In a world where companies interview dozens of people for one job position, first impressions are more important than ever.
What you choose to wear that day may send a subconscious message to the interviewer about your character—especially the color of your clothing.
To help you achieve an ideal first impression, here’s a quick guide to some of the best and worst colors to wear to a job interview.
Mix and match colors
As people, we communicate stronger with our visual cues than words or gestures. For this reason, the colors we wear at a job interview are so very powerful! Colors communicate strongly on their own, so carefully craft your message by choosing a color that best supports your key attributes as a candidate.
Choose navy blue for trust, yellow for positivity, red for assertiveness, gray for wisdom, brown for responsibility, and black for authority.
Depending upon what you want to communicate, I recommend to my clients that mixing-and-matching colors is the most effective. For example, if you want to present as reliable and enterprising yet affable at a job interview, then a navy suit or dress with yellow accents will support your goals (pocket square, scarf, handbag, etc.).
Here are more guidelines on how best to communicate through color and its psychological impact:
RED — Communicates high-energy, assertiveness and sense of excitement
ORANGE — Communicates a sense of being lively and energetic
YELLOW — Communicates warmth and cheerfulness
PURPLE — Communicates regal and extravagant qualities
GREEN — Communicates a sense of well-being and harmony
PINK — Communicates feminine and quiet qualities
GRAY — Communicates a strong character and wisdom
NAVY — Communicates a sense of being enterprising and trustworthy
BROWN — Communicates simplicity and responsibility
BLACK — Communicates strength, authority, assertiveness as well as mystery
Founder & Executive Director, Professionals In Transition
Effective job interviewing is about making a stunning presentation in the first nanoseconds before you even shake the hand (or bump elbows in the case of coronavirus). Most human resource managers have made up their mind either thumbs up or thumbs down before you even get a chance to speak. Your task is to either prove them right or wrong.
Your goal is to look sharp and snappy.
Color plays a big part in this first impression. Every person has good colors and bad colors. Going to a good men’s/women’s specialty store is a great place to begin.
I was shocked when I was shirt shopping and was told that gray was an excellent color for me in shirts because it brought out the gray in my hair. Also shocking was the color pink, which was great because my wife is a breast cancer survivor. However, blue is the universal color of interviews.
If you’re really conservative and don’t want to take a chance, a blue button-down long sleeve oxford is the way to go.
For men, I would stick to either a gray or navy suit
Even if it’s a casual business interview, at the very least, I would wear a good navy blazer white, blue shirt, tie up, etc. Remember, you can always dress down by taking off your blazer, losing your tie and rolling up your sleeves. But, if you go in too casual, you’ll never recover and feel very foolish.
For women, navy blue or gray suit, accessorized with color
For women, I would recommend a relatively conservative dress. For me, that would be navy blue or gray suit, accessorized with color. Conservative is the way to go both with men and women. Some will tell you to wear a red dress. To me, it has become a “cliché interview color.”
Here’s the bottom line:
Your only job for the first interview is to get a second interview. That allows you to concentrate on building rapport. That means “If I like you… If I don’t, I won’t.”
You want your clothes to blend in with you as a sharp seamless package. Any other color may cause you to stick out like a sore thumb and may fight for attention throughout the entire interview. Don’t be remembered for what you wore; please be remembered for who you are!
No red, hot pink, or fuchsia
I hadn’t thought of colors of clothes until I wore a black tailored suit to a bank interview, and the man said, “You come in here looking all-powerful in your black suit to show your strength.” (said with malice)
And then I was on a panel discussion (during political election season), and I wore a bright blue suit, and I was introduced as, “Well, we can tell her political leanings.”)
When I was very young, I bought a red double-breasted suit, and my boss said, “either where navy, black, or brown, but don’t ever wear that red suit to the office.”
So my advice regarding color is no red, hot pink, or fuchsia, but most anything goes today. And most importantly, “don’t let your close be more interesting than you are.”
Whatever you do, don’t wear black
The industry you work in dictates what’s acceptable to wear to an interview. Suits are standard for all corporate jobs, while some industries – art and retail, for instance – may be more laid back. In those cases, business casual dress is appropriate. Dressing appropriately is the first indication that you get it.
If you are interviewing for a job in finance, wear a sharp, well-tailored suit with a watch and padfolio.
Your look tells the interviewer that you know what is required if you were to get the job and that you fit into the culture. If you are interviewing in a corporate environment, you should err on the side of conservative: Conservative means wearing a white shirt and a navy or gray suit.
Dressing conservatively allows your performance in the interview and your experience and skills to do all the talking. Imagine having a great interview and connecting with the interviewer, who thought your qualifications were the perfect fit for the job, but you showed up in a red suit.
Suddenly the interviewer has forgotten about your qualifications and your impressive resume because he will only remember your red suit.
Research shows that humans have a negativity bias and will focus on any element of the interview that stands out as negative or odd instead of recognizing all of your positive qualities. Don’t attempt to prove that you are unique with your clothes – it usually backfires.
For both men and women, wear a suit that is either navy or gray. Black is acceptable (if that’s the only suit you have), but it is not as professional. Black suits should only be worn at funerals and black tie events.
Choose neutral colors over bright colors
When you enter the room, your appearance puts the first impression on the interviewer. Make sure you are dressed to impress and look professional. One important aspect of the interviewee’s first impression is the color of the outfit. The color you choose to wear tells about your personality. So wisely choose your outfits for interviews.
It is recommended to choose neutral colors over bright colors. Bright colors like navy, gray, black, and brown are the best outfit colors for the interviews.
White is also good for interviews, but I won’t recommend it. It seems like you were confused about what to wear and then ended up with a white shirt. An outfit with a good color contrast says a lot about you, like a navy shirt with a gray suit looks so cool. And yes, prefer solid colors over patterns.
When in doubt, go for black shoes. They go with every outfit. I personally prefer black or camel brown colors for shoes. In case you are choosing to carry accessories like wristwatches, make sure they don’t dominate your outfit. Go for black, silver, or rose gold.
You can never go wrong with solid, neutral colors
Job interviews require an understanding of nuance and company culture. That’s why it is so important to conduct thorough research on a company before going in for an interview.
Some corporate cultures are more relaxed, with a more casual dress and working environment. Typically, those industries are related to marketing, advertising, media, and the startup world. However, other corporate cultures and industries are a bit more conservative, requiring a more business professional dress. These industries typically include finance, healthcare, and academia.
When it comes to the color of the outfit you are going to wear to an interview, you can never go wrong with solid, neutral colors.
These typically include your black, blue, gray, and white colors. If a company logo is predominantly one of those colors, then it is even better to match to it. For more traditional and conservative companies, I’d highly recommend sticking with those color schemes and not veering too far off from them.
However, for more non-traditional companies and roles, where conservative dress colors aren’t the norm, then it is common to dress in bright or even flashy colors. This can include yellow, red, or even pink. However, the color scheme chosen should always match your overall look. Although you may be tempted to don a pink shirt, make sure that it matches the rest of your outfit.
In addition, be cognizant of the season and traditional color rules. Spring and Summer are great seasons to wear pink and yellow but can be seen as a faux-pas in the Winter.
Neutrals with a dash of bright color
This is a fascinating one for me. I’m red/green colorblind, and this has been a big problem for me since childhood. There are certain jobs I’m not allowed to do, and when I shop for clothes, sometimes I am struck by paralysis and always need help because I cannot determine what works well together.
Hence, I’ve spent many years researching color theory and its impacts.
The type of industry you work in comes in to play here. However, across the board, if you want to play safe, these colors are largely expected and incite the following emotions:
However, that doesn’t mean you have to stick rigidly to those colors. In traditional sectors, such as finance and law, you want to look as professional as possible, hence one/a combination of navy, grey, and black works. However, in media and creative industries, this would seem too sterile and unimaginative.
While still looking professional, you could add a dash of yellow or orange in your attire, to show that you’re bright, full of ideas, and willing to think a little differently, while still maintaining order and structure.
Certain people will react differently to certain colors, so I’d recommend largely avoiding:
Director of Operations, MyCorporation
One of the worst colors to wear at a job interview is white
White is the most prone to get dirty or potentially stained en route to the interview. It’s also a color that, for many garments, tends to be a bit more see-through than others. Aside from traditional black, I would advise incorporating jewel tones into your interview look.
Consider deep, rich colors like emerald or sapphire blue (or navy blue) that allow your outfit to pop but still remain conservative, whether you’re interviewing for a startup or a corporation.
Anything bright that stands out would be a terrible choice for a job interview
So think bright red, bright pink or even orange. It’s really hard to take someone seriously when they dress in quite extravagant colors, and the concern is, when they deal with customers, they will be more focused on their clothing than listening to what they have to say.
I think looking professional, and the part is really important and gives a sense of confidence when dealing with customers, so they are more likely to buy from you. The problem I think with bright colors is you can come across gimmicky, and first impressions are really important when it comes to business relationships and even job interviews.
This doesn’t mean you dress dull. There are some extremely stylish clothing out there, but it’s about finding the right color scheme to show you’re serious about the job rather than expressing your individuality.
Dark colors would work well, such as dark blue, dark grey, black complimented with white are the most professional, I think.
Executive Resume Writer | Employment Interview Coach | Past President of the National Resume Writers Association | Host of the Resume Storyteller Podcast
Stick with jewel tones or pastel colors
Your color (and print) choices can make a very big difference when you are being interviewed via video — a format that has become the norm these days as companies have become budget-conscious. Video interviews tend to occur before people are brought in for that next level (face-to-face) interview.
I advise my job-seeking clients to take a page from TV news anchors who have been doing this for years and stick with jewel tones or pastel colors.
When it comes to print patterns, avoid big ones. Whatever you do, be sure to see for yourself how the colors of your clothing appear on camera BEFORE the interview. Job seekers have access to several free video conference platforms (Zoom and Skype are just a few that come to mind) that can help see if your clothes are “ready for their screen test.”
This content was originally published here.