer

It’s not everyday we get news from north of the border, so it’s nice to see our Canadian friends reaching out to us. If you’re from the True North and have some gossip or other newsworthy items to share, send them our way. As for today’s news, we’ve been informed that Ernst & Young’s Toronto office has given the green light to their employees to rock half of the Canadian Tuxedo starting this Friday through Labor Day. Our tipster was quite excited about this since, “This is unheard of in Big 4 accounting firms in Toronto.”

Hi everyone,
If you watched my “[Toronto OMP] Korner” video from last week, you’ll know that the topic of Jeans Day was discussed.

I know many of you have been waiting for a few Jeans Days in the [Greater Toronto Area], so I’m pleased to share that there will be many opportunities for you to wear your best jeans to work over the summer months.

Starting this Friday, 20 May until 2 September, every Friday will be Jeans Day.

From time to time we’ll add a charity-challenge component to Jeans Day. However, for the most part, feel free to wear your best jeans to work on Friday just because.

Retaining a professional appearance is important to us — even when wearing jeans. Please — no rips or tears in your jeans, no t-shirts or running shoes either. If you’re seeing a client on a Friday, please wear your usual office attire.

Best regards,

[Toronto OMP]
Managing Partner, [Greater Toronto Area]

All the emphasis is the original, so you know when “best” is best, the Toronto brass means business. Per usual in these situations when you give an inch of denim, some people take a mile of looking like a complete slob, so please pass the warning on to the Toronto leadership.

Big 4 firms have a staunch pro-denim track record here in the States, as E&Y’s FSO was given a similar reprieve from the drabness of the business casual uniform last busy season and KPMG’s Summer Blast last year. It’s likely that you’ll be seeing more denim around the office the summer again this year but we’d be very interested in seeing pictures of some egregious vilolations. So if you fancy yourself a member of the fashion police and see a perpetrator, take a pic and send it our way.

Let’s Discuss: Beards in the Big 4

From the mailbag:

Caleb –

Just curious what your thoughts or GC readers’ thoughts are on male facial hair in the public accounting world. Personally, I hate shaving. I shave once a week but am sure to keep a clean line under the chin. (I also dress well and don’t believe that business casual means khakis and a golf shirt.) A friend of mine told me that his manager at his big 4 firm was asked to shave his nicely groomed beard by his partners. Is this normal? Petty? A generation thing?

Let me address your questions one at a time:

1.a. Q: “Is [partners telling managers to tell someone else to do something, like shaving] normal?” A: Yes. Some partners can’t believe they have��������������������general vicinity as the staff, let alone talk to them, so when an awkward conversation needs to be had, a manager often gets the privilege. That said, ambitious managers who want to become partners will often take it upon themselves to inform the beast in question to break out the Bic.

1.b. Q: Is [frowning on facial hair] normal?” A: As a general rule, yes. Some smaller firms are known to be pro-beard but As far as I am aware, the Big 4 state that they allow mustaches and beards if they are kept “neatly trimmed.” However, the reality is that most partners don’t like facial hair. Whether you are growing it for charity, you lost a bet to a broheim or your spouse thinks it’s hot; they don’t give a damn. They want your faces clean shaven.

2. Q: “[Is this] petty?” A: Well, we are talking about the Big 4, now aren’t we? Petty annoyances are part of the deal. In fact, a beard could cost you a promotion if you’re working for the wrong person. That said, I personally don’t think making an issue of facial hair is that petty. The reason being, that despite your well-trimmed beard, it is the exception rather than the rule. I share your hatred of shaving (not to mention your anti-khakis/golf shirt stance) but this is one of those “a few bad apples” situations. Lots of men in the Big 4 are flat-out slobs and if you give them an inch on facial hair, they’ll take a mile. Now, if you happen to have snuck in a well-groomed beard or mustache and kept it that way, you may get a pass but if you’re just letting the 5 o’clock shadow extend an extra day or two and it’s disgustingly obvious, you should get a talking to.

3. Q: “Is this a generational thing?” A: No. There are anti-beard people at various ages who simply equate facial hair with hipsters, hillbillies and the Taliban. I think it’s more of an accounting firm culture thing. So if you’re sporting one, it puts you at odds with TPTB and squarely in the “counter-culture” camp. But on a more practical level, you work in a professional environment for crissakes. For advisory and audit professionals staff who are in client-facing roles earlier than their tax counterparts, partners and managers don’t want you looking like a hobo in front of clients. It doesn’t seem logical to let the gents in tax let themselves go, so the rule applies across the board.

The “beard or no beard” question is now open for debate. Sorry about the gender-specific topic ladies. Your thoughts and unfiltered judgments on the matter are certainly welcome and encouraged.