On this matter, personally, I love these words of wisdom from our internal Wiki pages – though they are not universally accepted or adhered to:
Men should usually turn out in suits and ties. A good rule of thumb is to aim to dress slightly smarter than the client. However, it can feel uncomfortable if client staff are dressed casually and you’re wandering around in a suit and tie with a laptop in your hand, so common sense should sometimes prevail!
Women – on the first day of an audit, for an initial client meeting, or for a meeting with someone senior at a client site, it is usually a good idea to wear a suit. After the first day you can take your cue from your colleagues. However, some APs, managers and directors will expect you to wear a suit to a client site everyday.
As a guideline, I’d say that this advice isn’t too far wrong but have a few caveats to offer from my personal experience.
I have never been asked by a more senior NAO colleague to wear a suit every day and I am yet to meet someone who has but, for all I know, it does happen. And, actually, for the first day at any new client, I do don my suit because it’s hard to go wrong when wearing one. I’m not generally inclined to wear a suit, even at the client, but I’ve never regretted having bought one before I started at the NAO as I see it as an easy way to secure a sound first impression.
Usual practice is to dress a little smarter when you’re at a client than you would at the office, at least for me, but I do think there’s something to be said for taking the tone there, too. We do strive as auditors to build good working relationships and be collaborative with our clients, as well as being independent, authoritative and fair after all.*
I would also agree that my audit teams set the tone for how I dress. That said, I didn’t consistently up my wardrobe game on the one audit where I was out with two fully suited and booted guys, for all that I deeply admired their commitment to formalwear – which even went so far as to include cufflinks and collar bars. On all my audits, I’ve worn what I’ve felt comfortable in, just with a little flex around whether I’d rather take things from the more- or less-tailored end of my ever growing work wardrobe.
It’s worth pointing out, too, that you’re unlikely to get a lot of face time with clients until January or February of your first year in the office, when the interim audit season kicks off. So there’s no need to bulk up your wardrobe the summer before you start.
*This is a bit of a corny reference to the NAO’s values (which are, in fact, “independent, authoritative, collaborative and fair” – not bad things to aim to be). Sorry, I couldn’t quite help myself.
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