Job Search Tip of the Week – 07/26/2016


How to End Your Interview Before it Even Begins

Forgetting About Non-verbal Cues: Colors

Last week we published a Job Search Tip, “Dress to Un-impress,” in which we discussed how your personal appearance says a lot about you and sets the tone for your first impression. One of our readers asked us whether the color of your clothing really makes a difference in an interview.

The short answer? Yes.

Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung is prominently associated with the pioneering stages of color psychology, the study of color as a determinant of mood and behavior. Jung believed that colors held meaning, and could be used to communicate with people. Research has since shown that the human eye can detect approximately ten million different color hues, and that color serves as a very automatic influential source of information.

For example, a 2006 study of the impact of color on marketing revealed that customers would form an opinion on a product within the first 90 seconds of interacting with it, and that 62 to 90 percent of that judgment was based on color. Another study later that year revealed people associated certain characteristics to a company based on its logo’s primary colors.

What does that mean for you in your job search?

Keep in mind that you’re marketing yourself through your personal appearance. And because research suggests we often make unconscious initial judgments and decisions about others and the world around us based on the colors we perceive, it’s important that you consider and take advantage of the power of color in your interview.

If you’re ever in doubt, stay on the safe side: Studies have shown that wearing blue to an interview increases your chances of getting hired more than any other color. Blue is a very calming color, and unconsciously coveys to the interviewer that you’re honest and sincere. Paired with gray, which gives off an impression of sophisticated and authoritative, it’s a killer (in a good way) combo.

Job search experts actually recommend that you wear a sky-blue shirt underneath a gray or navy blue suit to an interview to portray yourself as an easy-going, confident professional. Color psychologists generally agree that forest green, medium blue, burgundy, and deep purple elicit the most positive emotions, making you appear calm, relaxed, and friendly.

A black suit is timeless and acceptable, although keep in mind that within some industries the color can have negative implications such as aloof and arrogant. Wearing a white button-down with a black suit can be tricky. In the past, the pairing was seen the safest and most professional option.

Nowadays, especially within more creative industries and young companies, the white-and-black combo is perceived as being too stuffy and traditional and so is best to wear to an interview within a more conservative industry such as banking, accounting, or law. Interestingly, experts suggest that for women, the darker the suit worn, the more educated and professional they are perceived to be and thus the more seriously they’re taken. Pastel colors, they say, portray women as approachable and sweet, but also meek and unauthoritative.

Avoid wearing red, which elicits the opposite reaction of blue. Red evokes thoughts of aggression, arrogance, and intensity, and can make you come across as stubborn, power-hungry, and intimidating (Definitely not a color to wear for a job in sales or negotiations!). Red can also cause you to be perceived as passionate and sensual, characteristics that aren’t appropriate in the workplace.

It’s also wise to stay away from orange and yellow for the interview. Although they often evoke pleasant thoughts, they’re unusual, attention-grabbing colors that people don’t wear often (You want to be remembered for your qualifications and performance, not your shirt color!). As we mentioned last week, to be conservative yet trendy, save the bold colors for your accessories.

Green and brown are also acceptable to wear to an interview. However, although they have calming and earthliness properties due to being colors of nature, they can make you appear drab and unambitious. In addition, experts suggest that women stay away from light to medium green hues, which tend to elicit perceptions of casualness and naivety.

Purple can also be treacherous territory, because although it has a classy, luxurious quality, it can make people feel as if you’re trying to boast about your wealth or wield power over them.

For your convenience, Istvan and I created the above graphic as a quick-reference cheat sheet. Within each color are examples of the different characteristics that it’s associated with. Note that some colors have positive and negative connotations; that’s because colors can have different meanings based on context and culture. Know your audience (Do your research to get to know the company culture, atmosphere, and image.), and dress accordingly.

All that being said, I advise that you always wear your “signature colors,” those colors that enhance your hair, eye, and skin color (More on that soon!). You want to wear colors that work with you, not against you!

Remember: If a hiring manager had to choose between you and another equally qualified candidate, your clothes and appearance could set you apart and land you the job! Color significantly affects our emotions and behavior, so don’t ignore its influence. Use color to your advantage to evoke positive emotions and thoughts from your interviewer.

    Sound Off: What are your go-to colors for an interview?

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