What’s the deal with smiling? That might seem like a joke of a question. You probably didn’t laugh. But shouldn’t you have at least smiled? Will you be more successful if you smile more often? Now we’re getting deep. You might be surprised to find out there’s conflicting information on this subject.
On one hand, science says smiling is healthy for you, even when you’re faking it. Researchers separated people into three groups and had them work on stressful tasks. The first group put chopsticks in their mouths to simulate a smile. The second group forced a smile, while the third group kept a straight face. Turns out the two groups with fake smiles experienced less stress. Their heart rates were lower, which aligns with research that shows smiling—particularly the genuine kind—is good for heart health.
So, you’re young, and you’re looking for that great job that can become an incredible career, but the interviewing process is stressful. With the above evidence in hand, it’s easy to assume you should smile more during your interviews. Doing so will help alleviate stress, which in turn will help you perform better. Further, since your life on the job can be stressful, you should smile more often while you’re at work.
“People who smile appear to be more likeable, courteous, and even competent. This is reason enough to smile at every person you potentially want to do business with,” says Vivian Giang, citing research from Penn State. She goes on to discuss how smiling can train your brain to be happy: “The more we train, the easier it becomes to think positively, shut out negativity, and, in turn, boost your productivity and creativity, which allows you to perform better at work and life.”
If smiling more helps you deal with stress, and helps you become happier and more productive, maybe a good grin is just the thing you need to land that great job. But this isn’t an open-and-shut mouth—I mean, case. Assuming you should smile more during interviews is like assuming it takes a gimmick to get a job, when what it really takes is professionalism.
Several studies found that less can be more when it comes to smiling during interviews. In other words, be natural. If you’re applying for a position where the work is serious, such as reporter, police officer, or social worker, treat the interview with the type of seriousness it deserves. Prepare yourself with important questions to ask at a job interview. For example, find out about company culture and ask what the interviewer really likes about working for the company. Naturally, you’re going to smile if the interviewer says something humorous. But wouldn’t it be awkward if you forced yourself to smile although the person across the desk isn’t saying anything worth smiling about? If you’re going to force a smile, it’s best to do so at the beginning and end of an interview, meaning you’re happy to meet the person and you’re happy the interview went well.
How much you smile also makes a difference once you’re on the job. People who smile too much and are too cheerful in the workplace are at a disadvantage. Researchers found that, “People who appear really happy also appear to be more naïve than people who seem just a little bit happy.” Co-workers are more likely to try and manipulate you and take advantage of you if you seem happy all the time. The European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology even found that agreeable and nice people have lower salaries than those who are assertive. No one says that’s fair, but it seems to be the way the world of work is.
Ironically, smiling more may be better for your heart and your health, but it’s not necessarily better for your career. This definitely says something about the hazards of our career-oriented society.
When it comes down to it, be natural when you’re interviewing and when you’re working. When you’re on your own time, remember that it helps your health to smile. If you’re just naturally more cheerful than most, so be it—in the long run, it won’t hurt.