You are about to start your career in the Big 4. Lots of things are going on your mind. What to bring, how to dress…
Is There a Big 4 Accounting Dress Code?
There isn’t an official “dress code”, but most public accountants dress in a certain way. There are slight variations across the cities in the US, and the style could be quite different in countries, especially those in Europe. In this post, we focus on the everyday office wear in the US.
You may be told to dress business casual, but I would go a tad more formal, with a tie and a suit. In my opinion, it is prudent to be slightly overdress than underdress.
For women, it’s hard to generalize. I would say dress respectfully, with an outfit that looks good enough in front of partners.
You will be shipped out of town for national training for a couple of weeks. Trainings are done in an informal setting and there are parties at night. The trainers are seniors and first year managers, and the rest are your peers. This is definitely business casual.
Dress Code in Office and Client Site
After the training, you will start working either at the client site of at the office. In a typical office in the US, people usually go with simple button down dress shirt, dress pants, and dress shoes.
For first or important client meetings, you may want to see how your manager dress on the day, but typically you might want to dress up a little bit — with a tie and full suit.
Junior auditors spend most of their time in the field in client’s offices. For everyday work at the client site, business casual is usually fine. Having said that, depending on the client’s corporate culture and style of your manager, you may have specific instruction to dress otherwise. I have a friend whose general rule for his team is to wear “at the level” of the client’s CFO.
No matter what the guideline is, it is prudent to have a tie and suit ready for any ad hoc meeting with the company’s management.
Rule of Thumb
Rule number one is to adapt to the culture in which you work. This is true for any job anywhere in the world. If the culture only calls for button down dress shirts and slacks, then do that.
If it’s your first day of work and you aren’t sure about the culture, try to recall how your interviewers dressed. The juniors, seniors and managers you saw around the office are also good reference. If you are still not sure, stay on the conservative side.
2. Dress Smart; Not Smarter
It’s pleasing to dress smart with good style and good fit. But you shouldn’t aim to dress “smarter” than your peers in order to stand out. Most people don’t care; for the few who do, it will likely come out as negative.
1. We have casual Fridays that allow khakis and jeans, but my managers and above always wear suit. Should I do that?
Yes, this could be one exception. Try to find out the reason — do the managers wear suits because of frequent client meetings, but is this the preferred style of upper management? I would probably dress something in between — a tad more formal than the usual casual friday outfit (i.e. no jeans, but khakis and a shirt with nice cut and fabric). As you pass your first year, you may dress more like the managers if you wish to.
2. I love wearing vest suit and I wonder if it’s appropriate in the office?
If you are a new hire, I would say no, simply because you don’t want to be called “the vest guy”. People may think you are trying too hard to impress.
If it were me, I would take it down a notch to a regular suit with a tie, or dress pants with blazer, or something just a step above “business casual”. Alternatively, if you can’t live without your vest, maybe once in a while, on special occasions, it’s ok.
3. I look really young and I might look more better with a full suit in the more “mature” style. What do you think?
I suggest to pick a more conservative color (this usually means the darker color), or go for a slightly more upscale look, but I wouldn’t go all the way to a full suit in the old style. You can’t carry the suit well with a young face. Worse, you’ll look like a clown.
As you will be joining the batch with other 22 year olds, I wouldn’t worry about looking too fresh. Colleagues and clients expect you to be young as a first year associate.
1. Be yourself but stay within the code.
2. Dress to impress but don’t over dress.
3. If you want to stand out, stand out as a professional who does excellent work, not one who dresses uniquely.
For Your Further Reading