In last week’s post I wrote about a time when I was asked to tell a joke in an interview. And to repeat, that’s not an interviewing tactic I would suggest. Imagine going into an interview and when the standard, “Tell us a little bit about yourself” question starts things off, you respond, “Sure, I’d love to. But first let me tell you this joke I heard.” The initial reactions would not be funny ha-ha, but the bad, funny-strange. Your panel would be confused, trying to figure out why you would do such a thing, and by the time they got past that initial confusion, they’d have missed the punchline, and your interview would be effectively over. Unless of course this was an interview for a comedian, then by all means, use your best material.
There are any number of things we do in an interview but mostly we tell a story about who we are, what we can or will do, and why we should be hired. Humor is an excellent way to help embellish your story, if the humor is used to help people remember an important point about you, or demonstrate some ability you have. Humor helps people remember things better, so if you want to be remembered, find some subtle ways to use humor to increase your memorability. Don’t think you should be remembered solely as the funny person, but rather as witty and clever. Also, if they fondly remember your interview, great.
There are plenty of typical things and questions to expect in any interview. One that always tripped me up as I interviewed, is “Why do you want this job?” For whatever reason I tended to forget this one. Even though I’d research and be prepared, that one caught me flat-footed. But there are plenty of other questions—have a look here.
Since you know some forms of these questions are likely to come, you can find fun and clever ways to answer them. People are looking not just for someone who will do a particular job well, but also someone with whom they will work. We enjoy people who are witty and fun(ny). If you can demonstrate those qualities with some small bits of humor you will not only be answering the questions, you will look good in how you answer them.
Humor and wit also belie a level of intelligence. Working with other smart people is also a benefit. So take time to be clever, not overly clever, but witty. One time in an interview, I had a cell phone that I had muted all the noises save one-text notifications. I rarely ever got texts, and sure enough right in the middle of the interview I got a loud notification. The panel was noticeably annoyed and I responded that I was sorry because I hadn’t figured out how to mute that notification as it was a new phone. Every one of them, smiled and nodded in agreement. My little self-deprecatory jibe at myself removed what could have been a meaningful faux pas, and their smiles indicated that I was ok.
I will follow up this blog with another on some more specifics, but remember humor is not to be avoided in interviews. That assumption is fueled by the erroneous assumption that work and laughter or humor are opposites. This is just false. Humor can be used well. And next week I’ll give a couple more examples.