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 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.

Saundra provides strategic guidance and coaching to help ExecuNet members land their next opportunity. This includes uncovering their unique personal value proposition and defining competitive differentiators to advance their careers. This also includes providing detailed feedback for improving a member’s personal marketing collateral—well beyond their résumé.

Saundra Botts is an ex-Headhunter turned executive candidate advocate who shares the behind-the-scenes truths on how executives really get their next job. Mrs. Botts has recruited through three recessions and has researched and documented why some people remain in demand, despite the economic climate, and others are not. In 2008, during an economic downturn, she noticed that executives get hired for different reasons than the other 97% of the org chart and began to educate her executive clientele to get them working again quickly.

After working for the top search firm in Boston, WinterWyman Search, and running her own Retained Search Agency, Saundra decided to take the inside information she’d acquired and use it to help executive professionals, most of whom are embarking of their first-ever job search, understand the differences in job search strategy when you make over $200K annually to avoid wasting time, avoid exploiting valuable network connections, and land their ideal role.

Saundra’s passion is to open doors and educate, to help everyone make the career of their dreams a reality.

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