Guest Consultant Brendan Betancourt: Do You Hire Based on the Candidate’s Ability to Smile?


If you are like most people, you probably don’t even notice if a candidate smiles spontaneously. During interviews, most of us are so consumed with the candidate’s skills, and finding out if they can do the job, that we often over look important aspects that in many cases may be more important.

The funny thing is that you can teach people most any skill, but you can’t teach them to smile. And for people in the service industry, smiling is probably the most important skill of all.

While researching a talk, I came across this little story that Tom Peters told in one of his presentations.

I once said to a Starbucks regional manager, “I’m stunned that almost all of your store people, from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia, always sport a smile. What’s your secret?”

She smiled as she answered: “We hire people who smile!”

And to keep them smiling?

“We promote the ones who smile the most.”

Could it be that simple?

I can see some people saying, yeah, but Starbucks is different than a medical office.

Oh yeah, how so?

Whether we want to admit it or not, those of us that work in private practices, we are in the service industry just as much as Starbucks is. If anything, we ought to be more emotionally connected with patients, than Starbucks is with their customers, yet we are probably the industry that hires less on smiles and more on skills.

Smiling is the only expression I can think of that is understood by everyone despite culture, race or religion. It’s a sign of pleasure, joy, happiness, or amusement. It is also an inviting expression; one of welcoming or politeness and friendliness. In fact, research shows that smiling correlates with greater trust, greater financial earnings, and increased interpersonal cooperation.

We are not hiring right now, but when we do, I’m going to make sure I look for that smile before I evaluate their skills. Because we can always teach them how to do things in our office, but we can’t teach people to smile spontaneously. That comes from within.

Guest Author Brandon Betancourt

Brandon Betancourt is a managing partner at Salud Pediatrics.  He also blogs, speaks  and consults on practice management issues. You can follow Brandon on Twitter @PediatricInc.

You can contact him at his website here.

Posted in: Amazing Customer Service, Day-to-Day Operations, Human Resources

Leave a Comment (3) ↓


  1. Cory Annis, MD May 18, 2012

    I am in absolute agreement here. After years of looking for people with medical office experience for my front desk, I took a chance on a truly pleasant young woman from the hospitality industry…what a pleasant surprise. I learned that skill can be learned, but things like smiling are something people have to come with. Not only does it change the patient interaction, it changes the interaction in the office, reduces tension and leads to lower staff turnover, MUCH lower. As social animals we make up our minds about an interaction in the blink of an eye … or the flash of a smile. Next time I need to hire, I’m going to start looking at the Disney Store.

    • Mary Pat Whaley May 20, 2012

      Hi Cory,

      I agree! A strong training program gives medical practices many more options for hiring.

      Best wishes,

      Mary Pat