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What do I look for when interviewing a candidate? A smile.

interview smile

This is what I look for in all candidates

Interview Smile

Everyone has heard the question and seen the top 10 lists for what companies, recruiters, and execs look for when they are interviewing candidates. Many C level execs have their list of must-haves and they can rattle off these traits and characteristics like Mary Poppins rattles off Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Passion, Intelligence, Drive, Self Starter, Ivy League Education, Competitive attitude. The list goes on and is different for every hiring manager and every company.

One of the very first things I look for in a candidate is an interview smile, and I don’t need to see a supermodel. A great smile quickly conveys a couple of things to me.

  • You are comfortable with yourself, which is a sign you can take direction without being offended.
  • You are probably more fun to work with than someone who doesn’t smile.
  • You will naturally put others around you at ease.

Hear my smile

I am as cynical as anyone out there, and if someone told me they want to “hear my smile” over the phone, I would probably want to punch them in the face  (when I think of someone who has the audacity to say “I can’t hear you smile”, they usually are the kind of person that was never punched in the face growing up. I would be doing them a favor because everyone needs to experience this).  After talking with 100’s of candidates over the phone, I am here to tell you that you can “hear personality” and “hear a smile”. I can also hear a beaten down candidate that has been through 15 phone interviews and given up. Your energy DOES come through, and your lack of energy comes through even louder.  We have all talked with a customer service rep who had a bad day. The one who sounded like they were going to go home to kick the dog and tip over the fishbowl. We have also heard the customer service rep that sounded like they enjoyed their job. When I hear that person, I literally want to offer them a job.  Trust me on this one, a smile makes a big difference and will be the difference between moving on to the next stage of an interview loop or waiting by the phone for a call that will never come. Here are a few ways you can sound like you are smiling or confident:

  • When you are in the phone interview, stand up. Don’t take that phone interview in a car, or sitting down.
  • Do not take the phone call in the conference room or phone booth of your current employer.  You end up whispering because you don’t want to get caught and I hear these awkward silent moments when a co-worker is nearby.
  • Stand in front of the mirror when you are talking to the recruiter so you can see yourself smile.  The recruiter is your friend. The recruiter is the gate-keeper. They are the concierge at the hot restaurant in town that you didn’t make a reservation for. You are NOT going to get a table with attitude. SMILE.

If you don’t know how to smile, practice. Sounds corny, but when you meet people face-to-face, smile big, shake their hand and look them in the eye while saying “nice to meet you”. Recruiters meet candidates 10 times a day. A great smile will make a lasting first impression.   negative attitude makes an impression just as quickly. Because most people take the interview process SO seriously, you will make a great impression with a big smile just because so few people do.

With today’s technology, white teeth and a winning smile are more obtainable than ever. Do it yourself home kits with strips and gels are available to everyone and reasonably priced. You are selling yourself and the face is the first place most people look when meeting you. You don’t need $25K in veneers. $40.00 in whitining strips will make a big difference in how you feel about yourself and more importantly how others view you. One affects the other and it can be a vicious downward spiral or can be a way to lift your subconscious score.

Yes, of course, I look for passion, intelligence, drive, and blah, blah, blah. The very first thing I look for are candidates who I want to work with, and more importantly who our teams want to work with. They are the ones that smile naturally.

Don’t forget to brush your teeth,

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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