We’ve told you already first impressions are everything; take the next step and make a note of these best colors to wear to a job interview. It’s subtle, but effective.
Selecting clothes for an interview goes beyond pulling the right apparel from your closet.
Scarf or scarf? Blazer or sweater? Chunky necklace or delicate and sparkling?
The color you choose to wear can have a powerful effect on an interviewer’s first impression of you. And, it’s not about whether or not it is their favorite color, it’s about what those colors mean to us in general.
Some colors might convey professionalism, dependability, or a sense of authoritativeness, while others might convey something more negative, akin to immaturity or laziness.
Additionally, some colors work better for certain career types, according to recent research. If you’re interviewing for a more traditional job in law, business, or banking, stick to neutral colors. If you’re interviewing in a more creative field, express yourself with a pop of green, purple, or yellow.
Each color can elicit a different feeling or impression, which we know thanks to color psychology. Color psychology? What? Yes, the human brain is crazy, so it only makes sense that we’ve been analyzing that.
So based on the latest data, here are the four best colors to wear to a job interview — and the four to avoid.
- Wear this: Blue
Most experts agree that blue is one of the best colors to wear for an interview: calming and elegant.
Job-search website CareerBuilder hosted a study of 2,099 hiring managers and HR professionals, and blue was the most recommended interview outfit color. Respondents reported associating the color with someone who’s a team player. Cornell University’s career center also says the color “implies that you are trustworthy, honest, and credible.”
What shade of blue? you ask. The shade matters less than the fact that you are wearing blue, as long as it’s not blindingly bright. Navy is a classic, of course, and a light, muted blue can be nice when paired with black or navy slacks. One caveat: sometimes muted colors can cause you to come off as passive, according to Cornell’s career center.
- Wear this: Black
Black is such a powerful color, wear it to interviews only when appropriate. Read on for what we mean by “Appropriate”.
That said, black is a classic color, and it ranked second on CareerBuilder’s survey. People associate it with leadership, while Cornell’s career center says it alludes to strength, authority, having leadership abilities, and timeliness.
“As a high-powered color, save it for high-powered interviews,” reports fashion brand Who What Wear. “Because black can come off as powerful and aloof, it’s ideal for top jobs and managerial positions, but it’s not great if you’re applying for something in customer service, retail, or anything entry-level.”
- Wear this: Gray
Gray is a great neutral color to wear for job interviews. It can portray you as a logical and analytical professional.
Just one quick tip: If you have a tendency to sweat when you get nervous (no judgment here), gray might not be the best color to wear on your big day. Sure, you can wear charcoal pants or blazer, but avoid wearing a gray blouse or button-down since it’ll show sweat.
- Wear this: White
Regardless of hair or skin color, interviewees can’t go wrong with white. Pair a white shirt or blouse with some navy or gray slacks, and you’re good to go. The brain sees white as a pure color and indicative of someone who’s organized, detail oriented, and clean.
An added bonus: it’s easy to match and even accessorize with a pop of color. “Essentially, go for the classics and add a bit of personality by throwing on fun and colorful accessories such as socks, necklaces, and ties,” suggests Cornell’s career center.
- Avoid that: Orange
Orange topped CareerBuilder’s list of worst interview colors. Why? Survey respondents said they often associate it with someone who’s unprofessional.
Orange is one of those colors that can come off as loud and aggressive. If orange is your happy color, opt for a salmon or rosy-colored version of orange to play it safe.
Sure, respondents also said they associate orange with someone who’s more creative, but it’s better to avoid orange and come off as more professional and dependable, no matter your career path.
- Avoid that: Brown
Brown doesn’t give off the best vibe when it comes to job interviews either. Fast Company interviewed image and style expert Carol Davidson who said the color does have some positive attributes; it can come off as comforting and reliable. “But in an industry that is fast-paced and innovative, it may give the impression you’re staid and passive,” she said.
Cornell’s career site also says brown implies you are “boring, simple, and slow to change.”
If brown is your go-to power color and people have always complemented you in your brown blazer, then make sure you are wearing that very piece that people have commented on.
- Avoid that: Multi-colors
Think: Patterns. Bold patterns are fun, yes, but they tend to be distracting. Purple paisley doesn’t exactly scream “Look at me! Look how professional I am!” You want the interviewer focused on you and your voice, not the chevron stripes you are brandishing in their face.
There’s nothing wrong with a black-and-white polka dot blouse paired with a blazer or a blue pinstripe dress shirt. Just be careful with too many colors and patterns; if they get out of hand, these can distract the interviewer.
- Avoid that: Red
In some cases, red works for interviews — but you have to be careful. Wearing red can portray you as powerful, according to the CareerBuilder survey. However, because it is such a high-power and high-energy color, it can become a bit jarring and overtake a room. [Re-read the section on the color black to refresh your memory about classically strong colors. It is all about the position for which you are interviewing.]
“Red can send less favorable messages about the candidate — that he or she is domineering, rebellious, and obstinate, for example,” Davidson told Fast Company. “There is a fine line between assertive and aggressive, and red is a risky choice for an interview.”
Rather than going all out with a red jacket, dress or blouse, consider using red as an accent color. There’s nothing wrong with a red tie or a red handkerchief for a pop of color. That’s taking the middle road and allowing you to be assertive in your own way while not overpowering your interviewer.
Final thoughts: When in doubt, dress conservatively.
Like it or not, the colors you choose to wear to your interview will reflect who you are and the qualities you bring to the table. So, when you’re left wondering what color to wear to an interview, it’s best to play it safe. We aren’t encouraging you to dress like someone you are not: you don’t have to wear the most boring outfit in the world. But, you can still express your personality by wearing clothes that pair subtly with accessories.
Cornell’s career center concludes its analysis with this message: “Have your wardrobe reiterate the qualities you’re trying to showcase in your interview … Not only will you have a leg up on the competition, but your confidence will go through the roof.”
Before you pick out your interview attire, let’s do a zoom call and make sure you are on top of your game both in your fashion sense and your style of interviewing. Book your appointment now.