I watched a show on the Discovery Channel called Head Games. The episode was Seeing is Believing. One of the pieces dealt with a woman wearing a white dress while asking for a single $1. Most people ignored her or made excuses, though a few would give her the $1. Then they dressed her in the same dress only this time it was the color red. The difference in the behavior from others was amazing. Not only were they willing to give her money, many asked her if she needed more. By the way, both dresses were nice and she was well groomed. She was posed as someone who had left her purse in her office and she wanted some water. They exhibited the power of red in a couple of other examples, even to the point that a few guys carried her across the street if she was wearing the red dress. This made me wonder about the impact of red in a job interview. Will wearing red improve your interview results?
There have been numerous studies that have looked at the impact of color in various situations. They have found that men find women dressed in red to be more attractive. This was demonstrated in the show I watched. Conversely, studies have also found that women find men who wear red to be more attractive as well. According to this latter study the effects were limited to status and romance. Women judged a man dressed in red to be of higher status and to be more sexually attractive. Interestingly it should this did not have an impact on the subject’s likeability. Men were not affected by men who wear red, but women found women who red to be more attractive.
Colors in the interview
It is obvious that colors have an impact on how you are perceived in the interview. That is why you have been told how to dress for an interview for a long time. Anyone remember Dress for Success? In the article Best Colors to Wear In A Job Interview the author, Vickie Elmer, says
“Colors convey meaning and emotion. Red means luck in Chinese, and red and black are power colors, said Legatos. They may work for an executive or contract negotiators’ job. But if you’re interviewing for an administrative assistant job at a nonprofit, you may be better off in a less bold color – blue or brown or something more neutral. White – as in a shirt or blouse- suggests clean, purity, honesty. People do have these subconscious reactions to the colors you’re wearing.”
She goes on to give advice on what you should consider in choosing your interview outfit, such as situation, audience and position.
But will RED help?
A red tie (remember those?) was long known to be the “power” tie. Given the reaction people have to the color red I thought of a few questions to ask you readers:
- If you are interviewing with a member of the opposite sex will you have a competitive advantage if you are in red?
- Conversely, if you are interviewing with a same-sex interviewer would you be better off not wearing red?
- Will wearing red make an “average” looking person more attractive than if they were in another color?
In answering these questions you may want to pooh-pooh these questions and say that rational people do not make decisions on these bases. However, you would be wrong. People do make unconscious decisions all the time based on their unconscious perceptions. The science is really pretty amazing.
Let’s do a poll
I did not find any research on the power of red in an interview, albeit my search was limited. So I wanted to ask you if you have ever noticed in your personal experience this type of effect? Have you ever been treated differently based on the color of your clothes?
Perhaps there is a scientific study in this for some academic or student that might read this. If you do it, let me know about.