You’re getting along really well with a hiring manager. So well, in fact, that you feel comfortable making a joke about the position. One problem: Your punchline’s followed by silence. And then an awkward transition into the next question.
Sure, you’ve got a great sense of humor, and yes a lot of hiring managers appreciate that (especially during a long search), but there’s a time and a place for your best material. And there are even more times and places when you should err on the side of serious.
Here are a few:
1. Your Email Address
No, really. I’ve reviewed resumes on which the candidate had created an email address specifically for his or her job search. In theory, this is a decent idea, but not when the email is something along the lines of email@example.com.
Sure, that’s an exaggerated example, but I’ve seen my fair share of that made me scratch my head, laugh to myself, share with my colleagues, and send a quick rejection in response. While it's a smart strategy to add a little something to your cover letter to show off your personality, avoid getting too cutesy in everything you send to a hiring manager. A small detail like this can quickly become a huge deal-breaker.
2. Your Response to Why You Want the Job
I’ll admit that whenever I asked this question, it came after the most grueling parts of the interview. It was intended to let the candidate off the hook a bit and give him or her the opportunity to tell us a little more about why the position sounded exciting. And even though this was one of the less intense questions I’d typically ask, the answer did matter.
Surprisingly enough, some contenders took this as an opportunity not only to tell me why they wanted the job, but also as an opportunity to try out their latest bit. Whether the jokes they included were out of context or led to a series of self-deprecating comments, it seemed out of place when an interviewee tried to be funny while responding. Of course, I didn’t want candidates to be robots, but when it came time to tell me why they wanted the job, I wanted them to take it a bit more seriously.
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3. Your Reaction to the Office
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve interviewed candidates who have turned me off because they made subtle jabs at the office space. And while it’s not a whole lot of fun to smile awkwardly as someone tells jokes about your broken coffee machine, it’s also very uncomfortable when you work somewhere awesome, and a contender can’t stop cracking jokes about the perks.
If a company offers its employees laundry service, it’s perfectly okay to let a hiring manager know that you think it’s awesome. However, you should also avoid making endless remarks about everything you see or hear: Yes, that bar is awesome, but no, the person you’re speaking with doesn’t want to hear your best material on getting drunk in the office. Even if it’s the funniest thing you’ve ever thought to say to someone, it can make you look immature or like someone who wouldn’t respect all these awesome benefits.
4. Your Thank You Note
There are plenty of great thank you note templates that you can (and should) refer to whenever you’re having trouble finding the right words to say to an interviewer. However, don’t go too far off the rails and start writing messages as if you’ve been friends for the last 10 years.
This is something that often caught me off guard when I started recruiting. I’d read a thank you note that got a little too personal and thought, “What does this candidate think he knows about me? And, what does this candidate know about me?” Again, it’s perfectly fine if your personality comes out in small doses throughout your interactions, but if you’re cracking jokes like you would with a lifelong friend over drinks, you’ve probably taken things a little too far.
Having a sense of humor during a long job search can be a huge help in keeping you motivated to power through some tough times. However, there are too many instances of candidates taking this a little too far. While it’s great that you’re funny, don’t forget that there is an actual job on the line. And even though I’m not telling you to ditch your humor completely, the difference between landing your dream position and just missing out on it could be the restraint you show in testing out your latest comedy routine on a hiring manager.
TopicsInterview Mistakes , Job Search , Syndication , Finding a Job , Interviewing for a Job , Hiring Managers
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author