In an interview prep session I had recently with a client, she asked me if it would be a problem if she wore a black suit to her upcoming interviews. I said, “That should be fine. Why do you ask?” She then told me about all the advice she had read online that strongly urged job seekers to avoid black and that she was wondering if she should buy another suit.
I was curious about what exactly the various sources were saying, so I did a little research into it.
One of the most interesting pieces of advice I kept running across was that it’s more acceptable for women to wear black to an interview than men. I have no idea why there is that gender bias. Is it more difficult for men to “tone down” black since the jacket on a men’s suit tends to stay more closed even when it is unbuttoned? Maybe. I can see that a woman wearing a pastel-colored shell – light pink, mint green, soft yellow, or lavender – would have a softer feel. But still, a man can wear a light-colored shirt and complementary tie, and it wouldn’t have to look imposing.
Or perhaps the color has more formal connotations with men? Hmm, not sure about that one.
The only real reason I could find for avoiding black when interviewing is that the candidate could appear aloof. I can somewhat see that point. Black is generally seen as a color that is worn for more formal activities (weddings, black tie events, etc.)
However, I think that any perception of aloofness has much less with the color of the suit and more with how a job seekers carries him/herself. This could be a real concern for candidates who are more introverted or have a quiet demeanor, since that can be interpreted as aloofness. While it is important for job seekers to be themselves in the interview, it wouldn’t be good for that behavior to mute enthusiasm for the profession or the particular opportunity for which they are interviewing. The drive a candidate possesses for the job is a selling point that should come through clearly during an interview.
Overall, too much is made about the color black when the focus should be on other things that will make a difference in a job seeker’s presentation. Sure, a candidate doesn’t want to appear to go for the goth look, nor does s/he want the interviewers to think a funeral dirge is going to break out when the job seeker walks in the door. But simply wearing a black suit isn’t going to make or break a candidate. Other factors, such as:
- engaging the interviewers with the stories of your career,
- keeping your nerves under control,
- displaying the right amount of confidence,
- having a strong understanding of the prospective employer’s values and needs, and
- being aware of your body language
are much more critical to interview success.
As for my client who wore her black suit to the interviews? She received multiple job offers, one of which was to her dream job.
Image courtesy of Eddy
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