October 24, 2014

I Didn’t Get the Job Because They Didn’t Like My Shirt?

By Justin H.

A world without color would be one seriously dull place to live. We are surrounded by so much vivacity in our day-to-day lives that color almost seems peripheral at times. However, there are instances where it is imperative to put some thought into color, especially when going on a job interview

Colors are not just simple reflections of light. Blue is not just the color of the sky, but is also the color that makes time pass more quickly, and even reduces suicide attempts and street crime. Red is not only the color of stop signs, but also elicits hunger and makes athletes perform better. Yellow? Well, that makes babies cry. Was Big Bird your favorite Sesame Street character as a kid? I didn’t think so. There are much deeper psychological nuances that color has upon this world besides just being different reflections of light. We all play color favoritism, but don’t always see the psychological impact that colors have on the world. Medicinal pills are colored a certain way to act as placebos. Many food items you eat often have food coloring in them to appeal not only to your senses of taste and smell, but also sight.

The business world is no exception to this color rule. Forbes noted that customers make purchase decisions within 90 seconds of interacting with a product, with 62-90% of their judgment being based specifically on the color of the product or brand. A company’s logo is also crucial in this aspect, with the most important element being how the brand and product relate to one another. Google’s colorful logo undoubtedly helps them out, as do the colors of the eGumball Inc. logo. An SEO marketing company with a black and red logo would immediately come across as untrustworthy, just as a football team wearing pink uniforms would not intimidate anybody.

Clothing color is one area where everyone can relate. When it comes to business, people might often choose to wear colors in the office that they like. Out of fear of ruffling any feathers with the human resources department, people frequently sport blue or white shirts because they are safe neutral colors. Instead of thinking about what colors will help people blend in or look the most professional, employees need to research on color psychology and examine how their colors make other people feel around them.

CareerBuilder asked 2,099 hiring managers what they thought were the best colors to wear for a job interview. Dressing to match the vibe in the office is wise, as is keeping loud colors such as yellow and red in moderation, but it is interesting to note what specific impact each color can have during an interview. The results were eye-opening and will certainly make you think twice about what shirt you grab before walking out the door.


This color was the most favorable in the survey. Blue appeals to both men and women, and it also implies that you are a team player. This color is likely one of the most prominent in your closet anyway, which is a good thing because it is always dependable and projects an aura of tranquility and composure. Wearing blue will actually help you be more productive at work and go through the day with an even keel. Each shade of blue plays well with dark or light pants and accessories, so there is plenty of freedom. For an interview, this is always a safe color to wear, unless it is for a creative job. You may come across as being too conservative with a navy blue shirt in that scenario. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with blue.


Black was the second-most favorable color in the CareerBuilder survey. Yes, I know black isn’t technically a color, so relax. In recent years, it has lost a bit of its depressing stigma and isn’t so closely associated with funerals anymore. Black is great because it goes well with every other color and makes them truly pop. The color is great when interviewing for management positions, and also perfect for making you look a little more trim and covering up that pre-interview nervous sweating you may experience. Black gives off an authoritative and strong look, so while it is not ideal for every interview, it is a clutch color to throw on when the situation calls for it.

Red / Pink

A shirt of this color would be a bold choice for an interview. Red is very aggressive, and it may disenchant the interviewer depending on the type of job you are applying for. FastCompany.com pointed out that the feistiness of a red shirt would play well when interviewing for a job in law or sales, but other than that, it might be a color better suited to save for a romantic evening or a night on the town. When it comes to red, brighter or darker shades may work well depending on skin tone. A deep burgundy has a much different effect than traditional red, as would a brighter pink. Pink is risky, but can be pulled off depending upon the job, (and if it is Wednesday). Regardless, it would be best to steer clear of red in most interviews.


This is a vastly underrated color that includes the best of both worlds, by combining the versatility of black with the calming effect of blue. Gray also works with any other color and projects the sense that you are logical and analytical in an interview. This is a great color to wear in most interviews, particularly one in the tech industry. Gray indicates that the interviewee is dependable, and the shirt also gives the opportunity to break out one of those bolder ties. A quality gray shirt with a nice red or purple tie would be a solid choice for any interview.


Good old classic white. It will not turn any heads, but it will convey that the interviewee is pure and wholesome. White is another color that never fails and works well with other bright colors. It depicts that the interviewee is well-organized and friendly. Another great thing about white is it provides a strong contrast with other colors, much like the other neutral colors, black and gray. Having strong contrasts between your neutrals and other colors makes you seem more powerful, but also friendly. White is always a great choice to appear clean-cut, but make sure to resist hitting the local burger joint before the interview to avoid that dreaded stain.


Why do people forget about green so much? This is not a color only appropriate for Christmas or St. Patrick’s Day. Green is a color that is easy on the eyes and makes a statement. It puts the interviewer at ease and makes you come across as wealthy. FastCompany.com opines that it sends a positive message of growth. However, you should note that green takes a bit of thought when it comes to contrasting. Darker greens will play well with darker pants, and look nice on people of all skin tones. Brighter greens pair well with brighter pants, like tan khakis. Overall, green is a very overlooked color that will subconsciously make the interviewer start thinking about all the positive green items in this world, like nature, money and green lights.

Purple & Yellow

These are the creative and fun colors. If the interview is for a job in the writing, fashion or film industry, a bolder and more exciting color like yellow or purple would be a nice choice. Both colors, but especially purple, imply that the interviewee is artistic and positive. Deeper purples such as an eggplant or plum shirt, portray the interviewee as powerful. Dark purple gives off a feeling of royalty, and is a solid choice for higher-level job interviews as well.
Yellow catches the eye and is the shot in the arm every wardrobe needs. Just make sure not to walk past any nurseries on the way to your interview. It also speeds up metabolism! The downside is that yellow’s loud nature mostly restricts it to only creative job interviews, and the chance of looking like a bright ray of sunshine comes along with the risk of looking like a banana.

Brown & Orange

We definitely did not save the best for last. Not that there are any bad colors in this world, but these are two colors that are better off being shelved when going on an interview. Brown has its moments, but it looks rather plain in an interview. It does imply dependability and make the wearer seem wholesome, but always be wary of the depressing effect it may have during an interview. It also limits options for ties and accessories because traditional brown does not mesh well with many other colors.
Orange was the resounding loser in the race for shirt color supremacy in the interview room. A whopping 25% of employers said it was the least favorable choice. Orange is a great color, but in an interview it screams unprofessional. It is simply too risky, and is best kept on hold until the interviewee has already gotten the job and adapted the company culture to better gauge their receptiveness to orange.


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