Color has a lot of power. It can calm you, make you hungry, and even put you in the mood for love, color psychologists say. But can it get you a job?
While it won’t make up for lack of experience or qualifications, wearing the right color can start you off on the right foot during an interview, according to a recent study by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder. A survey of hiring managers and human resource professionals revealed that employers associate personality attributes with the colors candidates wear to job interviews.
- Black conveys leadership.
- Red was a color of power.
- Blue gives the impression that the person is a team player.
- Gray reads as logical and analytical.
- White gives the feeling of being organized.
- Green, yellow, orange and purple are associated with creativity.
“In terms of projection, your appearance tells more about you than what you say or how you say it,” says New York image and style expert Carol Davidson. “And out of all of the elements of your wardrobe, color speaks first.”
In addition to polishing your resume and interview skills, selecting the right clothing is an important element of finding a new job. The best color to choose depends on the industry, says Davidson, who teaches a class about wardrobe color planning at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. Before you grab a garment from your closet, consult this list of popular clothing colors:
Navy sends a message of being enterprising, trustworthy, honest, and credible, says Davidson. It’s a great choice for industries like law or finance. If you’re interviewing for a more creative environment, however, it could be considered too conservative.
Employers from the CareerBuilder survey recommended blue most often, with 23% of hiring professionals identifying it as their most preferred wardrobe color choice.
Black is an extremely strong color and is highest on the authority scale, says Davidson. “Most people figure that’s a good thing, but for a first interview you don’t want to run the risk of overpowering the person in front of you,” she says.
If you are interviewing for position where you would be in charge or if you’re demure in your appearance, however, Davidson says black could be a great choice. Fifteen percent of the employers from the CareerBuilder survey recommended wearing black.
Polar opposite to black, Davidson says brown conveys the message that you’re simple and slow to change. In fact, she doesn’t recommend wearing this color to an interview in any industry.
“Like every color, brown does have some positive attributes; it can read comforting and reliable,” she says. “But in an industry that is fast-paced and innovative it may give the impression you’re staid and passive.”
A great choice to wear on an interview for any industry is gray, says Davidson. “Gray sends a message of being rock solid, wise and reliable,” she says.
Since gray also reads a bit more understated, Davidson suggests adding a bolder accent color depending on the industry. For example, someone applying for a job at an advertising agency might add a red scarf, yellow shirt or purple tie to add a bit of personality and flair.
Red comes across as bold and assertive, and Davidson advises against wearing it for an interview. In many industries it can come off too strong.
“Red can send less favorable messages about the candidate—that he or she is domineering, rebellious and obstinate, for example,” she says. “There is a fine line between assertive and aggressive, and red is a risky choice for an interview. That said the feisty quality of this color might be well-suited in sales or law.”
In contrast to red, white is a reassuring color that can convey a feeling of new beginnings, impartiality, cleanliness and purity.
“It’s ‘immaculate’ quality can suggest an attention to detail and therefore makes it a good choice for an interview,” she says. While you probably don’t want to wear white suite, a crisp white shirt is appropriate for any industry.
Green is a color often associated with a sense of calm and wellbeing, as well as wealth and prosperity. Davidson says it’s a good choice for an accent color as it will not only put the interviewer at ease, it will send a message of possibility and growth.
For more creative environments, Davidson suggests wearing a color that pops such as purple or yellow: “Purple sends a message of being artistic and unique, while yellow signifies optimism and creativity,” she says.
Orange, however, topped the CareerBuilder list for the worst color, with 25% of employers saying it was the color most likely to be associated with someone who is unprofessional.
No matter which color you choose, Davidson says you should also consider its tone. “All colors can be scaled from authoritative to approachable,” she says.
Dark colors are perceived as formal and authoritative, while light colors make the wearer appear more friendly and approachable. Bright colors convey confidence while muted colors are conservative and less threatening.
And contrasting colors can send a message, too: “The higher degree of contrast—wearing black and white, or navy and white, for example—the more powerful you will appear,” Davidson says. “The lower the degree of contrast, the more approachable and friendly you seem.”
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