Speak in an interview without saying a word

By Jamie Grant, C ’98, GEd ‘99

I chose psychology as my undergraduate major because so much around the subject fascinated me – study what you love, right?!  One particularly interesting area of the field that can have impact on you – or, at least, your interviews – is the psychology of color.  What do your apparel choices say about you – before you ever begin speaking about your interests, skills and accomplishments?

Fast Company magazine recently published an article by Stephanie Vozza, entitled “Why You Should Never Wear Orange to An Interview” as part of their category “How to be a Success at Everything” (love it!).  Understanding the power of color and its implication on how others perceive you may not necessarily make up for a lack of experience or qualifications, Vozza writes, but can certainly help you make the most of your first impression.

As examples:

  • Black conveys leadership.
  • Red is a color of power.
  • Blue gives the impression the person is a team player.
  • Gray reads as logical and analytical.
  • White gives a feeling of being organized.
  • Green, yellow, orange and purple are associated with creativity.

The article goes on to echo an idea we share in Career Services every day – know your industry. Navy can be a wonderful choice for a suit if you are applying to a conservative field – but in a creative environment, navy may just be too conservative and send the wrong message.  Brown can imply passivity and staidness, Vozza writes – NOT a good thing to project when you’re applying for a role in a fast-paced environment that may require adaptability, flexibility and leadership skills.  Gray may be an excellent fit all around, and certainly you have the option of accent colors like purple, blue, or green – shirts and/or ties for gentlemen, blouses, scarves, or other accessories for women – chosen in hues suited to the industry for which you are being considered and the image you hope to project.

And, as the title of the article says, avoid orange – the hiring managers interviewed as part of the base of this article said it is the color most likely to lead them to think the candidate was “unprofessional.”  Besides, what Quaker wants to wear Princeton’s colors, anyway!!?



Author: Jamie Grant

Jamie Grant is Associate Director of Career Services for the School of Engineering and Applied Science.