Is Sucking Up Bad In a Job Interview?

I know this isn’t the most burning question, but I recently had a comment about sucking up in an interview from a delightful 16-year-old  reader named Livi. And it got me thinking.

Livi applied for an entry-level job and was wondering how her interview went. She wrote:

I was interviewed for a very easy, entry level job (movie theater concessionist/usher) and I had good answers too! but I don’t know. everything was going good, they seemed like to me (I  guess I did kind of “suck up” one time)…

And later in her comment she asked:

…anyway I guess my question is, since I didn’t really have any questions at the end and I may have been a “suck up” and I now remember things that I  should’ve said at first, do you think they will call me back…ever?

I just loved the energy that came through even in her comments and hope she got the job. I responded to her concern about follow up questions, but also addressed the issue of sucking up:

BTW…sucking up would mean you’re being phony. If that’s true…don’t.  Just be yourself. But if you think smiling and being nice is sucking up…please don’t worry. People are looking to hire people they’d like to work with day in and day out. So reliable, competent, intelligent and above all NICE is very important.

I want to emphasize the importance of not coming off as someone who is saying things only because you think that’s what THEY want you to say. I can tell you from my own experience as an interviewer that’s a great way to lose an interviewer…and the job. You come off as distanced, unnatural, and most of all someone they are not sure they can trust.

So where is the line with sucking up?

There is a level of what some might call “sucking up” that’s absolutely fine in interviews and in life.  Listening carefully to the other person and showing you care about what they say. Agreeing with them…especially if you really do. Watching their reactions for cues about what to expand on and what to drop. Finding a sincere and positive way to tell them about yourself and how you can bring your best skills to the company, while showing real enthusiasm about the company and the job in question.

And if it’s a little more enthusiasm than you really feel, that’s ok. 

If you’re curious, you can see Livi’s follow-up comment explaining a little more about what she meant here.

Would love to know what you think about Livi’s concerns about sucking up and the practice in general. What does it mean to you and when does someone cross the line?

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