Employment Writing AdviceEmployment, Writing, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated

How to Add Humor to Your Résumé or CV


You might be one of many people in the market for a new job at the moment. If you're in this position, your first inclination might be to turn to your résumé or CV and start updating it. And depending on the last time you had to do that, that might be a rather large undertaking! So how can you make your résumé or CV stand out above the rest?

Adding humor to your résumé or CV might not be the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, it might be the last! But with some well-placed humor, that might just be the thing to stand out in a great way to a prospective employer.

Let's discuss a few ways to achieve this!

Know your audience

This one is listed first for a reason. Before you go adding levity to your employment documents to make them sound like your dream stand-up routine, consider the job you're applying for and the industry. Jobs in a more creative industry, like marketing or publishing, might be much more interested in seeing different aspects of your personality rather than, say, a banking institution or a science laboratory.

Non-creative industries tend to be much more interested in your personal skill set and your professional credentials in the early application stages. That's not to say they don't care about you as a person, but in a field where a certain level of education is required or plenty of past experience in a particular, specific industry, they want to weed out the unqualified from the qualified as quickly as possible as early as possible.

A creative industry, on the other hand, might be very interested in how you jump off the page. If the job is focused on marketing or has a heavy emphasis on writing, your personality and humor may very well help a prospective employer get a feel for the creative ways you communicate about yourself and your experience as a way of how well you may perform in the job they're considering you for.

Take care with the content

Since sending a résumé or CV is, obviously, a professional endeavor where you're hoping to get hired, you'll want to be extremely strategic with where and how you use humor. The cover letter is likely the most logical place since often, you're invited by the employer to use the letter to expand on your immediate credentials, education, and skills that make you an ideal candidate for that job. It's specific to the employer as to how much stock they place in the cover letter. Some treat the letter as a mere formality and prefer to focus on the résumé /CV. Some detail very specific items to address in the cover letter—often to ensure the applicant is paying close attention to the details in the posting.

You won't know for sure how much stock the prospective employer places in the cover letter, so you should default to writing it erring on the side of the employer reading it thoroughly. Sprinkle humor in lightly where it feels appropriate, and rather than focusing on jokes, you might focus on wit. For example, a phrase might be "I'm a hard worker, a fast learner, and I have a disturbing thirst for knowledge." This is witty rather than humorous, but it might be light enough to elicit a smile—and, even better, second look—from a prospective employer.

Tailor the humor to the employer

If you're feeling confident that you're applying for a job with an employer who will appreciate a little humor and creativity, then try to be funny in a way that is complementary to the employer. For instance, if you're applying for a marketing job with, say, a cosmetics company, you might enthusiastically write that you own every shade of a certain kind of lipstick they make. Or, if you're applying for a job as a story developer for a video game manufacturer, you might write a humorous line about binge-playing one of their titles over a long holiday weekend. This, when done carefully, can show the employer that you not only are familiar with their product or service, but that you enjoy it, and that enjoyment is driving you to want to work for them. And, it may encourage them to view you as an excellent prospective candidate.

Avoid self-deprecation

We all know a person who cracks truly funny self-deprecating jokes. In fact, someone who makes jokes at their own expense rather than another's can often be some of the most charming people you'll meet. Those little personal jabs at oneself simultaneously highlight a person's humility and sense of being grounded, while also at the same time displaying some serious self-confidence. It takes a lot of that to be able to poke fun at yourself!

That said…the résumé /CV is not the best place for self-deprecation. The problem is that convincing self-deprecation requires a tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language to really hit the mark with its intention, and none of these physical attributes are available on the page. Therefore, what you might intend to come off as self-deprecating might strike a stranger reading it with no context and never having met you as awkward, lacking self-confidence, or downright weird.

When in doubt, be serious

Humor in varying degrees might come naturally to you, whether you're speaking or writing. And you might also be someone who can easily adjust that humor for different audiences. But when you're applying for a job and you've written someone witty or humorous and you're simply not sure whether or not to include it, or whether or not it's appropriate, it's always best to err on the side of caution and leave it out for now. Choose to focus on what qualifies you for the job and what you can bring to the role. Your sparkling wit will need to take a backseat for now if you're not 100% sure, but that's okay. That's what the interview is for!

A/B testing

You might be sending out a number of résumé s and CVs at this time. If that's the case, you can try using humor in some and not others. Then, you can gauge your tactic and technique depending on the responses you get. If you receive more responses to your résumé /CV indicating an interest in you as a candidate, this might tell you that your humor was on the mark and a great tool to capture the prospective employer's attention. On the other hand, if you receive polite rejections or no responses whatsoever, that might tell you that perhaps your résumé /CV should focus more on your skills and qualifications and include less levity.

Save it for the interview

If you decide to eschew humor in your résumé and CV because it just doesn't feel quite appropriate for the job you're applying for, or perhaps your A/B testing indicated that humor isn't garnering you a lot of positive replies to your applications, you can put your efforts into highlighting your skills and qualifications in order to shine on paper and use the interview as a way to shine in person. We mentioned previously that humor—especially if self-deprecation is your go-to—requires not just words but also physical cues like tone of voice and body language to hit its mark. The interview is a great place to let your personality and sense of humor shine through always save your wit for the interview, which will allow the company to get the full delivery in context—something that's not always possible on paper.

Humor is a great way to showcase your personality to a prospective employer. No matter the industry, it's probably fair to say that most employers don't want a robot to fill a role. They're looking for a warm, personable team player who also has the qualifications they're looking for. That said, while it might be tempting to inject humor into your résumé or CV, that requires some careful consideration before doing so. More often than not, shying away from humor is encouraged, as it's a risky move. However, some well-constructed wit and humor might prove to be worth the risk—because it just might be the thing that makes you stand out above the crowd of candidates and help you score the next job of your dreams.

Good luck, and happy job hunting!

Get in-depth guidance delivered right to your inbox.