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I have a technical interview for a global bank as a software developer and I was informed by a recruiter that I should adhere to a formal dress code.

I have a classic black suit, light blue shirt, but I am considering not wearing a tie. Is it appropriate not to wear a tie and would be considered as formal? I'm in mid twenties and feel comfortable without a tie. I don't want to overdress.

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I've done it in the past, but my logic was that if they noticed and cared enough, it wasn't a place I wanted to work at (i.e. if such a thing was an issue, what else would be...). –  Oded Nov 26 '12 at 19:50
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You're the one trying to get the job with them; it's not about what you feel comfortable with, it's about doing everything to make them comfortable (and confident) with hiring you, and dressing appropriately is a part of that. It never hurt anyone to overdress. If someone did focus on the fact you overdressed, then I dare say that they're focusing on the wrong things (note this is different from being concerned about you underdressing). –  casperOne Nov 26 '12 at 21:00
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"it's not about what you feel comfortable with". No, it's both. You're interviewing them as well. If you don't want to wear a tie to work, make sure they're not expecting it. –  Jay Bazuzi Nov 26 '12 at 23:39
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@casperOne: in previous questions, I think it has been agreed that it can hurt to overdress. But if the recruiter says "formal", wearing a tie will not be overdressing in any way shape or form. –  Carson63000 Nov 27 '12 at 6:11
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@DA: a.) absolutely untrue - I have firsthand experience, and know of other places as well. b.) Depends on the company, and I wouldn't assume so with the info we have. c.) a blanket statement, at best. A good recruiter will know the culture of a company he/she is hiring for, and will advise you appropriately. It is their reputation on the line as well. –  Wonko the Sane Nov 27 '12 at 13:39
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13 Answers

While being comfortable in an interview may have value in that it could relax you and thus you would think better and answer questions better, this has to be balanced against what is expected from you. Some places will not have expectations for your attire; however, others will. For those places with expectations, failing to meet them will start you at a disadvantage - and potentially set you up for an immediate rejection (even though they may go through the motions of completing the interview). Since the recruiter said you should dress formally, it seems safe to assume that the interviewers in this case do have certain expectations for your attire. This may be due to a need to interact with officers, regulators, customers, etc. who dress formally, or just organizational or industrial culture.

The rule of thumb for situations like this is that it's better to be overdressed than underdressed. Another way to think about it may be to consider these two possibilities: You dress formally (including tie), do well in the interview, get an offer, and then get to decide if you want to work there. Alternatively, you skip the tie, do well in the interview, but are told that they aren't interested in someone who doesn't dress properly.

You may want to refer to this guide on dressing for interviews. That said, everything I've heard and read in 30 years of interviewing has said that formal interview attire for a (western culture) male is suit AND tie (and dress socks and dress shoes).

Standards are changing, but they haven't changed that much yet, and the banking industry is fairly conservative in this regard. For my last couple years of college, I worked in a bank's computer center at night; usually I was the only person in the building. Even though it was a low wage job to which I wore blue jeans and tee shirts once I had started working there, I wore a tie to the interview. The males who worked there during the day wore ties.

Finally, to be really certain of the expectations, ask the recruiter what s/he meant by "formal dress code".

A note about comfort: While my current job doesn't require a suit and tie, I have had some jobs that do. If your dress shirt fits properly and you tie the tie correctly, it shouldn't be uncomfortable. If your dress shirt is tight around your neck and you have a couple days before the interview (to either get it dry cleaned or to launder it and press it yourself), you may want to buy a new one.

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@GreenMatt I (nor anyone else reading this) cannot read your mind when you post ;-) –  enderland Nov 26 '12 at 21:27
    
@chad hahahahahah, agreed –  Артём Царионов Nov 26 '12 at 22:01
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@GreenMatt - That is what I wanted to see :) –  Chad Nov 27 '12 at 3:29
    
"If your dress shirt fits properly and you tie the tie correctly, it shouldn't be uncomfortable." -- Wearing long sleeve tops makes me very hot and not particularly productive, and has nothing to do with how the shirt fits. That said I'd still always wear a suit to any interview, even if I'd never wear one day-to-day. –  Joseph Earl Nov 27 '12 at 18:31
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There are some employers that won't mind you not wearing a tie at all, and some that will immediately notice and you'll lose points over it. You gain nothing by NOT wearing one.

Wear a tie.

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There are employers who will rule you out for wearing a tie; however, I would not expect to encounter them in the banking industry. –  GreenMatt Nov 26 '12 at 19:24
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Those who don't care how you dress for an interview would not indicate a formal dress code. –  JeffO Nov 26 '12 at 20:16
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Why? You should always include in your answer information about why you think your answer is correct. Answers that just say do this are not very useful. –  Chad Nov 26 '12 at 21:23
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You gain not ending up working for a company that cares about ties. This can be a very good thing. –  DA. Nov 27 '12 at 7:51
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@DA - Then you should probably avoid interviews with a formal dress code. –  Chad Nov 27 '12 at 14:26
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Speaking strictly from a business perspective:

When I interview, I tend to see not wearing a suit and tie as a negative. It is not that I care about the fashion of it but somebody who cares enough about the interview to wear a suit and tie is somebody that is thinking of every detail and aims to leave a good first impression.

Even though the job is informal, they want to do well and be seen in the best possible light. It is a sign of respect for ones self and respect for the company interviewing.

Some of us like to think we are that quiet genius, perhaps a bit of Aspergers or just atypical, quirky and fun yet highly productive at our technical job function so why should management care? In the business world however people do care, whether you agree with the fundamental premise of it or not, you still likely need to interact with non-technical people on the job so being able to interact with people professionally is an important skill for any job.

I want nothing more than to be taken seriously as a business professional and a person with that attitude will tend to perform better than somebody who doesn't care what other professionals think of him. A suit and tie as your first impression to a company while pathetically unimportant on principle, is generally the easiest thing you can do to at least appear to be a serious professional. Why somebody wouldn't do the bare minimum to appear professional to me is a warning sign.

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Two hints about the dress code in particular for an interview: "Global Bank" and "formal dress code".

Global bank implies a tie. It is mandatory and not having one would very likely be interpreted as "would not fit-in with the corporate culture".

Formal dress code in the office always means suit, shirt tie.

If the recruiter went as far as mentioning it, it is an important factor for the recruiter.

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Wear the tie.

If the environment is such that it is inappropriate, you can always take it off. Indeed, the act of taking it off can even signal that you feel relaxed, and non-verbally cues others to this fact.

If you take the tie, you can remove it. If you don't take the tie, it looks silly to be putting it on if you feel you need it.

On sales calls, even if I suspect the environment is casual, I always aim for one notch above. You never know when you will need it, and you can always kick it back. It is harder to kick it up...

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Why the downvote? –  Affable Geek Nov 26 '12 at 21:26
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It was posted as a one line answer... you edited in grace period but I can not remove the down vote now. –  Chad Nov 26 '12 at 21:41
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+1 for the "kick it back" approach. I've ended up with my tie in my pocket on more than one occasion :-) –  GuyM Dec 20 '12 at 4:10
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While there is some cultural variation worldwide, I would suggest that the banking industry tends to be quite formal, even in relatively informal countries.

It is perfectly acceptable to be dressed more smartly than the interview panel, and making an effort with a suit and (well tied) tie is always worth the effort.

Even if you are several "levels" smarter than those interviewing you it will still be seen as a positive factor, where being a level "lower" (suit with no tie) is usually a disadvantage.

For a new graduate such as yourself, I would suggest that it is extremely important to "dress up" as opposed to "dressing down" as part of demonstrating you are prepared to adjust to the bank's working culture from the more relaxed academic environment.

If it isn't covered by the interviewers, then it would also be a good idea to ask about the dress code in the office (when they ask you if you have any questions.)

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what does "informal countries" mean? like pakistan or syria? –  Артём Царионов Nov 26 '12 at 21:54
    
Ah - sorry, gramatical shortcut - "countries with less formal approaches to business" is better than "informal countries(!)"; in this context I was thinking of the differences between New Zealand and the UK, for example. –  GuyM Nov 26 '12 at 22:01
    
funny :) but seriously which country would you consider informal if you were asked the question? –  Артём Царионов Nov 26 '12 at 22:03
    
@Артём - I'd say that an "informal" country is a place that is recognised as having a seperate identity and culture to the rest of the nation, but isn't "formally" a country. So in that context, based on places where I have worked, I'd say Texas (US), or Catalonia (Spain), or Freisland(Netherlands) all fit this. How formal buisiness is in these "informal" countries is a different question... –  GuyM Nov 26 '12 at 22:09
    
i appreciate your answer but it's way to astute :) –  Артём Царионов Nov 26 '12 at 22:09
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Having worked for a number of global banks, suit and tie is a standard practice during interviews. I have yet to interview a candidate who has not worn a tie, be it graduates or senior managers to be hired at a director level.

Some banks also adhere to a strict business suit dress code beyond the interview process, regardless of whether you're working in IT or not, turning up without formal attire will certainly work against you in such a bank.

The last two banks I've worked at everyone dresses in a shirt and formal trousers and in some offices they even accept jeans and polo shirts. In my experience casual banks in IT are more the norm than not, there is a high chance your interviewers themselves won't be dressed in suit and tie, but having been on the interviewer side I can assure you that has never worked against the candidate I have interviewed, whilst turning up under dressed might.

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+1 for actual banking experience to back up your reasoning. –  Chad Nov 27 '12 at 14:22
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Good question.

If you're on Wall street then the tie is a must.

But if it's a bank satellite office that only develops software (no clients on site) then the rules are much more casual. Usually the thing to do in that situation is just wear a dress shirt/dress pants, and the whole suit get-up is not necessary and will sometimes come off as over-the-top.

You should really ask the recruiter.

FWIW I once showed up to a bank interview wearing shorts and sandals and got the offer :).

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"I once showed up to a bank interview wearing shorts and sandals and got the offer" The company has indicated formal dress code; why mention things that would stack the odds in the OP's disfavor? –  Michael Kjörling Nov 27 '12 at 10:16
    
@MichaelKjörling The company did not indicate formal dress code, the recruiter did. I want to counter the overwhelming sentiment of other answers that banks are always very conservative in dress code. –  MrFox Nov 27 '12 at 14:29
    
I once showed up at an interview wearing an expensive dark suit but no tie. Between the VP interview and the "murder" board, the VP told me I should go across the street to the Macy's and buy a tie. I informed the HR rep via email while I was at the airport that I was no longer considering them as an employer. I would say that if you aren't the sort who is comfortable in a tie, then maybe the position isn't for you. –  jdb1a1 Nov 27 '12 at 18:01
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The recuriter may be playing it safe or she may have experience getting people hired with this firm and knows what she's talking about.

If you're not sure, you may want to look into this firm and the position a little more.

  1. What is the dress code?
  2. Will you have to work with clients?
  3. How high up in the firm are the interviewers?

Most people in technology won't care what you wear unless you're meeting clients, but they often have to get final approval from their superiors who may not be so objective. I've been at firms that sent consultants home for wearing sneakers to work.

You may find all of this and your eagerness to not wear a tie are signs you may not like this job.

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The attire you wear sends a message to the employer of how much you are willing to get out of your comfort zone to satisfy his needs and how professional you can be. Also one should remember that we dress for the job we are aiming for, not for the job we have so dressing well is a must in the interview phase and beyond as well.

So - wear the tie and good luck.

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I believe you should wear the tie, It will make you feel formal so you probably will take the interview a bit more businesslike, it's something you can take off if you realize at the entrance that it was a wrong desicion. At my experience interviewing developers It was totally irrelevant so I didn't pay attention to that (in normal range), I've seen developers and designers dressing very casual (sometimes even with odd styles) but they result in great workers, creative and responsable. At my specific scenario we use to develope for customers, so the developer don't face the client and we mind the knowlegde and creativity instead of the apparence. But, unfortunately for you, the banks always try to keep it very formal, they believe formal employees will become in confidence assurance for their customers. Good Luck at your interview, remember to transmit honestly, inteligence and proactiveness.

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There's some things to take into account when you interview pertaining to 'dressing up'. Especially with jobs like programming and the such, attention to minute details are important. They may look at your dress attire to see if threads are plucked, the knot in your tie is tight, your shoes are shined, etc. How minor these details are are completely dependent on your interviewer. Active/ex military may take more emphasis on this.

I don't see there being any 'right' answer.

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The reason you list to not wear the tie is your comfort, by which I assume to mean your physical comfort. Presumably, you think you would perform better at the interview if you were more physically comfortable.

I think that should be balanced against your emotional comfort. If you show up without a tie, and your interviewers are in ties, won't you spend the interview with the back of you mind rolling over if you really should have worn a tie? And isn't that likely to make you distracted and anxious during the interview, perhaps leading you to a poorer performance than you would have had otherwise? Unless you have some allergic condition (which you could explain to the interviewers) it seems like this would be more of a distraction than whatever physical discomfort comes from the ties.

Your clothes choices are an all-downside, no upside potential. A brilliant sartorial choice is extremely unlikely to overcome a poor interview performance, but a poor one is could defeat a great one. There's times to take risks and times to play it safe. This is a time to play it safe.

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