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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.

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.

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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.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think of the new research that says smiling too much during a job interview is bad? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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20 Comments on "Smiling May Cost You the Job"

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Alpha Chimpanzee

“I never smile if I can help it. Showing one’s teeth is a submission signal in primates. When someone smiles at me, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for its life.”


Best comment ever.

Smiling takes less effort than not; I smile a lot and it may have hurt my upward mobility….. Honestly, I’m tired of the whole work place anymore. The Gen’s 25 to 35/40, whatever they are called, don’t have the work ethic of the baby boomers. I think this change in the work ethic, combined with all the other drains on our society (welfare, reverse discrimination vs. white males, Obama Care, fraud in the private, public and political sectors will serve to accelerate the decline of our country. Better have the best paying job that pays 3-4 times what the average… Read more »
An Observer

An interesting use of the sign language for “lesbian”.

the questionner

Why write about something without any real substance? Where are the studies the stats the numbers? What is this except some common sense?


Interviews are lottery anyway so what’s the point?


Smile is form of expression derived from something which gives a good feeling.
As long as the good feeling comes from genuine reasons and not from exceedingly baseless thinking ,One cannot go wrong.
Faking an expression doesnt connect, The brains are wired to spot a lie.
So stay true to yourself and as long as your thinking is not way out of the ordinary you need not worry.

'Great White' (Shark: Earth & Beings Rights Person)
'Great White' (Shark: Earth & Beings Rights Person)

I have to agree, with most of the posters, this is total BLANK!


What is appropriate and what’s not solely depends on situation and mindset of organisation(People interviewing). Smile as you meet new faces in course of interview is absolutely required, and natural smile is inevitable. But after interview you may think whether or not I have done well?, Would I will be selected? and if you smile at end is different, certainly interviwer can pick up how you feel it after interview. In my interview I faced bully panel once, later discovered that they were testing my tolerance level. Certainly smiling should be augmented with positive comment which causes better impression.

Jayashree Jayanth

It is ridiculous that whatever we do goes as a part of evaluation, even smiling! An interviewer should be more involved in ensuring the candidate meets the expectation of the job rather than checking if he/she is smiling at appropriate times! Candidate may be nervous. It becomes interviewer’s responsibility to address the needs of the interviewee as well.

Md. Musleh Uddin

One should try to smile naturally. I think it will always add value to most of the circumstances.

I work in IT, architecting and managing MS Domains. The slightest mistake can have catastrophic consequences for hundreds or thousands in the organization. Hiring managers want to be 1000% certain you can handle the stress and responsibility. My best way around the smiling dilemma is to ‘turn’ a phrase or statement made by the manager or someone on the team into a slightly funny but appropriate re-statement while identifying with the serious nature of the position, but also showing I have a sense of humor, without making light of things. Companies that are interested in finding a ‘cultural fit’ like… Read more »
Don’t forget about making the interviewer smile. Personally, I don’t have a God given natural smile, but I am always myself, not someone’s vision of who I must be. For example, I travel a lot and greet every fellow traveler with some straight faced levity if possible; not as a means of gaining approval mind you, but rather because that’s who I am. For example, I get to an airplane row with someone already situated in the aisle and at the window seat and announce; “yep, I’m the one that’s got the coveted middle seat.” My point is that I… Read more »
Rick Clay
I think this post advising caution with smiling is quite helpful. One-size-fits-all advice for job interviews can work against people and they don’t realize it. Yes, for a serious job, smiles need to be flashed only when they are really called for. Not like those TV news people who are smiling at a car crash. Best advice, I think, is to try to view the interview as a serious conversation between two people who are both human — smiles can be appropriate at times, not at others. (I have found that people who smile waaaay too much in a serious… Read more »

Why is it every time I read another “Do or Don’t” I get the feeling employment-seekers are looked upon as trained monkeys – expected to twist and contort themselves to fit each and every mold corporate America demands.

I thank the deities I bailed out of the job rat race in the late early 2000’s, and struck out on my own. Today’s job-market is a no-win situation – especially now when we the people are thought of nothing more than disposable human flesh.


I believe that one is hired for many reasons. Hiring managers are influenced many ways. Skills, knowledge, abilities and other attributes are vague because they have. their own idea of whom they want in their midst. A smile shouldn’t make them not hire a qualified. The interview process is nerve racking and it is enough to get through.


Oh good grief. Smile, don’t smile. This week we have to have scented cover letters, next week we have to send roses after the interview.

Everything hinges on everything. FML


HRManager what you say is true, sadly.
But a good interviewer will look for skills and integrity not for how much the interviewee will suck up (“connection”) to him/her. The world is so far down the toilet.


Smile or don’t smile, the reality is connecting with the individual interviewing you. If you cannot make the connection during the interview, chances are you won’t make it to the next step in the process.


Thanks for sharing such a great post!!Smile is said to be influential. But it is something alarming that it can ruin one’s job if it is expressed the most!! Thanks for sharing!!

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