Humor is an important element in achieving success. I am not talking about the “Mad Men” humor of the 50’s and 60’s where ethno-centric and gender-specific insults were the accepted practice or the kind of humor where your direct reports giggle nervously hoping that everyone notices that I too found that little ditty funny. No, I am talking about content-based, best practices humor that adds to the discussion while assisting in relieving the everyday stress we all find ourselves in.
Though society certainly has intensely serious problems to consider and deal with and yes, some of those issues are certainly life and death propositions; but life is a potpourri of ups and downs and without humor, life would certainly be much too arduous and troublesome to comprehend.
Too many of us take ourselves much too seriously. Though we can’t laugh our troubles away, laughter certainly makes the condition much more tolerable and livable.
I recently came across The Daily Beast and the consumer research firm Experian Simmons’ listings of the top ten cities whose residents consider themselves funny, watch sitcoms, visit comedy clubs and watch comedic movies:
1) Austin, Texas
2) New Orleans
3) Waco, Texas
5) Baton Rouge, LA
10) Tallahassee, FL
Though I certainly can’t make any definitive determinations on why some geographic sites are more laughable than others, I certainly can determine that there are places in the US where if we don’t laugh that we might start crying. Life is too intense and the rollercoaster that we all experience on a daily basis needs a variety of reactions or else we will all end up being that “crazed man on the street corner talking to himself.”
One of the most stressful situations that any individual can experience that certainly needs a humorous ice-breaker or two is the job interview. Of course you best be careful with your display of humor in this environment because you never know what kind of individual you are dealing with on the other side of the table. Periodic and well-placed humor can indeed be a God-send for a drab and dreary experience.
Of course there is a thin line between being entertainingly employable and displaying immature sociopathic tendencies. Every situation has expectations and rules (written or unwritten) and the job interview is certainly one of them. You obviously want to give the impression that you are a well-rounded individual who can address any topic and even be socially humorous. Relevancy and appropriateness are the keys to a successful interview of any kind and when determining if humor is welcome, those keys are of even greater importance.
Never fill a void in the conversation with a humorous anecdote or experience until you can determine whether the recipient will accept such a “turn of phrase” positively. There is nothing more detrimental to your employment status than an interviewer rolling his eyes in disbelief.
You certainly can usually determine quite early on if an interviewer is a serious interacter or is a “stress-reliever.” If you are met with a firm handshake and a stern face, giving the aura that he would rather be doing anything else than this – you know what kind of person you are dealing with. On the other hand, if you are met with a welcoming, smiling individual who makes you feel at home instantaneously – this is the kind of person you might find yourself having some enjoyable interaction with in the next hour or so.
Obviously a job interview is not a comedy club and one should never go to that level. Let’s be honest, if you are having too much fun interacting with the interviewer he may ultimately enjoy your company but might consider you too much of a light-weight for the job. A balanced attack, and that is exactly what I mean, will be beneficial for all.
Self-deprecating humor can be a plus if you want to make sure that the interviewer doesn’t take you too seriously but be cognizant that not all people take such humor, especially in a job interview setting very well. The best kind of humor is one that embellishes and emphasizes the situation.
A good example of such humor is a situation that I have remarked about previously. You may recall that in an interview years ago I was asked “Why do you feel that you are qualified for this job since you are not one of us?” My off the cuff response was “I am a professional association manager whose expertise is in management and not your specific trade – I was the Executive Director of a dairy trade association for 25 years and I was lactose intolerant! I can manage and market any product or service group if given the opportunity.”
Humor isn’t always a thigh-slapping, guffaw-spouting episode but ironic or timely situated comments that bring a smile to the interviewer’s face can be just the right anecdote to get you the attention you deserve. The best humor is usually the unexpected or unrehearsed kind that breaks the tension and gives a 360 degree pictorial display of your capabilities and personality. Not everyone appreciates your sense of humor so be careful how and where you use it. Let me say it one last time: relevancy and appropriateness will get you far in the interview process.