Everyone enjoys a good laugh, right? So when you’re going for a job interview, you might be tempted to impress the hiring manager with a clever line that displays your great sense of humor.
The problem is, everyone’s sense of humor is different. Some people enjoy dry, sardonic one-liners, while others prefer dad-jokes. One isn’t better than the other, but they’re not interchangeable, and you can’t know where the interviewer falls on that scale. You don’t need to be rigidly serious, but there are a few types of humor you should avoid to ensure your funny line doesn’t fall flat.
Effective sarcasm requires understanding the audience — a waiter cracking about demanding diners would be funny to someone in the food industry, but it may backfire with someone who has only been a diner. Since you won’t know your interviewer, you don’t know whether they’re going to get the joke or misunderstand your motives. Avoid the awkward pause or having to explain yourself by avoiding sarcasm all together.
This kind of humor — jokes in which you are the punchline — can be endearing to people who know you. For example, if someone knows you’re a spreadsheet wizard, they’ll laugh when you joke about never getting the hang of all the buttons on the office phone. But an interviewer doesn’t know your strengths, so they won’t understand the context of the joke. They may think you can’t master simple technology, or lack confidence in your ability to learn. Don’t give them any reason to doubt that you can do the job well.
Jokes about Your Old Jobs
Speaking poorly of previous employers or coworkers is never a good plan, even if you couch it in humor. It’s unprofessional and shows a lack of discretion, two traits that no interviewer is looking for in a new hire. As the old adage goes, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, except maybe, “I was ready for a new challenge.”
Some might make the argument that you should just be yourself in an interview, because being genuine gives the interviewer a clearer picture of who they’re considering. In many cases, that’s good advice, but one thing all employers are looking for is someone who knows when to make jokes and when to be professional — and a job interview is a time to be professional.