Okay, the inspiration for this article came from a pretty weird place, but I just had to share it with you. For the last three weeks, the bathroom on my office floor has been closed for remodeling, so both myself and all of my neighbors have had to temporarily go upstairs to the second floor to “do our business” so to speak. Yesterday, however, when I took a run upstairs to use the facilities, I had an amusing experience. When I stepped in front of the appropriate wall-mounted receptacle, I noticed a tiny little note taped above it which simply said:
“Flush this urinal, you must — Yoda”
Now it may seem like an awfully strange thing to be philosophical about, and perhaps not everybody would immediately grasp the Star Wars reference (Master Yoda spoke in this weird kind of reverse grammar, he did), but this little message definitely got me laughing and lightened up my day. And since I had a few seconds to ponder the words in question, obviously, I couldn’t help comparing this note to the one that appeared in the bathroom of the LAST office building I worked at — where somebody scrawled a similar message using the F-word and threatening violence upon anybody who didn’t flush when they were finished. Alas, I don’t know who either of these mystery authors happened to be, but I find it interesting that they used two radically different ways to get their point across — one choosing violence, the other choosing humor. If you had to bet, which note do you think likely created more compliance with the poster’s wishes?
The point of all this (I’m finally getting to it) is that I’m wondering whether some of you out there have used (or are currently using) humor as a persuasive element of your job search strategy. Do you regularly express humorous sentiments in your cover letters to employers? Have you incorporated any clever or creative thoughts into your resume? Do you try to lighten the mood with a little bit of topical humor during interviews? Or are you like the majority of folks out there, who seem to play things totally “safe” and avoid any expression of humor throughout the hiring process?
Over the years, I’ll admit, I’ve seen a number of pretty funny approaches that job hunters have used to try to get an employer’s attention and win an offer. I’ve seen people write things on their resume like “I’ve been unemployed for this past year, but should probably lie like everybody else and tell you I’ve been consulting.” Or I’ve seen individuals submit funny poems showcasing their credentials, in place of a normal cover letter. And when it comes to the interview process, one instance I’ll never forget (and might have even blogged about previously at some point) involved a female client of mine who was applying for an executive assistant position and decided to deliver a PowerPoint slideshow to the employer that summed up her qualifications for the job. On the last slide of the presentation, she introduced a surprise twist. The slide contained a very unflattering, unkempt picture of herself along with the tagline: “And one last important qualification I can offer? The CEO’s wife never has to be worried about her husband running off with me…”
Unfortunately, I don’t think she ended up getting that particular job, but I’m sure she left a lasting impression!
At any rate, while I know it might be a bit out of character for some people, or for certain types of positions, I personally feel that humor, wit, and creativity are underutilized weapons in the job search milieu — and that some of you “closet comedians” out there might want to give yourselves more permission to take some chances and try to get your audience laughing. I know, I know. Certain jokes and attempts at humor can bomb and go horribly wrong. I knew one guy years ago, for example, who always started his elevator pitch with “I was born on my birthday” and didn’t seem to notice all the groans and rolled eyes that would result. But then again, I don’t think most people feel that serious, stoic, lifeless job search correspondence is all that effective in most cases, either. So give it some thought — and if you do decide to try something a little off the beaten path, perhaps consider running it by a focus group, first, just to make sure it’s a winner.
Anybody else out there have some good stories (from either the job seeker or hiring manager side of the desk) where you’ve seen humor enter into the employment search arena?