A splash of colour: how the shades you wear can influence your interview

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You may be aware of the study of colour psychology. It’s based on the idea that the colours around us affect us on an unconscious level, influencing our mood and our choices.

You may have come across facts like how our brains are naturally disposed to see red first, or that the colour orange makes you more likely to engage in conversation. And of course companies invest heavily in their branding, making sure that the colours they choose says exactly what they want to say about their product. But can you harness the power of colour for your job interview?

True Blue

The best colour to wear if you’re going for a job interview is blue, studies suggest. Although all the conservative colours go down well with prospective employers, it’s navy blue that gives you the greatest chance of landing the job you’re interviewing for. Blue is considered a friendly colour. Sky blue, true blue – these things have positive associations. If you do a quick scan of company logos, you’ll be surprised how many of them include blue for that reason – blue is the colour for team players.

Although navy is the best for the main part of your outfit, a brighter or very pale shade can give the same effect. Choosing a blouse, short or tie in blue will reinforce the impression of friendliness.

Fade to Black

Black on the other hand gets mixed reviews. It can be seen as a depressing colour (the association with funerals) or as a boring choice, too safe and predictable. There are exceptions to this idea of course, where black is chosen as a personal style statement or to embrace a certain kind of chic (think Chanel and YSL).

In those instances, the choice of black is a strong one, and comes with associations with leadership. However, unless the role you are interviewing for is a senior one, then you may prefer to avoid revealing quite how much of an independent thinker you are!

Annoying Orange

The worst colour to wear during an interview is orange, surveys claim. Perhaps it’s the image of death-row jumpsuits or just that such a bright colour tends to make even well-made clothes look cheap and garish; either way, put your orange clothes to the bottom of your interview pile.

Just a splash of colour

If you want to create the perfect interview outfit, then combine your navy-blue suit with a splash of colour. For men, pick a shirt or tie that compliments the blue or contrasts for a bit more impact. For women, choosing either a navy suit with a coloured blouse, or accessorising a navy dress are the safest bets. So, what are the associations of your contrast colours?

Green – Pale greens reflect good cheer and sportiness. Darker shades have an association with high class (Hunter wellies, Harrods).

Pink – Either sex can wear pink, in men it conveys confidence and independence, whereas in women it can give the impression you are more approachable.

Purple – Another unisex colour, the deeper shades of purple are related to royalty and so give a sense of authority. Purple strikes a nice balance between looking efficient without looking too predictable.

Yellow – Yellow is a colour that symbolises cheerfulness. Being opposite blue on the colour wheel, yellow contrasts very well with it. The only shade to avoid is mustard, which can give a yellowy, almost jaundiced appearance if the person wearing it has pale skin, and you don’t want to cast doubts on your health!

Beige & Brown – Neutral colours can work well, but sometimes the resemblance to camouflage may give the impression you’d rather fade into the background. Brown suffers similar problems to orange; unless your clothing is very well made and fitted, it runs the risk of looking like the proverbial sack if you don’t have just the right shape for it.

Red – As well as being noticeable, red conveys messages about passion and power. It’s not the colour to wear if you’re going for a subordinate role, but if you want to catch someone’s attention and mark yourself out as a mover and shaker, a dash of red could be just the thing.

Fly the Flag

If you can find a way to do without making it too obvious, then including the company colours in your outfit can be a way of subtly giving the message that you are aligned with their values – at least as long as the corporate colours aren’t brown and orange!

Your interview outfit should always be chosen with care, and without a doubt the most important thing to do is to arrive on time looking neat and tidy. Beyond that, the research seems to be in no doubt that navy blue with a hint of something else is your best bet for a successful interview and career beyond.

Sarah Dixon writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in finding candidates their perfect internship. To browse their graduate jobs London listings, visit their website.

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