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I have been told that brown, grey, black, and navy blue are the universal attire colors for an interview. Recently, I heard that other colors such as red are considered power colors. I would like to find out which of the statements is true and if there is actual flexibility in the color of interview attire.

Red is indeed a power color, but I do not recommend that you wear a red suit on an initial interview. Even today, the most accepted colors for interview attire are these: black, navy, dark gray, and dark olive green, with black and navy taking the lead as the preferred colors.

According to Job Outlook 2002, an annual survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), a job candidate’s appearance does influence employers’ opinions and hiring decisions. The NACE study reported that 92% of this year’s survey respondents said that a job candidate’s overall appearance definitely affected their opinion about that candidate. They also said that attributes, such as the following, influenced their opinion:

  • Nontraditional interview attire (82 percent)
  • Handshake (74 percent)
  • Unusual hair color (73 percent) or style (64 percent)
  • Body piercing (72 percent), and
  • Obvious tattoos (69 percent)

You can certainly integrate some red into an appropriate interview outfit, such as wearing a red silk blouse with a black suit. But do not go so far as to wear red shoes or carry a red bag.

Consider the industry in which you are interviewing. For example, advertising, real estate, fashion, high technology, and graphic art companies would more readily embrace a red suit. Whereas more traditional industries, such as banking, insurance, health care, and financial services, expect interviewees to wear more traditional business attire, such as dark suits.

For regular attire (not the interview scene), red is considered a classic vibrant color, whether for social or business occasions. On the nonverbal level, red signals that you have self-confidence. A person who wears red is willing to be seen, right? Red also conveys energy and often reflects a dynamic personality.

Power colors are typically dark in nature. Women today can “power up” in rich dark shades of red, brown, green, blue, purple, black, and navy. For interviews however, play it safe and stick with a black or navy suit for these reasons:

  • Today’s job market is highly competitive. Why take a chance of being discounted or offending the potential employer?
  • To show respect for the company and the interviewer’s time (i.e. you take the interview process seriously)
  • To show that you understand the consequences of your business image (i.e. you take your career seriously)
  • To send the message that you understand how to play the game of business and that you want to win


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