Study: The best (and worst) colours to wear to a job interview

Research collected from surveys of roughly 2,000 job applicants, some who were successfully hired – and many more who were rejected – sheds some light on what makes for a successful job interview.

The participants who were successfully hired reported having some surprising things in common. One of these was the colour of the clothes they chose to wear to the job interview. Those results compared with the stated opinions of recruiters in a separate survey reveals what to wear (and what to avoid wearing) to an interview.

Bet on black

For starters, many of the candidates who landed the job wore black. Fully 70 per cent of the candidates who were hired say that they were wearing a mostly black outfit to their interview, while only 33 per cent of rejected candidates wore black.

Another recent survey of over 2,000 hiring managers and HR professionals also found that along with blue, black is one of the safest choices to wear to a job interview. Wearing black is considered particularly appropriate for senior roles, as it is considered an ‘executive color.’

What did hiring professionals say were the worst colours to wear to your next interview? Yellow, purple, and especially orange. The survey respondents reported finding bright or loud colours creative, but less professional for a formal interview.

Now, I know that fashion choices are subjective, but I can’t imagine showing up for a job interview wearing an orange shirt (or pants or jacket for that matter.) Anyway, it’s not recommended. Stick to blue, black, or grey when meeting with potential employers.

Of course, getting hired isn’t just about what you wear. After all, it’s a job interview, not a fashion show. Looking clean, well-groomed and professional matters for demonstrating that you take the opportunity seriously and show respect for the employer. However, past the first impression you still need to successfully answer the hiring manager’s questions and steer the interview conversation in the right direction.

Stay on topic, talk about the job and the company

The SmartRecruiter study offers some insights for this as well. More of the participants who received the job offer (63 per cent of them) reported spending much of the time talking about the employer’s company culture and the functions of the role itself. Fewer of the rejected candidates (47 per cent) had similarly focussed discussions with their job interviewer.

A more rambling conversation about your personal life and interests might feel like you’re making a friendly connection with the employer, but after the interview is over, they can still be left wondering about your potential to do the job.

Jerome Ternynck, the CEO of SmartRecruiters said, “Those who reported spending significant portions of the interview learning about the company and the specifics of the job were ultimately those who went on to be hired.”

Small talk at the beginning of an interview can be crucial to breaking the ice and making a positive first impression. You want to appear sociable and easy to talk to. However, once you’re into the heart of the job interview, you don’t want to waste too much time on unrelated chit chat. You need to leave the employer with the solid impression that you are focussed, professional, and excited about the job.

Bottom line: It’s a safer bet to wear a black or blue suit to your next job interview. You should, of course, be well groomed and appear professional, but you can’t coast on you’re your appearance. It is crucial to nail the first impression, but that is formed in mere seconds. Afterwards, you still have 45 minutes to fill. Research the role and the company and be prepared to talk about how you’d be a good fit with the culture and be a successful contributor on the job.

The SmartRecruiters survey data.

See more on what to wear to a job interview.

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