Smiling May Cost You the Job

Just when you thought you had job interview body language down — look squarely in the hiring manager’s eyes, give a firm handshake, and smile, smile, smile! — the latest research indicates that showing your pearly whites might actually work against you.

(Photo Credit: zen/Flickr)

A recent study by Northeastern University shows that smiling too much during a job interview may harm your chances of getting hired. How much is too much? It depends.

Type of Job

Common cultural knowledge dictates that you want to come across as friendly or approachable. However, smiling “too much” during an interview makes you seem less serious, or worse, less competent.

Some jobs are seen as more serious than others. For example, if you work as a teacher or a salesperson, you will want to smile some during the interview to indicate your ability to connect with people on a personal and warm level. People who work as reporters, journalists, or managers in a corporate environment are generally seen as more serious, and therefore, excessive smiling during a job interview may hinder their chances of getting hired.


Timing and appropriateness matter. Smile at the beginning and the end of the interview. At the beginning, your smile shows enthusiasm for the job and a degree of self-confidence. During the interview, have a serious conversation. Don’t make a point of finding times to smile, and don’t smile when discussing problems you have faced in other jobs (and you will be asked about them) or other serious issues.

End the interview on a high note with another smile. Show you are confident with one last smile.

Best Practice

Mechanically smiling at strategic times during the interview will look fake and make a worse impression than your natural expression. You may wish to practice some in front of a mirror to make certain your smiles don’t look forced or tense. 

In the end, best practice may be to relax and stop worrying about how many minutes you spend smiling in an interview, but rather, smile when you feel like it, and be serious when it’s warranted.

Finally, don’t forget to brush your teeth. Smiling with spinach between your teeth will definitely leave the wrong impression.

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