What Color To Wear To An Interview



Choosing Colors to Wear to
Ace Your Interview


You landed the interview! The one with the employer that you’ve been dying to work for. You know, the employer with the rewarding work and good pay. The employer to which you’d give your firstborn if it means getting the job.

Did you know that the colors you wear to your interview convey both obvious and subtle information about you? Did you know that they can increase your confidence and your perception of your own capacity (which of course makes you seem more capable during the interview)? With everything on the line, even a small advantage could help you in your pursuit of employment bliss.

So Lets Talk Color

So, let’s talk color...

DO: Consider Colors From The Company’s Brand

Perhaps the safest approach in choosing colors for your interview ensemble is to choose colors from the branding of the company where you’ll be interviewing. It’s easy. Go to the company’s website, look at its logo and color scheme, and choose from the colors you see there. Here are a few examples from big-name businesses:

  • Coca-cola: Red and white
  • PepsiCo: Red, white, and blue
  • Starbucks: Forest green
  • United Parcel Service (UPS): Brown and gold

1st Do

Three big warnings are in order here:

  1. In almost all instances you’ll want to begin with a relatively neutral color and add brand-based colors as accents.
  2. Never let color choice trump common sense. Do not show up in a bright pink suit even if you are applying for a position repping Barbie at Mattel.
  3. Do not dress like a walking advertisement for a company. Drawing on a company’s logo colors should be subtle, and should never scream of desperation.

Choosing colors from among those used for corporate branding is unlikely to trigger concerns about cultural insensitivity (more on this later). Similarly, choosing company branding-based colors conveys that you are already one of the team.



Consider Colors

DO: Consider Colors From Your Personal Brand

In 1997, Tom Peters wrote an article for Fast Company Magazine, titled “The Brand Called You.” In it, he laid out a relatively new concept, that of the personal brand, stating:

We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.

Some people go so far as adopting a signature color scheme for their brand – think Steve Jobs and his black mock-turtlenecks. Quoted in Forbes magazine online, personal branding guru William Arruda notes that those who adopt a set color scheme “wear what they wear because that’s what they feel comfortable wearing,” and “when you wear something that just feels right, you are confident… It makes you memorable and distinctive.” Traits that may be perfect for your upcoming interview.

Take a careful look at the business at which you are interviewing. Does it value independence and creative thinking? Would it be open to someone who stood out from the crowd?

More importantly, have you even developed a signature color associated with your brand? If not, an interview is likely not the time to start. Take a look back at what William Arruda stated. To gain confidence and an edge from drawing on your signature clothing colors, they need to feel natural, to feel right, to feel like you.


AVOID: Colors With Strong Negative Cultural Connotations

Colors convey meaning, and that meaning is often culturally based. “The psychological association of a color is often more meaningful than the visual experience,” explain Pantone’s color experts. Meaning, colors may evoke responses far beyond simple appreciation for a particular shade or hue. One big challenge though is that some color associations are much stronger than others.

In the United States we may think of white as conveying a woman’s purity and innocence (think weddings, christenings) and even capitulation (think surrender), there is no associated prohibition against wearing white to an interview. At least not for women. A man in a white suit would be considered out of place in most situations, although a white button down shirt is a staple. Conversely, a gray suit for men is classic, while gray on women may be perceived as dowdy (although we’ve seen some ultra chic exceptions). Red on the other hand conveys passion, strength, and rebellion, in the US, but all in measured doses.

David McCandless has compiled information on cultural connections around the world via his beautiful colours in culture wheel (he’s a Brit, hence the funky color/colour spelling). Our recommendation? Check out the wheel to see if there are possible associations and then do a bit of deeper research to understand the depth and subtlety of the meaning.


DO: Choose Colors With Strong Positive Connotations

DO: Choose Colors With Strong Positive Connotations

Cultural and natural associations are not always, or even predominantly, negative. In some cases, they can work on your behalf to convey subtle alignment with your field of practice.

Working on environmental issues or in the outdoors? Consider earthy tones, such as browns and greens. Working with babies? Think pastels. With school age children? Think primary colors. Creatives, such as photographers, writers, and designers are often associated with the color black.

Learn the culture and colors of your field and leverage that knowledge when you go to an interview.

Do: Rock the basics

business woman isolated one

DO: Rock the Basics

When in doubt, blue or black, with a pop of red to conveys excitement and passion meet expectations for almost all situations for both men and women. They are ubiquitous, standard, and safe (assuming safe is a good thing for these purposes). These are perfect options when you want your impeccable style and winning words to shine and your color choices neither to raise concern nor win applause.


A Final Insider Tip

There is no substitute for some basic background research. At a minimum, check out the firm’s website and news coverage. Look for the colors people are wearing in their promotional materials. If you can swing it, consider doing a bit of reconnaissance work and check out the business during a shift change or at opening or closing time. Look for the color story portrayed by its existing employees and consider twice before straying too far from what you see.