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I'll have soon a research interview with one of the top tech companies in the world (a US-based company).

Part of this interview is to present one of my research papers with giving a brief introduction about my PhD topic.

I was thinking to add a (funny) photo for me at the beginning when I talk about my PhD, is that ok?

As I am living in a country that has a culture different from my home country's culture, I feel it's sometimes hard to guess whether those things are fine or not.

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    Being from a different culture can make the joke less funny to your audience, or even make it a faux pas or downright insulting. Interview professionally, and once hired your co-workers can find out more about you.
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 17 at 17:30
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    "it's sometimes hard to guess whether those things are fine or not." - if you need to guess, don't do it Feb 17 at 17:38
  • Does the "funny picture" contribute to the message of your talk? Or is it just humor for humor's sake?
    – meriton
    Feb 17 at 19:35
  • @meriton, just humour. Just to give them an idea that my PhD wasn't only studying and research.
    – Minions
    Feb 17 at 23:05
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    Minions: Do they really? I never noticed that.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 18 at 20:35

3 Answers 3

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Humour is always a little bit of a dangerous thing to try. Done right, it makes things great, but done wrong it can really mess them up. Here, you're making it far more dangerous in two important ways. First, you're operating in a culture you didn't grow up in, so you're not sure if things will be seen as funny or not, and second, you plan to do this first, before the audience has any context to be able to realize "oh, it's a joke!"

I was at a talk once where the speaker opened by crunching a hidden plastic cup loudly on the back of his neck while saying "AAAH! UUrrrrgh!" and so on as though it was his neck being hurt or damaged, and then when people were perturbed (and I believe one got up to help him) showing the cup and saying it was just to lighten the mood. Several people were angry about being fooled into feeling compassionate towards him and one told me afterwards she really didn't listen to the talk at all as a result. This powerfully demonstrated to me how risky it is to "open with humour" when people don't know anything about you.

If you have a funny photo that you would really love to share, I suggest waiting until the very end, perhaps just before the Q&A. At this point the audience knows you are good, knows you're a nice person, and has learned what they came to learn. You can then say something like "of course, we can't take this all so seriously all the time" and show the funny picture. This is still risky. If the picture would actually upset or offend some people, don't do it. Assuming it's harmlessly funny, putting it at the end leaves people with a warm feeling that you're a real person, and is less likely to bother people than before they have heard anything else from you.

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  • I like your last paragraph and suggestion. What a bizarre move by that speaker. Feb 17 at 17:58
  • Thanks, Kate, that's really a nice answer! Ok, maybe I need to give more context: the photo is for me with one of my supervisors where she was trying to teach me how to ski but we ended up falling above each other. My question is more about, should I be very formal in this kind of interviews? or that's fine.
    – Minions
    Feb 17 at 23:09
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    I think the best person to ask about that is the person who arranged your interview. They'll know the formality level the audience prefers. Feb 17 at 23:19
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In academia, it would be fine and possibly even common. For the industry, interview expectations (as in, the expected level of formality) vary wildly. If you believe it will be appropriate, why not? If it is a complete guesswork, don't do that.

Like Kate says, one good option is to ask the person who has been arranging the interview some questions - things such as dress code, who will be present and so on ought to help you prepare for the presentation overall - if I were you, I'd worry more about being too technical or not technical enough, not about whether to include funny photos!

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I noticed one of your comments:

Because it's very important for the tech employers these days to have socialistic researchers instead of only NERDS: this is actually because computer scientists usually try to spend their time by themself in the company and they try to stay away from any activity.

Your use of the word socialistic does not fit the context, and isn't a common word in US English. You probably meant sociable. Look, I really mean no disrespect. But if you try to pull off some humor and do this same thing and use a really poor choice of words, you'll greatly increase your chances of blowing your interview!

If you have a warm, friendly personality, that's enough. There's no need to go in and overdo it.

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  • Thanks @XavierJ! I see. BTW, I used "socialistic" word by mistake and I couldn't update it. I meant "sociable".
    – Minions
    Feb 21 at 18:09

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