Does using humor when you’re interviewing for a job make you memorable? If so, is it for the right reason?


A TechRepublic member wrote me with an interview question. He wants to know if humor in the interview situation is helpful in getting the job or if it creates a bad impression.

Making jokes during job interviews would be a great idea if:

  • Everyone in the world had the same sense of humor.
  • Everyone in the world had a sense of humor.
  • Everyone in the world knew when you were trying to be funny.

In other words, there are too many if’s involved. There’s such a large margin for misinterpretation of humor, that you would run a pretty big risk using it in a job interview.

You can never be positive that the other person will find humor in what you’re saying.

When I was a teenager, I wrote an article for our town newspaper in which I lampooned family reunions. I thought it was a pretty obvious satire — I spoke of great-aunts you’ve never seen pinching your cheeks until you have their fingerprints embedded in your skin — but I was wrong. The paper got a letter from a reader who was highly offended that I would insult a wonderful tradition like the family reunion. That was my first wake-up call that you can never make assumptions about people who are reading something you’ve written or hearing something you’re saying.

I don’t know from your e-mail how far you go in your humor. Are you telling knock-knock jokes? When the people you’ve encountered laugh, is it a genuine laugh or a polite laugh? As you can see, there are a lot of variables.

Now, I’m not recommending that you enter into these situations with a dour all-business demeanor. If someone thinks something you’ve said is funny, then they are apt to remember you after the interview process is over. But be sure they laugh for the right reason.

Another way to look at things is that if humor is just part of the way you communicate, then you should feel free to do it. If you don’t get the job because of that, then you really wouldn’t want to work in that kind of environment anyway, would you?