You don’t have to be a stand-up comic to stand out in the job pool.
A funny resume may get you noticed … but will it be in ways that help you get hired?
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Why You Might Want a Funny Resume
The average corporate job listing attracts about 250 applicants.
You want to do everything you can to give yourself a leg up and get noticed. But an overly droll resume could actually work to your disadvantage, drawing attention away from what you actually want a hiring manager to notice — namely, your experience and achievements.
Remember, the hiring manager’s job is to find the best candidate for the position. Your resume isn’t intended to amuse them — it’s meant to demonstrate your ability to get the job done.
That being said, a spoonful of sugar can help the medicine go down. It is possible to create a resume that proves to hiring managers that you’re the top pick while also showcasing your sparkling wit — read on to learn how.
What’s the Goal of a Resume?
To better understand the role that humor should (or should not) play in your resume, take a step back and consider the ultimate goal of the document.
Your resume is meant to demonstrate to a potential employer that you’re the right fit for the position offered so you can progress to the job interview stage. That’s done by conveying information about job experience, life experience, education, and skills you’ve amassed.
But how you express that information may be very different depending on the job and industry in question.
What Makes an Effective Resume?
A resume’s effectiveness is generally measured by how clearly and efficiently it demonstrates your ability to do the job. Rita Friedman, a certified career coach, suggests focusing on your audience first and foremost. “Depending on the field and level of position, you may need a resume that speaks to a direct supervisor, an HR generalist, the applicant tracking system filtering out unqualified candidates, or some combination of those,” she says.
An effective resume uses language and keywords that will grab the appropriate audience’s attention. Friedman continues, “You don’t want to junk things up with too much fluff or irrelevant information. An effective resume is an efficient resume.”
Now that you understand some of the fundamental characteristics of a good resume, let’s talk about where and when it’s okay to inject a little good humor.
Are Funny Resumes a Good Idea?
If you’re a natural jokester, good news — the general consensus among hiring professionals is that a touch of humor can be a welcome addition to your resume.
But there are exceptions.
Just as a stand-up comedian needs to read the room before doing their routine, you’ve got to consider the venue — and your audience. According to Danielle Holmes, a certified resume writer, “Humorous resumes can work, but they must be done correctly. I would strongly suggest learning as much as possible about the industry, the company, and the workplace culture before adding elements of humor to the resume.”
The industry and job in question can have an impact, too. Holmes continues, “Humor could possibly work when applying for a role as a Graphic Designer, but probably will not work for someone applying for a role as a Pharmacist.”
A Funny Resume Might Work… Or Not
As Friedman adds, humor can break up the monotony of going through piles of paper: “When hiring professionals are slogging through dozens of applications their eyes are kinda glazing over and if you can do something that breaks up all the superlative resume-speak and creates a moment of human connection, that’s a really great way to stand out.”
However, she cautions, your funny resume might not always be met with an effusive laugh track. “There are definitely some very serious, white shoe-type employers who might not appreciate the levity. Unless it’s a job that requires A LOT of showmanship or humor, the humor on your resume should take up minimal real estate — no more than a few words to a single line, maximum.”
How to Add Humor To Your Resume
Friedman suggests a subtle approach — tossing in little amusing nuggets where hiring managers might least expect them. “If you’re listing a bunch of single word skills, throwing something unexpected in can be plenty — maybe you speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, Klingon, and French; or maybe you’re listing some achievements that include ranking #1 nationwide in contract renewals, building a top-performing sales team in a new district, and once bowling a 280.”
Getting clever about phrasing while also informing is another approach, says Friedman: “The ‘joke’ might be breaking style, in the middle of otherwise traditional resume language you just flat out say something extremely relevant, like ‘Obsessed with building beautiful spreadsheets’ or ‘More organized than Marie Kondo.’”
Don’t Rely Too Much On Humor
Everyone likes to laugh — even hiring professionals. As Holmes observes, “Most people are motivated to write humorous resumes because they want to stand out and be remembered.”
However, one of the biggest problems with funny resumes is that if you focus too much on humor, you can forget about the key objectives of the resume.
It’s fine to want to be memorable, but ideally it’s because of your experience and accomplishments. Your cleverness and wit should play a supporting role rather than stealing the show.
How To Make Your Resume Stand Out Without Humor
While humor can help charm hiring managers, it’s not the hidden secret to getting noticed — or hired. So what is? According to Friedman, “The best way to get noticed for your dream job is to be a really strong candidate — in addition to having good professional experience and hitting the right keywords, you might want to seek out specialized training, learn a new hard skill, engage in some strategic volunteering, join professional associations, and a build a robust network of mentors and contacts in the field.”
As Holmes adds, two simple easy to make your resume stand out include “a strong Summary of Qualifications section and using achievement-based statements under the Professional Experience section.”
When To Bring Humor into the Hiring Process
A funny resume isn’t the only chance you’ll have to amuse a potential employer during the hiring process.
During the initial steps of the application process, Friedman concedes that the resume is a better place to incorporate humor than the cover letter, since they often aren’t read closely. However, she mentions that in-person interactions may be an even better time to flex your funny bone, as the person you’re meeting has the benefit of observing your tone and mannerisms.
“It can sometimes feel more comfortable or natural to joke around with a friendly live human, and there are some general interview questions that are almost begging for a humorous response,” she says.
Friedman offers some specific examples:
|✓ Example 1|
|✓ “When an interviewer opens with a big question, like ‘Tell me about yourself,’ I might say something like ‘ I wear a size 7 shoe, have 23 plants, and like long walks on the beach… but seriously, I have more than 10 years of experience working in the career transition and development space, and I have always loved working with community-based organizations…’|
|✓ Example 2|
|✓ Or if an interviewer asks your greatest weakness you might say ‘puppy dog eyes’ or ‘I’m allergic to strawberries’ before giving a more sincere work-related answer.”|
When Humor is Not Appropriate
It’s important to know when to be funny during the job application process … but it’s also important to know when it should be avoided. While humor can help add levity to the job application process, Friedman cautions that the “conversation” of a job application — from the application to the final interview and salary negotiation — should always remain upbeat. She says, “Self-deprecating or definitely-obviously-sarcastic humor is off limits — don’t introduce a seed of negativity.”
Humor should be forward-thinking and always geared toward showing why you’re the best fit for the job. “You don’t want to derail the interview process by being too funny and losing sight of what you want to convey,” Friedman says.
As Holmes adds, “Humor should never be incorporated if it is not a fit for the company or if it involves telling jokes (some jokes might appear harmless, but can actually be offensive).”
Jobs Over Jokes…
Hiring professionals are human — so sure, there’s a time and a place for humor in the hiring process. However, humor should always come second to demonstrating that you’re the best and most capable candidate for the job being offered.
In general, rather than attempting to write a funny resume, a better approach may be to focus on conveying what makes you a great potential employee first and foremost, then incorporating a little humor if and when possible.
Remember, it’s not the last laugh you’re looking for — it’s a job offer! So be sure to dazzle hiring managers with what really matters, like your intelligence, experience, and skills.