Is Your Face Sabotaging Your Job Interview?

Have you ever thought an interview went great and were surprised to find out that the feedback was, “We’ll pass.”?

bad-faceThere are hundreds of reasons a company will “pass” on a job applicant but only about 25% of the cause is out of our control. You cannot control your competition nor your experience, but you can control how you communicate.

One of the most common communication faux pas that seems to fly under the radar of a job applicant’s awareness is facial expression. Given that more and more interview processes are starting out with video, this is even a bigger issue because on video, the impact is amplified exponentially.

Facial expressions are so powerful that they can be used to increase your chances for getting the job offer but most commonly, unfortunately, they hurt chances.

Here are five facial expressions that can sabotage a job interview:

  1. Wait, what? Occasionally, you will hear something in a job interview that does not float your boat. Don’t show it! You might find out later that the job is totally worth it or it’s not as bad as you thought but the interviewer will have the image of your face reading disappointment. You can never undo that memory.
  2. The “really?” eye roll. For those that do roll their eyes, it is almost uncontrollable. I have epilepsy and, occasionally, it happens for no reason. It has caused so much trouble I have learned to pretend something got in my eye when it happens.
  3. Wondering eye. Of course, you are curious about your potential new environment and it is common to want to check things out but just make sure you stay focused on the person you are speaking with 100% of the time.
  4. Perma-grin. Maybe it is just me but I have never trusted anyone that smiles all the time. While it is important to maintain awareness of your facial expression, “attentive” and “appropriate” are more effective than expressions of constant approval.
  5. Eyebrow squint. If you don’t understand a question or statement, clarify verbally. If you express confusion on your face, the expression can be left up for interpretation and it might not be accurate. Make a mental note of the question without a “tell” on your face. When the interviewer is done with the sentence or comes to a pause, ask a clarifying question. Asking clarifying questions is a great way to exhibit that you are listening attentively as long it is sincere.

Just for fun, check out the news reporters and for even more entertainment, check out the political  candidates or pundits when on split screens on the news. Next, try turning the sound off. You will find your judgments are tremendously similar from a few second clip without sound as it is from a rational analysis of a long speech. In the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, he proves how quickly we can make judgments based on first impressions. Mr. Gladwell writes, “Our unconscious reactions come out of a locked room, and we can’t look inside that room but with experience we become expert at using our behavior and our training to interpret – and decode – what lies behind our snap judgment and first impressions.”

Keep in mind that most job interviews are not designed to trick you but rather to get at truthful answers, reveal your true personality and determine a good fit. If you think about it, that’s also your intent. Watch the expressions of the interviewer, as well, to help guide your judgement and make sure your face does not send the wrong message.



Saundra Botts

Saundra Botts

Saundra is an ExecuNet Career Strategist and Career Coach. Working 1:1 with high-level senior executives, Saundra provides strategic guidance and coaching to help ExecuNet members land their next great opportunity. This includes uncovering their unique personal value proposition and defining competitive differentiators to advance their careers. Additionally, she provides detailed feedback for improving a personal marketing collateral—well beyond their résumé. Leveraging her expertise, Saundra guides executives through the entire process from entering the job market, which for most is their first time, identifying the path to success, to onboarding with their new company and beyond to create job security.

Saundra is known for “opening doors” and has also facilitated Job Search and Transition Workshops for universities, FENG (Financial Executive Networking Group), and various executive leadership groups. Her depth of experience includes has over 15 years in Retained Search and contingency placement within corporate accounting and finance sector with First Call Search, Dubin & Lee and WinterWyman Search. Saundra has consulted with clients, ranging from start-ups to multi-billion-dollar conglomerates. She has worked with $12 billion companies building accounting and finance teams, succession planning, and hiring, as well as filling key positions at many medium-sized, publicly-traded companies; non-profits; and universities in Boston, Miami and Los Angeles. ExecuNet Career Strategist and Career Coach.

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