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Jokes in an Interview?

Jokes in an Interview?

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

October 15, 2010

A reader writes:

I was wondering what your thoughts are on joking in an interview. I recently had a phone interview that I thought went very well. I was well prepared, am very qualified for the job and had competent answers to all questions. I even threw in a few well meaning jokes (none having to do with sensitive topics) that I thought showed my personality.

It’s been a week and I have not heard back (they said they would contact in-person interviews by the end of last week). I am starting to think that my jokes may have put them off. One that stands out occurred when I was speaking and got cut off. They called me back and I said, “I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you heard last.” The main interviewer seemed to have a hard time remembering and I joked that they must have been “listening with rapt interest.” I thought it was funny and well meaning, but perhaps it was not in good taste? Your thoughts are appreciated!

This is tricky. Senses of humor can be wildly different.

Now, I’m a big believer that you should be “real” in an interview, so that you find out right up front if you and the employer just don’t mesh very well. And a joking remark can establish rapport, if it’s the right joking remark, delivered at the right time. But you also need to remember that things can come across differently when said by a stranger than when the same thing is said by someone you know.

And you have to be careful about how someone else might take it. For instance, the “listening with rapt interest” joke might have come across as sarcastic, which is a type of humor that not everyone likes or gets. It could also have come across as a dig at the interviewer, rather than in the self-effacing way you probably meant it.

For what it’s worth, it’s taken me years to accept that not everyone finds my sense of humor as amusing as I do, particularly in situations where people barely know me. In some situations, it doesn’t really matter; if they’re not entertained, so be it. But there are certain situations where it’s worth turning it down.

All that said, it’s entirely possible that this has nothing whatsoever to do with why you haven’t heard back — that they have other candidates who are a better fit for unrelated reasons, that they’re just moving more slowly than planned, and so forth.

What do others think?

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