Job Search Tip of the Week #19 (2017)


How to End Your Interview Before it Even Begins

Forgetting About Non-verbal Cues: Colors

Last week 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.

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

For example, a 2006 marketing study on the impact of color showed that customers 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 unconsciously make snap 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 air of sophistication and authority, it’s a killer (in a good way) combo.

Job search experts actually recommend wearing a sky-blue shirt underneath a gray or navy blue suit to an interview to portray yourself as an easy-going, confident professional. 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. However nowadays, especially within more creative industries and young companies, the white-and-black combo is perceived as being too stuffy and traditional and thus better suited for interviews within more conservative industries 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.

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.

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 – everything you’re not looking for in a team player or customer service or client-facing position.

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 and you want to be remembered for your qualifications and performance, not your shirt! As we mentioned last week, accessories can add small pops of color to liven up conservative looks.

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 inferior as if you’re trying to wield power over them.

For your convenience, check out the above graphic we created 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.

And all that being said, wear what makes you confident!

Remember: Color significantly affects our emotions and behavior, so don’t ignore its influence. 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! 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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