Humour in a Job Interview – To be funny or not to be funny that’s the question?

When it comes to the process of job interviews, the process itself is very daunting and extremely nerve wracking - that's from your side. The person interviewing has probably seen a few candidates before you and the task of finding the right person is also quite a stressful process. So the question is, is there space for humour in a job interview?


There seem to be quite a few if's and but's surrounding the question of whether or not a candidate can use humour in the job interview. So ran a poll across its Social platforms to find out how Job Seekers and Recruiters felt about the use of humour during the interview process.


  • 67% of Recruiters and Employers felt that, yes it was alright to use humour in an interview as it made the candidate more personable
  • 33% of Recruiters and Employers said that humour is a maybe, that there is a time and place for humour in the interview process
  • 80% of Job Seekers said yes to the use of humour in the interview process as they felt that it indicates what type of individual you are
  • Concluding that the majority of Recruiters and candidates feel that they use of humour can only assist in easing a nerve wracking experience and let's face it, South Africa is a country that has the ability to laugh at themselves.


But let's face the facts, bringing a little humour to a room already filled with tension will smooth over any potentially awkward moments and give your interviewer an indication of who you are, as a person as well as how you are able to handle potentially uncomfortable situations.


Like most things there is a time and a place for certain things like the use of humour. Here are a couple of pointers on how to potentially handle understanding when is a good time for a little humour and when it's better to just keep it more professional.


1.       There is a difference between using humour and telling jokes -

Opening up an interview with a knock, knock joke is no way to start the interview process. Humour can make people more personable, you are no longer just a candidate number sitting there. A good example of how to use humour in an interview should go a little something like this - in most instances, with the rush of nerves and the fact that you have to be appropriately dressed for an interview, often a business suit, you are feeling slightly warm in your very business-like attire, you politely mention that you are removing you jacket as you are being lightly roasted from the inside out. There is a difference in being funny and telling jokes! 

2.       You need to have the ability to sus the situation out -


Humour cannot be rehearsed it is completely situational, when the moment arises. Humour needs to be smart; otherwise you land up looking like you're trying too hard. Humour can be effective in an interview if done at the right time and used appropriately. Steer away from using humour that points fun at individuals, has a negative undertone or is slightly on the risqué side.

3.       Understand your surroundings and who you are dealing with -


Make 100% sure that you assess the interviewer. It will become evident if someone has a sense of humour or if they do not. If the interviewer is a straight shooter and gets right to the point of business with no ‘chit chat' to ease into the interview it's probably best to take the more professional path with this one. The interviewer is there to find out your skills and whether you are the right fit for the job. On the other hand, if the interview has started out a little more relaxed, your interviewer sits down and you begin with a more casual chat before hitting the tough questions, this could be an indicator that the situation might allow for some humour and you can use this opportunity to show your potential employer who you really are and if you will be a good fit for the team.


A must to remember is that, if you have a sense of humour and the situation in the interview does not arise for you to use it, and humour plays a very large role in who you are as an individual, you need to be able to question whether this new working environment is really for you. So always ask about the team you would potentially be working with, as to get an understanding of whether you will fit in. Another way to look at things is that if humour is just part of the way you communicate, then you should feel free to do it. If you don't get the job because of that, then you really wouldn't want to work in that kind of environment anyway, would you?


We're not recommending that you enter into all interviews with an all work and no play demeanour. If someone thinks something you've said is funny, then they are more likely to remember you as an individual and not just another one that they need to get through for the day.