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How to Smile in an Interview
It may seem strange to contemplate your every move ahead of a job interview, but sometimes it's the little things that can make the difference in getting the job. Beyond your skills and qualifications, employers may scrutinize the way you dress, what time you arrive, and even the way you smile to decide whether to hire you. But before you let that overwhelm you, know that learning how to smile is a pretty simple task to accomplish.
How to Do It
You know you need to smile -- but not just any smile will do. To do it correctly, show your teeth, and work on making your smile as natural as possible. That means not pursing your lips in a closed-mouth smile, advises etiquette coach Diane Gottsman. Your entire face gets in on the action as well; try smiling and only moving your mouth and you'll realize that your eyes and face play a big part in conveying a genuine, happy smile. You've landed the job interview -- that's something to be happy about. Draw on that happiness to deliver an open, genuine smile that is not forced or tight.
Why It Matters
That smile is more than common courtesy. It's also showing that you're enthusiastic about the job and interested in what the interviewer has to say about working with the company. Enthusiasm is key, says Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the job hunting book “What Color is Your Parachute?” as reported in a 2007 MSNBC job interview article. Prospective employers want to see energy and a willingness to work, and your smile will help convey that.
Throughout the interview, it's important to pay close attention to the interviewer's body language and the overall tone of the interview to help you determine how to act at any given moment. As a general rule, avoid fidgeting, crossing your arms or slouching, as these can convey signs of nervousness or insecurity. Also, don't think you have to smile all the time. Follow the interviewer's cues; when he says something with a smile on his face, it may be appropriate for you to smile as well. If you're talking about something difficult or serious, smiling is going to make you look insensitive and totally out of touch with the tone of the conversation. You're going to be nervous, but do your best to stay on top of the social cues and follow the interviewer's lead for appropriate behavior.
Whether you're feeling totally confident about the interview or it's making you want to crawl under a rock, practice can help you work out the kinks and polish your presentation. To prepare, have a friend or trusted colleague help you do a mock interview that includes the initial handshake and introduction, a series of possible questions and a closing scenario. If you're especially nervous about your smile, ask your friend to make note of your overall body language and give you feedback at the end of the mock interview. This preparation and feedback may give you the confidence to have an even more successful interview.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.
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