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01st Sep 2016

Wearing brown shoes could cost you big time at your next job interview

Unwritten dress codes are costing hopefuls.

Matt Tate

It’s reassuring to know that the financial industry is making judgement calls on the next generation of bankers based on what colour their fucking shoes are.

Graduates who turn up for interviews in the city wearing brown shoes risk being overlooked for the job, according to a new report by the Social Mobility Commission.

The damning investigation suggests that candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds are missing out on investment bank roles because they’re not privy to the ‘opaque’ codes of conduct that extend to how people dress.

The report claims that firms have a tendency to hire from a tiny pool of universities, and only candidates who ‘fit in’ and subscribe to the ‘arcane culture rules’ stand a chance.

It says:

‘To provide one example, for men, the wearing of brown shoes with a business suit is generally, though not always, considered unacceptable by and for British bankers within the investment banking, corporate finance, division.

‘Issues relating to dress may seem both superficial and relatively simple for individuals from all backgrounds to adopt.

‘However, interviewees suggested that they do play a material role in the selection process, once again, as demonstration of ‘fit’.’

The study also found that those trying to break into the life sciences – namely pharmaceuticals, medical bio-technology and medical technology – would face barriers if they hadn’t studied at one of the country’s most prestigious universities.

University Of Birmingham Hold Degree Congregations

But it’s not just choice of footwear that can trip up prospective banking hopefuls. One guy interviewed in the study, who claimed to be from a non-privileged background, said he was called out on his tie. Three plus years of head-in-book, overnight studying in the library just be told you’ve had a wardrobe malfunction.

Recalling the conversation, the candidate recalled:

“He said ‘you’re clearly quite sharp, but you’re not quite the fit for [this bank], you’re not polished enough’.

“He looked at me and said, ‘see that tie you’re wearing? It’s too loud. You can’t wear that tie with the suit that you’re wearing’.

“What kind of industry is this where I can be told that I’m a good candidate, I’m sharp, but I’m not polished enough?”

Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, acknowledged that while some banks are making great progress in working to eliminate these barriers, there are still too many that are failing to even consider candidates from less advantaged backgrounds.

He added: “It is shocking, for example, that some investment bank managers still judge candidates on whether they wear brown shoes with a suit, rather than on their skills and potential.”

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