I'm applying for an internship position as front-end engineer, and I'd like to make my résumé stand out a bit. I'm not going to add colors or drawings, I'm not even a designer, I'd just like to leave it light and not too formal. It's a Google-y type company in the sense that they provide video games for employees, free snacks and the like. It wouldn't be a CV filled with bad puns, I was just thinking of adding "If I could make this PDF responsive, I totally would" type of jokes. I would still list my qualifications formally and present all the usual data you see on a regular résumé.

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    Usually I limit my humour to a simple "!" in appropriate places on the CV. But I think in general the answer is no. However as you should be tailoring your CV to each job, then the wording could be lighter in some versions than others, dependant upon the target audience. Jun 25 '14 at 2:22
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    Don't forget that the first person viewing you resume is likely an HR person with little knowledge of your actual profession. They will probably not think your joke is a joke. Jun 25 '14 at 13:53
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    @bengoesboom - Not to mention HR doesnt generally have a sense of humor. When you say "A dog, a chicken and a rabbit walk into a bar" their first instinct is to fill out three written warnings. Jun 25 '14 at 14:03
  • I advise against it. A resume is one of the most formal pieces of writing you'll ever produce - not one of the most difficult, just one of the most formal. And jokes are almost always informal.
    – Kevin
    Jun 25 '14 at 17:19
  • Yes it will hurt you with some companies...but it can also help elsewhere. If you need something to get your resume noticed, maybe because there are a lot of applicants, it might be worth it. I had a bit of humor in my original CV...and both jobs I landed with it they mentioned that it had drawn them to call me. That said, I don't have it in my current CV. I guess that might say something, too.
    – Beska
    Jun 26 '14 at 1:49

I personally put statements like that in the cover letter, which is customized for each company/position applied for. It's just a personal choice, based on my perception of what a cover letter does, and what a resume does. The cover letter summarizes the high points of your resume, but also mixes in a little bit about you. Your cover letter can be what gets your resume chosen to be read. Your resume lists off: this is what I can do, this is what I know, this is a more complete list of my skillset and past experience. Your resume can be what gets you interviewed.

(Also: if the company website has some humor/casual content, then you will definitely be putting yourself on their wavelength by including a comment like the one you mentioned. But if the company site, and in particular the careers/about section, tends to sound more formal...try and go closer to that voice.)

  • Unfortunately it's not part of my local culture to include cover letters, so people tend to tailor the CV to each job they apply. I get your main point, though, about a résumé not being the place for this. Jun 25 '14 at 2:28
  • I'll leverage the advice I got here with some localization in mind, maybe include some sort of cover letter even if it's not customary because it does seem like the best place to put some personal background I think would help my chances and wouldn't fit on my résumé. Anyway, thanks. I accepted your answer. Jun 25 '14 at 14:05

Humor is subjective and it is all about context: what one person considers funny, another will find dull, questionable, or an attempt to attract attention.

From that perspective I would not add humor to my resume; you cannot predict which person is on the receiving end.

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    That being said, job interviews are only objective in theory… Jun 25 '14 at 7:23
  • I would say always write every business communication, including cover letters and resumes, with the idea in mind that the person reading it just got done with a two hour argument with their boss/spouse. Keep it short, to the point, and respectful. Jun 25 '14 at 16:44
  • @ArlaudPierre Have to disagree there. If job interviews were only objective in theory, there wouldn't be need for in person interviews, or even phone interviews. You could just send the questions and get them back as a response. But the reality of the world is that you have to factor in subjective things. "This guy seems shady." "This guy has a bad attitude." Do people abuse this subjectivity? Of course. But hiring is a lot better with subjectivity than without it.
    – corsiKa
    Jun 25 '14 at 18:36
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    @corsiKa: I'm pretty sure that by "only objective in theory" (s)he means "objective only in theory", i.e. "not objective in practice". So you probably don't disagree with the entire statement: you actually seem to agree with the main thrust of the statement, just not with the details of how it was worded.
    – ruakh
    Jun 26 '14 at 6:04
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    @corsiKa: You seem to be under the mistaken impression that "only objective in theory" necessarily means "in theory, only objective", and that Arlaud Pierre erred in using it to mean "objective only in theory" (and that everyone else erred in understanding him/her correctly). The reality is that the phrase is genuinely ambiguous between the two readings, and while I won't fault you for having misunderstood it, it's a bit over-the-top for you to complain that "someone means one thing and says another".
    – ruakh
    Aug 12 '14 at 5:16

Choosing a very unconventional form for a resume is a very risky move. There are two possible outcomes:

  1. "How unprofessional, not even worth reading"
  2. "How interesting, I want to know who that guy is"

Which reaction you will get depends solely on the mindset of the person who reads it. I know that our staff manager hates to read a hundred applications which all look and sound exactly the same. Whenever she gets one which falls out of the norm, she invites that person just because they seem interesting. But I also met other staff managers who put high value on formality and professionalism and would immediately reject a candidate who violates conventions.

In the end it depends on what kind of person the company is looking for. Do they want a creative freethinker who comes up with new ideas, or formal professionals who make a good impression with customers and fall in line with company doctrine?

I would recommend a creative resume mostly for long-shot applications. When you think that you have a very low chance anyway because all other applicants likely have much better on-paper qualifications than you do, a creative application might be the only chance to get the opportunity for a personal impression.


I'd stay away from leavening my resume with humor, especially when every word counts. The only thing that matters is your work experience and your skills set and how relevant they are to your prospective employer's needs. And for whatever reason, my prospective employers are pretty humorless about their needs.

If a prospective employer is looking to fill a position, the prospective employer is on a mission and the prospective employer most likely wants to be looking at a document - your resume - that they don't have to spend more than 20 seconds to read. And they will most probably not be too fond of distractions such as humor that increase their reading chore. So, work with your prospective employer and make sure at your end that it won't take a prospective employer more than 20 seconds to go through your resume.

I've put in plenty of humor in my own Linkedin profile and the humor has been well received. However, I had made a point to say in my Linkedin profile that my Linkedin profile was not a resume but my take on my work experience and that they should be asking for my resume.

If you don't want any humor in your Linkedin profile, you can put your humor into your own website page and provide a link to that page.


There is standing out in a good way and standing out in a bad way and this will fall into the latter category in most places.

If you want to truly stand out, then accomplish something that will make you stand out. Have an interesting personal project for instance. Double major in Programming and Finance.


In large part it depends on the organization's culture.

A large corporation, for which I have worked for two, won't get the humor and won't be able to apply the yardstick to it to decide if you're an appropriate candidate. Once you get that phone screen, you may get a chance to reveal more personality. In a face to face you'll know for sure if humor is appropriate.

However in startup culture there tends to be this desire to emulate other successful startups, and often times that involves a bit of quirkiness. When I worked for a small tech company, the job posting itself made mention of the need for a candidate who cold "move mountains" and "dreams in code" and "wants to use C# as the hammer for every problem nail". The Zappos and Google startup concepts have been emulated by many other small outfits and it might work.

Instead of using humor to distinguish yourself, you might make a slightly more persuasive plea for why you'd be a good fit in the culture of the place where you're applying. Really zero in on what you know about the organization, how your skills align to its market / strategic / operational challenges, and that alignment of your abilities to their needs will serve you better.

I've only interviewed 3 times in the last 13 years. But each time I got the job by selling myself as the candidate they need on the cover letter and in the resume. You can sell your team alignment and good spirit in the face to face.

Best of luck.


I found that with all my own jobs and those around me, that how my behaviour is received reflects back on the atmosphere in the company (specifically the team) and lets both sides see how well they fit together.

Nowadays, I specifically include some tongue-in-cheek humor in every interview to check out how much I would want to work there, as I simply love joking around with colleagues from time to time.

I've sitten on the other side at the table as well and we actually preferred people with a decent amount of humor, because it's a great way to deal with stress and helping our team bond together.

Same with my girlfriend, she got her job because she showed some dry humor and in the end very much enjoyed working with her team.

Remember that there isn't the right job for everyone, but there's a right job for you and often times it's really worth checking out some more places before signing anything - that is, if you don't actually need a job as soon as possible or there are very few openings for your profession.

Still, I wouldn't ever do the mistake again of bending myself in an interview just to get the right position - in that case, it most likely simply isn't the right position. People with some interview training will also smell when you're pretending to be someone you're not and often prefer more "realistic" candidates.

Your mileage may vary - and be sure not to overdo it, especially if you're nervous.

  • Adding a drop of humour to one's talk in an interview where you can judge how things are going and change tack accordingly, which is what you appear to be talking about here, is a very different matter to adding humour to a CV/Resume, which many employers will expect to be a formal, and therefore serious, document.
    – Rob Moir
    Sep 22 '14 at 8:02

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