1 interview trick can set you apart from the hordes of applicants trying to look like they mean business

March 10, 2023, 11:51 AM UTC
Woman smiling as she interviews for a job
Flashing potential bosses a big grin could increase your chances of landing a role.
Fiordaliso—Getty Images

A serious face is often deemed professional—even the dictionary associates unsmiling with being businesslike.

It’s why hopeful new hires may tap into their inner Victoria Beckham or Kanye West—who famously scowl or pout—when they want to look like they mean business. 

But actually having a poker or somber face in a job interview may be a less successful strategy to landing a role than flashing potential bosses a big, cheesy grin. 

That’s because, according to new research, a smile exudes confidence and consequently, makes you more hirable.

Says who?

Scientists created fake LinkedIn profiles for imaginary job seekers with facial expressions ranging from grimacing to grinning. They then asked almost 300 working professionals to rate each profile’s suitability for a made-up sales manager job on a scale of one to seven. 

The study, presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, revealed that smiling candidates scored an average of 5.11 while non-smilers averaged 4.99, showing a slight advantage.

In another timed experiment, 146 employers were shown the same profiles and asked, yes or no, whether they would shortlist that person for a final interview.

The study noted: “Smiling faces received more offers than neutral faces.” The effect was more pronounced when participants were given less time to make a call.

Why smiling trumps seriousness in a professional setting

“We found that, in general, smiling participants are more hirable—they got a higher score compared to non-smiling participants,” said Sabrina Chan, the study’s leader from the University of Toronto, and added that this is because smiling emits goodwill and confidence and makes you generally more attractive. 

“First impressions are very important and research shows people have stronger memories for happy faces.”

But its success can vary, she warned, depending on factors like how long you smile, the timing of it, and the intensity—“also think about the job and whether it is appropriate.”

Beaming away at an interview for a job as a funeral director, for example, will probably come across as creepy and not have the desired effect.

A tip for job hunters and hiring managers

Chan’s general advice for job seekers is to fake-smile—“as long as you don’t overdo it.” Meanwhile, employers are recommended to take into account the natural tendency to prioritize smilier people when designing “bias-free hiring policies.” 

This is especially because some people may struggle to conceal or fake emotions. 

 “I do feel like people with mental health issues are at a disadvantaged position, especially those who do not feel up to showing their emotions,” Miss Chan said.

“If they just don’t feel like [smiling] then it does put them in a disadvantaged position and also people who may not be very good at emotional expressions or regulation.”

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