Job Search & Interview

How To Handle Interview Question “Tell Me A Joke” (And How Not To Overdo It) 

Job interviewers are notorious for throwing surprise interview questions. You might stay up all night studying for a STAR format interview and end up having a personalized interview that doesn’t ask you to explain any scenarios or situations.

Moreover, you might get an interview question “Tell me a joke“. This piece will discuss the reasons why your interviewer might ask you to tell a joke and provide you with some of the best ways to respond.

Why You Might Get an Interview Question “Tell Me a Joke”

What if you prepare yourself for a professional interview, and the hiring manager says to you, “Tell me a joke”? The first thought you’ll probably have in your mind after your jaw stops dropping is, “Why on earth did he ask me this?” These are some reasons why your interviewer may have put you on the spot like that:

To Gauge Your Adaptation Skills

Adaptation skills are mandatory in these days and times. You’ll face plenty of situations where you have to think on your feet and come up with quick solutions to problems and challenges. Thus, your interviewer may want to test you to see how speedily you can come up with an excellent response to a random question.

To See if You Have the Right Personality

The prospective employer might be seeking certain qualities in you. For example, he might desire to hire someone who can lift other people’s spirits. This quality is highly desirable in high-stress positions and establishments with high client volumes. Your answer and mannerisms might be the determining factors for their employment decision.

Read More: How to Answer “What Is Your Theme Song” Interview Question

To See How Well You Interact

The “Tell me a joke” question may also be a test to see how well you interact with people in general. Perhaps the interviewer wants to see if you show signs of pressure or stress if he asks you to perform in that manner.

To Check if You Can Tell a Good Joke

Sometimes the reason for an interviewer’s question has nothing to do with the job interview at all. You could be dealing with an inexperienced manager or someone who wants to rebel against the standard interview format. There may not be a trick or conspiracy involved, as the interviewer may sincerely want you to tell him a good joke.

To See if Deviating From the Norm Rattles You

Your interview could also be examining you for potential obsessive-compulsive traits. In other words, he may want to observe how you respond to the unexpected interview guidelines. Your body language, facial expression, and tone will tell an entire story about whether you can handle abrupt changes.

Think about all these reasons before you answer the question, and then choose your response path wisely.

The Best Response To Tell Me a Joke

You’re probably dying to know how to respond when an interviewer asks you to tell him a joke. These are some tips on what to do and what not to do in response to an interview question “Tell me a joke”:

1. Do Answer the Question

Every interview question is an opportunity for the prospective employer to get to know you. Thus, you should avoid rejecting or asking to skip over the question. Give it your best shot to try to give the interviewer what he seeks.

2. Use a Classic Joke

Try not to use anything too trendy, or you’ll risk the chance of the interviewer not being informed enough to understand the joke. Use a joke that almost everyone knows, if possible. In other words, stay along the lines of “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Don’t actually use that one, but stick with the classics.

3. Keep Your Joke Clean

Do not use foul language or risque topics. Remember that you’re in a job interview. Therefore, the prospective employer will want you to handle yourself professionally. Steer clear of cuss words and sexual matters for your own sake.

4. Do Not Be Offensive in Any Way

Avoid all topics that would land you in a meeting with HR if you were an employee. Race, religion, gender, and age-related jokes should be off-limits for this one.

5. Keep It Simple

You won’t want to bore your interviewer to tears with a super-long joke that seems endless. You also want to avoid having the joke go over his head. Therefore, you should keep at the 5th to 8th-grade complexity level, and you will do well.

6. Try To Match the Interviewer’s Personality

Use what you know about your interviewer’s personality to deliver the joke perfectly. Tone the delivery down if the interviewer seems dry, and put some pizzazz into it if the person seems vibrant and energetic.

7. Make It Quick

There’s no reason to give a long joke lead-in. Keep it short so that you can move on to the next question at the end.

8. Be Sure To Smile

Remember that the interviewer is assessing your personality and how you will interact with customers and coworkers. Don’t forget to smile as you tell the joke to remind them of how amazingly friendly you are.

9. Try To Use a Job-Related Scenario

Try to think of a job-related joke you can deliver. That might score extra points with the interviewer if you can dream up a joke related to the position you’ll be working. “Two team members were doing inventory, and a chicken knocked on the door …”

Should I Actually Tell a Joke in an Interview?

Yes, you should tell a joke if the interviewer asks you to tell one. Don’t try to back out of answering the question by saying you don’t know any jokes. Everyone knows a joke, so give it your best shot, and don’t stress over whether you make the other person laugh.

Getting a laugh most likely isn’t the purpose of the question. Focus on delivering an appropriate response and showing the prospective employer that you can adapt to an unexpected situation quickly.

What Are the Best Jokes To Tell in an Interview?

The best jokes to crack in an interview are the ones that show you have wit. Surprising the interviewer with a joke that throws him off is a great way to go as well. For example, you can tell a joke like:

“An interviewer asks a candidate, ‘Why should we pay you such a high salary if you have no experience?’ The applicant responds, ‘Because the job is so much harder when you have no idea what you’re doing.'”

Maybe you want to stick with something that’s more like a pun. “Why did the koala get the job? Because he had all the necessary koalifcations.” Here’s another one: “What is the most common job for spiders? Web designer.”

If those are not your cup of tea, you can create a new one and try to mention the job in it. Puns are the most effective because they’re the easiest to understand.

What To Say if the Interviewer Asks if You Have a Sense of Humor

Your interviewer may also ask you if you have a sense of humor instead of asking an interview question to tell me a joke. Don’t fret if you don’t know how to answer do you have a sense of humor. It’s just another test.

When asking this question, the companies want to know how seriously you take everything that happens on the job. Some situations should be taken lightheartedly, while others are more serious.

The prospective employer will also want to ensure that you’re not the type of person who takes everything as a joke. There’s an in-the-middle place you should be when it comes to your sense of humor.

The best response is to tell the employer that you do have a sense of humor, but you know when it’s appropriate and inappropriate to crack jokes. Let them know that you’re also are of the guidelines and which topics are taboo for telling jokes or responding in a way that implies you agree.

No one should tell jokes about another person’s race, religion, age, color, perceived mental capacity, struggles, or anything else. A good employee should also be able to tell when another person is offended by a joke and stop telling it.

You’ll accomplish two things by responding to the question in that manner. First, you’ll inform the employer that you can mix well with others and have a good time. Secondly, you’ll be letting them know that you are knowledgeable about workplace relations and human resources and prohibited behaviors.

That means you know how to behave around other people in the workplace without bringing trouble or causing any problems for the establishment. You’ll probably gain some points if you give a good answer here.

Don’t worry if you receive an interview question “Tell me a joke“. You now know why employers ask this question and what to do or not to do in such a situation. Your interview should advance nicely if you stick with the information in the piece. You may even receive a job offer if you give them the best response to tell me a joke.

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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