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Should you joke in a job interview?

Be serious in interviews

Job interviews can often be tense, nervous and sometimes downright frightening affairs. So are you ever tempted to lighten the atmosphere by telling some well-meaning jokes? Humour can cut through the monotony of the standard answers the interviewers may have been hearing all day, but it can also backfire. Not everyone will share your sense of humour, so is it worth risking your chances?

This week I was amused to read the following Q&A scenario:

funny interview question response

It's important to bring a positive attitude with you to a job interview. But a joke told by a stranger can come across differently from when it's told by someone you know. Not everyone will find your sense of humour amusing, and a misplaced joke could cost you the job. So when is it okay to exhibit your sense of humour and when should you keep quiet?

When humour works

Exhibiting a good sense of humour can be a great way to show your positive nature, especially if this is a reflection of the 'real' you.

The right funny remark, delivered at the right time, can help establish rapport with the interviewer and, if they're your potential future line manager, can show if you're going to enjoy working with them. It also allows then to gauge whether you'd fit in with their organisational culture, which is key to a successful interview.

A creative and witty answer to a standard interview question such as "Tell me about your biggest weaknesses" can help you stand out from the competition, and demonstrate that you can overcome challenges with a positive attitude

When it doesn't

Obviously, when it's a more formal interview you shouldn't clown around. Take your cue from the interviewer and what you've learned about the organisation through your pre-interview research. For some people being entertaining can come across as unprofessional, which you definitely want to avoid in a job interview.

Be aware of how people might interpret your humour. Not everyone will share or get it. Jokes can come across as sarcastic put-downs aimed at the interviewer, even if you mean the humour to be directed at yourself.

The punchline...

It's always a good idea to bring a positive attitude with you to the interview. Remember to smile and, if you feel comfortable doing it and the circumstances are right, share one of your (pre-prepared and well-practised) funny anecdotes or witty remarks. A sense of humour is a soft skill that many employers are looking for!

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