I love people with a sense of humor, and personally I prefer to hear a bad joke rather than no joke. Joking always makes me feel at ease and proves me that I’m facing a live person, not a robot that is programmed to perform a designed task and then goes on a standby mode.

It’s essential for me to interact with jokers, especially at work, as it makes me feel I’m working with people who want to create a real community and a sense of friendship on our team. Most importantly, it assures me that we feel comfortable with one other and if there’s any tension, we are always able to release it by telling a joke that may sound silly rather than funny, but everyone still gets it! However, joking can be a risky business, and there may be a thin line between light jokes, teasing and offending somebody.

Joking or teasing is accepted among friends as the person telling the joke is provided with the whole context of who we are, what we are like, and how well we can read into irony and subtext of the joke. Our colleagues don’t necessarily have this context and instead of a burst of laughter there is an odd look or a raised eyebrow. It is even more complicated when it comes to telling jokes at a job interview when our audience doesn’t know us at all.

I have been in the corporate world for many years and had a chance to meet and interact with many different people – and I must admit I had a few situations that my sense of humor made some people confused and an attempt at telling a joke left me mortified. From this experience, I can tell it is difficult to find a common ground in case of sense of humor.

So how to tell a joke at a job interview and not to be misunderstood?

First of all, please keep in mind that you are going to be scrutinized by the interviewers whose job is to learn about you as much as they can within a limited time. What you say, do, and the way you behave – it is all that is going to be taken under consideration. The interviewers analyze everything about you and measure it against an ideal person they want to employ. Having said that, I must admit that recruiters are humans too, they know that one of the biggest factors in the last phase of recruitment process is the impression that candidate makes at the interview. We all want to be perceived as professional, focused and dedicated but these traits are not as compelling for another human being as being funny. Additionally telling a joke (even not a very funny one) sends a very important signal that you’re a social and honest person and that you’re not afraid to put yourself out there even in a stressful situation.

There are a few rules you should follow when showing off your standup comedy skills. First of all, remember that your audience is just like you, they all have their experiences and beliefs so you need be sensitive. Jokes about religion, politics, and other cultures are not the best idea.

“- Where do you see yourself in five years?”
“- Being your boss”

Another thing worth mentioning is sarcasm – it may work well among friends who know each other and are unlikely to be offended, but during an interview, a sarcastic remark would carry a bad message and may even appear passive-aggressive.

“- Where do you see yourself in five years?”
“- Living up to my full potential”

It goes for sarcastic remarks about capitalism, corporations or any industry you may see as not perfect. Although it may be a good way to bond with people or relieve the tension that have built up after a bad day, but during the job interview it will make you look like you feel superior to people who interview you, like you’re too good for the job.

-“What can you bring into the team?”
– “Bad jokes mostly”

Perfect joke is “on the subject”. It fits the topic of the conversation and it has substance; it carries some knowledge about you or the subject you’re discussing. If you tend to talk a lot you can address that by joking about it, showing that you’re self-conscious and can transform your weaknesses into strengths.

Jokes during job interview don’t have to be necessarily funny, an unfunny joke may show your vulnerable side which can be appealing, but still you need to be cautious what you say and what to choose expose about yourself.

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