Everyone’s A Comedian. Not!

Bob went for his interview at a major market radio station excited and grateful that he was being considered to fill a rare and much coveted on-air news position.  He felt prepared to meet the station’s news director, and had done a lot of research about this station, its lengthy ratings dominance, its audience and the community it serves.  He also knew the area well from working a similar position 2 hours down the road.  The station where he was interviewing had a great reputation for the quality of its programming and its knowledgeable and involved staff.  Bob knew he never would have received a positive response to his audition if he didn’t have the skills and experience the station was looking for. This put a spring in his step and a smile on his face.
The news director put Bob through his paces.  She asked Bob a string of tough interview questions, checked his knowledge of current events, and asked what he knew about various people and places in their community, and those in the news with hard to pronounce foreign names.  His confidence continued to grow as he appeared to have correctly answered everything she could throw his way.
After the lengthy, nerve-wracking interview, Bob was given a tour of the broadcaster’s facilities.  He took it as a good sign that the news director took so much of her valuable time beyond the interview to show him around, and he was even a bit flattered that she introduced him to other important members of the staff, many of whom Bob already knew by reputation.
He tried not to show it, but on the inside, Bob was feeling quite pleased with himself and his chances of receiving a job offer.  Things were going well enough that the stresses of the interview started to fade, and Bob began to feel comfortable in his surroundings, despite the chaos of the newsroom and surrounding work areas.  Television monitors displayed the feeds from the various cable news channels and the station’s network news broadcasts, in addition to traffic monitors and audio feeds from different sources. The place was busy, and Bob felt at home.
Bob took advantage of his tour at the station to ask questions of staffers.  While talking with a member of the news crew about his contributions and perspectives, Bob noticed a familiar face on one of the tv monitors.  Without thinking about it, Bob made a brief, sarcastic remark about the person on the monitor screen; a punchline to an old joke he had heard told at a local comedy club a long time ago.  No one within earshot seemed to acknowledge Bob’s remark.  But Bob realized – an unfortunate moment too late – that what he was thinking was heard out loud. He hoped it was recognized as an attempt at humor.  But it was one of those “Doh!!” moments, and once out, he couldn’t take it back.
Obviously, Bob was not in a comedy club, and the joke was only funny to him because only he knew the setup and the reference.  In fact, many of the people who surrounded him at the station had deep rooted respect and admiration for the person on the screen. Considering how long ago he’d heard the joke, Bob knew the face on the screen had been a local news fixture for many years.  Sadly, Bob’s attempt at humor was perceived as rude and unkind.  And after Bob left the station, the news staffer he was talking to told the news director about his comment, at which point Bob’s chances of getting hired completely evaporated.  Unbeknownst to Bob, both the news director and staffer were personally acquainted with the person on the screen, and they both considered him a mentor and an inspiration.
Bob let his guard down in the prospective employer’s space. And in the process, albeit innocently and unintentionally, he generated enough ill will to get himself excluded from consideration.  Thankfully, the news director and staffer did not tweet about what had happened.  Had it gone viral, eventually getting back to Bob’s current employer, it could have jeopardized Bob’s current position and his reputation.  In a tight industry like broadcasting – where pretty much everyone knows everyone else – there was still a good chance that his comment could make its way back to his current boss. Sad but true that silly comments like these could be career suicide!
Was the connection the news director and her staffer had with the person on the screen the kind of detail Bob could have uncovered prior to his interview so he could steer away from such a comment?  Possibly!  Extensive research could reveal such details!  But Bob should have known better.
But the point is, using humor in an interview situation is risky.  You never know how others will perceive what you believe to be funny.  And even if you are funny, is humor appropriate for this situation?  Maybe, but not usually!   Humor can be a wonderful ice-breaker, but very few can pull it off without sounding forced.  With competition for good jobs so fierce these days, do you want to take the risk that something you mean as humor will be misconstrued?  I hope not!  Stay conscious of where you are, and don’t let yourself get so comfortable that you say the wrong thing out of nervousness or a sincere attempt to be funny.  Not everyone is a comedian, and your interview is not the place to try to be one!
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