Can Smiling Help You Land a Job?

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Job interviews should be taken seriously, but that doesn’t mean you should not smile. In fact, whether you’re participating in a phone screen, an in-person interview, or salary negotiations, it benefits you to smile. Ramon Santillan explains why in today’s Career Expert Q&A.

You say that smiling during a phone interview can help a job seeker land an in-person interview. Why is that?

In nature a higher pitched voice means that something is safe (think of a monkey sound) whereas a low voice means danger (think of a lion growling). Now think about what a smile is: a person bearing their teeth. If you were to see a dog bearing his teeth you would see that as a sign of aggression and not friendliness.

So why do humans see a smile as a sign of friendliness? That is because when you smile, the muscles that activate actually reduce the size of your vocal cavity making your voice higher pitched. Try saying “Hi Baby” in a deep voice. Now try the same exercise but using a high pitched voiced. You will notice that you can’t make a high pitched sound with your voice unless you smile.

How does that translate into a phone interview? When you’re smiling, you have a higher pitched voice and thus sound less threatening. That is what people call “hearing your smile.” They obviously can’t see you smiling on the other side of the phone but they can hear it. Whenever you’re on the phone, make it a point to smile throughout the conversation. You will notice that people will be more receptive to your message and thus, more persuasive.

Does smiling have the same persuasive effect during the in-person interview?

Yes. See above. The smile itself seems like a visual cue but actually the “caveman” part of our brain is “hearing the smile” and thus telling us that this person smiling to us is safe. Therefore a smile is actually a verbal cue.

Now let’s shift to salary negotiations. It seems to me that smiling might lower your persuasiveness. Do you agree or disagree?

Disagree. During salary negotiations, the person who maintains their composure for the longest is more likely to come out ahead. The other party is more likely to concede to your demands because they will see that you are in control and sure of what you are asking for. Smiling conveys the message that you are sure of yourself and that you are in friendly negotiations. Besides, do you really want to pulverize into the ground over salary negotiations the person who you will be working with? That’s a terrible way to start a new job.

Do you think the effects of smiling differ with gender?

Not during the context of a job interview. Smiling helps us determine that the person we are dealing with is friendly and possibly a team player — both traits that are important for the survival of the species and, coincidentally, also important for completing TPS reports at the office. Regardless of how advanced and evolved we believe we are, our day-to-day interactions are still based off of our caveman brains and its need for survival.

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About the Expert

Ramon Santillan is an Interview Consultant and founder of Persuasive Interview. He provides one-on-one training using psychology and scientific research to help job seekers turn job interviews into job offers. Ramon also trains hiring managers how to identify top candidates and take the guesswork out of the hiring process. He has been quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald and US News & World Report as an expert in interviewing techniques.

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Written by

Rachel Dotson is a former digital marketing manager and former blog contributor at ZipRecruiter. She is based in Venice, California.

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