Answering interview questions with humor is dangerous

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Jul 27

There is no percentage in answering interview questions with humor. Too many things can go wrong for the humor to work.

Consider, for example, that before Chris Rock goes on his famous HBO specials, he tries out his humor hundreds of times in small clubs so he can gauge his subject, timing and physical and facial gestures to maximize the humor. Hundreds of times to refine one show.

It shows, too, in his special when they show Chris in four different cities on two continents and they cut away from one city to another between sentences and you see Chris in a different set of clothes — in exactly the same position, with the same facial expression and the same tone of voice. What looks unscripted and extemporaneous is, in fact, worked out down to the most detailed level.

And, yet, we think we can walk into an interview and crack jokes, insert a satiracle comment when the interviewer makes a statement, or have our face show irony at a comment.

Humor is especially dangerous in an interview if you know the person doing the interview. You think, because you know this person, you can have an easier time with humor, but the reality is the hiring manager is under more pressure to ensure you get the work and can implement the department goals. That pressure doesn’t get them in the right position to hear humor.

Now, I love funny stories as much as the next person. And my style of humor is irony. But even on this site, I’m reluctant to write irony because misinterpretations abound just because people are so different.

Humor gone wrong in an interview makes you come off cocky, or dumb, or not motivated, or not interested in the position, or not sensitive or a hundred other characteristics that are all bad.

So pack your humor in your backpack and answer the interview questions with facts and opinions based on your performance. You can crack up your new manager after you get the job.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.