Colours for interviews – What to wear and why
The colours one wears to a job interview communicate a great deal about the interviewee, and when the process is based around first impressions, what kind of impression you want to give to your prospective employer is of the utmost importance. Interviews don't just depend on your CV, references or even body language and the amount of times you smile. The interviewer is seeing you for what is probably the first time, and could hire or pass you over depending on the subconscious effect of the colour of your attire. So, what colours make a great first impression?
In a recent published survey by the BBC, 2,099 hiring managers and human resources professionals stated that conservative colours, especially blue and black, give the best first impressions to the interviewer, whereas orange is the most disastrous. Colours such as black, blue and grey give the candidate an air of “professionalism” and make them seem more calm and organised. In contrast “loud” colours, though useful when applying for a creative position such as a design assistant or entertainer, often put interviewers off. The thinking being that someone who stands out too much is not going to be a team player, and since most roles require teamwork the ‘individual’ is a risk most employers won’t want to take.
Though this colour can, in many cases, be seen as antisocial, when worn correctly it can communicate sophistication, glamour and professionalism. It can be seen as intimidating by some, but when accented with other, more approachable colours, it gives the interviewer and others the sense that the candidate possesses calm self-control and the ability to deal with whatever may occur. Many brands use black to show the public that they are in control of that industry and give their brand a sense of glamour, particularly perfume and fashion companies. In general business many employees, including waiting staff, bar staff and many in retail, wear black as part of their uniform. If this is the case for the job you are applying to, it is not a bad idea to consider wearing it, as this enables the employer to visualise you in the role you are applying for, and they may be more willing to hire you, as they already feel that you will fit in and work well.
Being naturally a colour that people associate with calmness and constancy, blue is one of the best colours to wear to an interview. Depending on the shade, the message given out is slightly altered. Studies have shown that “navy blue is the best colour for a suit” as it exudes confidence and trust. Statistically, an interviewee is more likely to get a job when wearing blue than any other colour. It signals steadfastness and the ability to work as a part of a team, as well as, particularly in lighter shades, giving the air of approachability, important when applying for a position with a lot of interpersonal communication, such as teaching or instructing.
Independence and isolation are what many employers feel grey communicates, as well as an analytical approach to problems. Despite the bad press it receives as being a background colour and conveying loneliness, it can also be used in the same way to communicate independence and capability, important in managerial positions and jobs requiring independent decision making. However, grey should not be worn for a role involved with a lot of communication and interaction.
Either white or beige clothes are a relatively safe choice when applying for a job, but they can also give employers the idea that you lack self-confidence. The positive associations of white are “organisation” and “carefulness”, as any accidents, such as spilled food or ink, will immediately show on the clothes. If you are even slightly accident prone, this probably isn’t a good colour to wear, for obvious reasons. It’s also worth considering that for men white can come across as rather stark.
This colour contains all the associations of “warmth, security and dependability”, but also may be seen as “dull” and “unimaginative”. As such it is preferred less than blue or black. It is also less generally regarded as less professional. Nevertheless the perceived warmth of brown can be seen as welcoming and approachable, and so is useful when applying for jobs involving hospitality or engagement, including training, teaching or social work. But remember that to many people brown is seen as boring and so should be used in moderation or with more colourful accent colours.
We’d never suggest a man wearing a red suit, but red ties, ladies’ blouses or dresses are preferred by some, and with good reason. Red conveys enthusiasm, a passionate attitude and power. It’s worth being cautious though as red can also be seen as volatile, violent or eccentric, depending on the shade. Avoiding large quantities of blood red is, therefore, advised, the message being all too primal and obvious! Red is however, according to surveys, the best colour to wear when trying to “impress or persuade”, as it is linked with energy and bravery. This makes it useful when applying for marketing or management jobs, where authority and passion are key, but less useful for desk and team based jobs, as it can make an individual stand out negatively and attract too much attention.
Green, yellow, purple, etc., do not generally depict a clear individual image, but all communicate creativity and an engaging personality, attracting attention to the wearer. However they also lack the connotations of trust and dependability, seeming more changeable and volatile, which could be detrimental for some positions. In jobs involving children, such as teaching, etc., these colours can be advantageous as they make the interviewee seem enthusiastic and fun. They are also immensely useful as accent colours, particularly when used in moderation and in combination with navy, black, or a similarly professional colour. By mixing the assumed characteristics once is able to give the impression of sophistication and professionalism with creativity, passion and innovation, a potent mix.