When preparing for an interview, it’s likely you have been given the advice to be serious when you meet with people at your prospective job; it’s important to know that advice is absolutely wrong (unless you’re interviewing to be a funeral director, banker (of doom), or to play Buster Keaton in a biopic).
It’s true that interviews are an important part of the hiring process, and as an interviewee, you have a very personal stake in wanting it to go well, but the perception that avoiding humor during an interview is the safer option is fundamentally flawed.
Desire to control the outcome of the interview often leads people to not use humor because it feels unsafe, but the safest path is to be the greatest job candidate that any of the evaluators have ever seen. Unless you have abilities far beyond those of mortal men, you’re better off being the kind of person they want to work with.
So here, to dispel any misconceptions or misunderstandings, are 5 Reasons to Use Humor in an Interview.
1. To Show You’re More than Just a Good Worker
If you’ve been asked to come in for an interview, then either you’re already qualified for the job or the company likes wasting its time. Being a good fit for the company on paper makes you a shoo-in only if you and the other candidates are all robots.
No matter how great your resume is, people still have to work with you, so a significant portion of any interview will be spent evaluating your facility in working with others. By using humor during the interview, you demonstrate how well you’d fit in to their office environment, and showing you belong there puts you one step closer to being there.
2. To Model How You’ll Behave in the Job
Given the current trend of behavioral interviews, sometimes you may wonder how to answer interview questions diplomatically. Humor is a tool you can use to truthfully answer these interview questions while simultaneously avoiding negative behaviors like assigning blame or complaining.
When questions like “describe a time when you had to work in a challenging work environment” come up (and they will), humor is an especially good way of discussing the difficulties in a positive manner.
By showing you have a sense of humor about a situation that was likely stressful when you were in it, you clearly demonstrate that you have moved on from negative aspects of the situation and now see it as a learning experience. In other words, you’re showing your interviewer that you’re a model employee.
3. To Demonstrate Your Social Skills
It’s hard to be successful and a misanthrope unless you own your own business or happen to be a fictional character. Not many people interview themselves before starting their own business and I have it on good authority Gregory House doesn’t visit this site, so neither of those audiences will be addressed in this article.
Unavoidably (and luckily), workplaces are filled with people. Depending on your role at work, you may be called on to interact with these fellow humans occasionally, or even more frequently than that.
In fact, several times a year you may be called upon to interact with coworkers in a purely social setting, rather than a work-related setting. Using humor during an interview sends a strong signal that you can navigate the professional and social dynamics of the company.
4. To Show You Can Roll with the Punches
Just like when you’re on the job, things can go wrong during an interview. Rather than being bad, these moments are opportunities to show how calm and unflappable you are. Being able to bring levity to a situation that would cause stress in other people provides a very concrete example of you handling a potentially frustrating or stressful situation without becoming unpleasant to work with.
5. To Get To Know The Other Person Better
At a fundamental level, every interview is the same, because every interview is a conversation. When approached this way, an interview is an opportunity for you to engage with the interviewer and, all job considerations aside, forge a connection with another human being.
Humor is a powerful tool for creating an open and honest feeling. When someone smiles, you know if it’s genuine or forced (just ask Guillaume Duchenne).
The base honesty involved in sharing humor acts to build trust where everyone involved can be more open, which makes it more likely you and the interviewer will have a great and memorable talk.
Just look at it from the interviewer’s perspective. After interviewing a number of people over the course of several days, are you more likely to remember the person who answered every question perfectly by rote, or the person who you had a great conversation with and actually made the time you spent with them enjoyable?
Got your own thoughts on using humor in interviews? Share them in the comments.