Color Me Hired

Use a signature color to build your personal brand.

Color is one implement in your personal-branding toolbox that will help express brand attributes and create emotional connections with hiring managers and recruiters. Deployed intelligently, color can help you stand out in a job search.

Once you think of yourself as a brand, you require a brand-identity system just like major corporations. Your personal brand identity system (PBIS) includes a standard font, color, images, textures and other design elements that you use consistently throughout your career-marketing tools, including your Web site. Color is perhaps the most distinctive of all those elements.

We all have opinions about color. We select colors for our clothes and the walls of our home. But selecting a PBIS is different from choosing colors to highlight your skin tone or create an aesthetic in your home. It’s about choosing colors that reflect your unique promise of value — your brand. Before you select a color for your brand, consider how companies use color.

When you hear “big blue,” what company comes to mind? IBM, of course. IBM maximizes its unique relationship with blue. The company uses it as the primary color on its corporate Web site; in all presentations; on marketing materials, signage and in the names of many of its products and programs (Blue Gene, Deep Blue and Extreme Blue, just to name a few). Although blue is the most common logo color for American corporations, it’s probably more often associated with IBM than any other brand.

Like IBM, some organizations are so consistent and steadfast in their use of color, they practically own that color in our minds. Think Home Depot, Breast Cancer Awareness, UPS and Target. And some companies actually do own their colors. Tiffany, for example, has registered its trademark robin’s-egg blue as a brand asset; Tiffany Blue is registered with the Pantone Matching System registry of colors.

While IBM is associated with the most common corporate color, UPS chose one of the least-used colors (brown) to help it stand out from the pack. The brown uniforms and vans and the tagline, “What can brown do for you?” are important and effective elements of its brand-communications strategy.

Color supports differentiation

The ability to identify a company by its brand color is amazing. When you’re standing at the rental-car bus stop at the airport waiting for the shuttle bus to pick you up, you know whether you’re looking for the yellow, red or green bus. It’s more difficult to identify Budget (orange and blue) and Alamo (yellow and blue). Multiple colors seem to be harder to own. But that’s not something that worried Google or eBay. Both companies have four-color logos that set them apart from their competitors.

Color and your personal brand

Color is just as important when it comes to your personal brand. You can use it to express your professional attributes, evoke emotion and build that all-important connection with people who can help your career. According to Sue Brettell of id Creative Solutions, a London design firm, “Color is a key decision in the design process and my first priority when I’m working on a personal brand identity. The designer’s job is to guide the client toward a mix of colors that project their personality while being attractive to their target audience.”

Your Web site is just one of many career-marketing tools, like business cards, stationery, thank-you notes, your resume and cover letter, on which you should use color appropriately and consistently. (Of course, a little color goes a long way. Don’t get carried away and make your resume look like a bag of Skittles!)

When you are in a job search, there are many ways to use color consistently to create recognition and evoke emotion. On your resume, add a band of color to the contact information at the top. Of course, your Web site or blog gives you the best opportunity to use your brand color.

What color are you?

Do you know what color or color palette best represents your personal brand? Find out with this video.

Color is powerful. It’s an important personal branding tool, so use it wisely and consistently to support your job search. To make the most of your color, follow these five rules. Ensure the color you choose is:

  1. Accurate. Become knowledgeable about what different colors mean. Choose a color that expresses your brand attributes, and avoid choosing a color just because it is your favorite.
  2. Relevant. Ensure it’s relevant and compelling to your target audience (the people who are making decisions about you – hiring managers and recruiters). Test your color choice with your target audience before committing.
  3. Culturally correct. Make sure it works in all parts of the world where you are applying for jobs. If one of your brand attributes is global, be sure your color doesn’t offend people. (Learn if one of your brand attributes is “international” here.)
  4. Applied consistently. Always use the same shade and hue. Have access to the PMS, RGB and CMYK digital formulas for the specific shade you choose so it will reproduce accurately on screens and in print. Your designer will be able to help, and Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign have built-in conversions.
  5. Repetitive. Feature your personal brand color on all of your personal-brand marketing tools: Web site, business cards, marketing materials, resume and thank-you notes.