Suits have been the professional uniform of choice for men and women for an incredibly long time. Whilst it is possible to make bold statements with a suit, in consulting neutral styles and simplicity are preferred.
For men, this translates into a dark navy or dark grey suit with no stitching or variations such as pinstripes, checks, or double breasting. In western culture, black suits are reserved for funerals or dinner suits however in Asia black suits are also sometimes acceptable.
A suit should fit well and meet a couple of simple criteria:
The jacket hugs the natural form of the shoulders with no overhang but not so tight that you can’t fold your arms easily
The jacket sleeves rest at the point where your thumb bone meets your wrist when your arms are by your side
The length of the jacket covers the trouser waistband
The trousers rest on the top of your shoes when stood still
Suits are the most expensive component of men’s consulting attire. Appropriate suits can be purchased for around $100 from some high street stores and prices go up to well over $1000 dollars at the top end. For an interview, however, you definitely don’t need an expensive suit.
The second component of men’s attire is the shirt. For consultants and most professionals, a simple white or light blue shirt is the most common and suitable for an interview situation. Shirts should fit well, similarly to the suit.
For shirts, the most important consideration is the neck size. This is the circumference of the neck when the top button of the shirt is fastened. If the neck is too tight then it will be uncomfortable and if it is too lose it will look scruffy and unprofessional.
There are a number of styles of men’s shoes from brogues to oxford’s however for a consulting interview the style of shoe is not as important as the color. The color of the shoe expected in a professional context is either brown or black.
Light brown shoes or tan-colored shoes have been popular in the past but are can be controversial. The best color option for shoes is black. Black will work with all combinations of suit and shirt plus is considered a smart choice.
The other point to consider with shoes is to make sure they are clean and presentable. It is an easy task to clean your shoes prior to an interview and attention to detail that can positively affect the first impression with your interviewer.
What you wear beyond the core attire is an opportunity for candidates to express themselves and bring in some of their own personalities. The most important accessory is the tie, for consulting it is still expected for men to wear a tie in an interview, you can be more adventurous than with other components but professionalism should still be preferred over fashion and a non-controversial style and color are best.
Accessories also encompass watches, cufflinks, pocket squares, tie clips, and even aftershave. The general rule of thumb for consulting interviews is to keep these extra items understated. Consulting is not an industry that rewards exuberance and extravagance as consultants are expected to be trustworthy advisers to their clients possessing impeccable rationality and independent judgment.
The cultural expectations regarding hair have flexed and relaxed in recent years with men no longer expected to be clean-shaven and sporting a sensible haircut. However, whatever the choice, tidy maintenance provides a good first impression to the interviewer.
Beards are also common amongst consultants nowadays and a well-groomed beard is perfectly acceptable.