Job hunting? Be sure you have the right colour behind you

Light grey improves your chances; whereas red is a no-no

From stage managing our sitting rooms to scoping out our colleagues’ book collection, we’ve now fully acclimatised to the curious etiquette of video calls. But could our choice of background actually affect our chances in a virtual job interview?

Intrigued at the possibility, SavoyStewart.co.uk surveyed 3,489 new employees on what colours and objects appeared in their video backgrounds during recent interviews. The findings reveal that certain combinations do appear to increase the prospects of job seekers – while others seem to be a major turnoff for employers!

What is the best background colour for a video interview?

Light greys such as Polished Pebble and Gray Owl are the most likely to contribute positively to a remote job interview. In total, 84% of the new hires used the colour in their background, whether that was a virtual background or a painted wall.

It seems that neutral tones also positively affect interviews as white comes in second place – 79% of the new hires had this background when being interviewed remotely.

Yellow tones such as Hawthorne Yellow and Babouche claim third place with 74%. But, not all warm colours are a good choice when it comes to remote interviews: Red has the least positive impact, with only 18% of job seekers becoming employed after using it.

SavoyStewart.co.uk got in touch with Dennis Relojo-Howell, the founder of the psychology website Psychreg, for tips on what to consider for your video background during a remote job interview:

1) Consider the psychological effects of background colours: Colours – and their corresponding tones – are often linked with a person’s attitudes and emotions. That is why it is important to consider the psychological effects colours might have during an online interview, where many of the nuances of face-to-face interviews can be lost. Think of having an exposed brick wall as your background if you’re applying for a job as a legal adviser; it’s best to go with more neutral tones.

2) If you can, choose neutral colours: During online job interviews, it’s best to be neutral – especially with backgrounds. The results showed that people are drawn to neutral backgrounds and white is widely regarded as this; not only is it the safest, but it can also illuminate your face. Light grey tones are very calming and look professional.

Colours in order after light grey are: White and yellow (pictures: both New Africa [NA]); dark green (Umeillustration); beige (Followtheflow); denim blue (WAYHOME Studio); black (NA); earthly brown (United Photo Studio); and brick (El Lobo). Please note all pictures are via Shutterstock.

3) Be careful when choosing warm colours: Warm colours (such as red, orange, and yellow) can evoke a range of emotions ranging from comfort and warmth to hostility and anger.

4) Background style and elements also must be considered: Research has shown that colour wields enormous sway over our attitudes and emotions. And of course, it’s not just colour but also your background styles. I would personally recommend a minimalist approach in order to convey a more professional but approachable vibe; with artificial light just to accentuate the glow in your face.

5) Be aware of your objects! Objects in your background should also be considered. Do you remember the woman with the ultimate Zoom background blunder on national TV? She had a dick on the shelf behind her. So, think of the objects behind you because whether we accept it or not, interviewers can make quick assumptions about the objects they see behind us.

6) Be yourself! Many people can feel embarrassed by their homes during video calls because we have these idealised notions that everything online should be neat and tidy. Also, there’s also a temptation for us to present ourselves the way social media influencers and YouTubers do.

Me? When I’m on an office Teams call I change my background to a picture I took of Greenwich Park or maybe the Convent Garden Opera House at night for a bit of variety. It also helps to hide a bin behind me. If I think the people on the call are attempting to give me a bit of BS I change the background to a picture of flying pigs. They seem to get the message.

The worst background if you want to get ahead is red. Picture: Robert-Kneschke-shutterstock

David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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