what’s up with job ads that include “sense of humor”?

A reader writes:

Would you consider it a red flag if a job spec lists “a sense of humor” as a desirable trait?

I’ve only ever seen in one job listing, but I’ve heard it many times as a new hire, and in my case it’s always been code for “the manager is a bully, and you must shrug it off as ‘banter.’” It’s always bothered me because often feels like a shield that sticks you in a lose-lose situation where you can’t properly call them out and if you do, you’re just humorless. Not a team-player.

Is that a common thought or am I actually humorless?

I’ve seen lots of perfectly healthy, high-functioning offices list “sense of humor” in job ads, so no, you shouldn’t read anything into it. In fact, one of the most well-managed, well-functioning organizations I know lists it in their ads. In decent organizations, it’s a way to try to communicate warmth and that they’re real people.

It’s certainly true that some places that list “sense of humor” are conveying “we’re a bro-culture” or “you’ll have to tolerate offensive/discriminatory comments” or “you will need a sense of humor to be able to tolerate this place.” But there are plenty of places that really just mean “we are warm, collegial people and hoping to hire someone who is as well.” Or sometimes it’s just boilerplate stuck in by an HR person years ago and it’s never been removed.

Because there are so many possible variations, it just doesn’t make sense to try to read anything into it (like so much in job searching).

That said, I’d argue it’s not a particularly useful thing to include in ads. There are lots of different types of senses of humor so it doesn’t convey all that much — and there are other, better ways to convey warmth, if that’s what the goal is. Plus, based on comments I’ve read on posts here in the past, there are enough people who do believe it’s code for something awful that there’s no point in stirring that worry up.

{ 382 comments… read them below }

  1. Geillis D*

    Well, many moons ago I was voted the funniest writer in an online forum I was heavily involved in, so there’s that. As long as they don’t ask candidates to tell a joke at the interview. I’m terrible at telling jokes.

    1. Amber Rose*

      What’s the difference between a duck?
      One of it’s legs are both the same.

      What? It slays with drunk/high people. And surrealists.

      I’ll just go now.

      1. Flower*

        I’m trying so hard to wrap my brain around this joke and it isn’t working. Help?

        1. Amber Rose*

          Sorry, it’s something that was really, really funny to me one time at a party. It’s really dumb.

          Here’s a better one: two fish are in a tank. One turns to the other and says, “You handle the guns, I’ll drive.”

          1. Glenn*

            My favorite:

            Two muffins are in the oven. One says to the other, “hey, is it just me, or is it hot in here?” The other one replies, “Aaaaaaah oh my god it’s a talking muffin!”

          2. Jemima Bond*

            I think you’d like the joke about the magical tractor.
            It went down the lane and turned into a field.

          3. Lora*

            I think these are both excellent jokes, and I am cold sober.

            I have a weird sense of humor though. My most cherished piece of correspondence is a birthday card from my grandfather that is just a postcard picture of a white rabbit, with vertical lines drawn over it in Sharpie marker, labeled “Zebra”, with Happy Birthday scribbled on the back, which he handed me at Christmas instead of a Christmas card. This has not stopped being hilarious in 45 years.

    2. RedstateMotherJones*

      I hate that question. I was once asked in an interview “tell me a joke.”
      What went through my head were jokes about organ trafficking, Satan worship, diarrhea, etc (I have a pretty deranged sense of humor) so I apologized and said I didn’t know any jokes that were appropriate to tell in a professional setting.
      I got an offer the next day and care to learn… the hiring manager felt that jokes, sarcasm, etc were NEVER ok in an office. It was ouch.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        What a ridiculous person that hiring manager was. And almost certainly still is.

  2. BRR*

    I’ve personally never seen a real correlation between ads that say they’re looking for a sense of humor and office culture. I wouldn’t see it as a red flag (or really any color flag) but I also wouldn’t see it as a representation that an office is full of light-hearted people.

    1. Green Goose*

      I agree that is wouldn’t be a good representation of lightheartedness. “Must have a sense of humor” is weird to me. I’ve liked other ways of describing office culture, like “we’re pretty relaxed” or “laid back” that usually means that an office doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I might even describe my office that way.

      But generally, people tend to have very different senses of humor, so it is a weird thing to write. I would interpret it as “must have a similar sense of humor to boss” or “must appreciate/put up with bosses’ sense of humor”. I can think of someone I know who thinks of himself as a very funny person but he just isn’t and it is draining being around him because he’s always pushing his “I’m so funny” agenda. Making weird jokes and demanding you “don’t get it” if you don’t laugh, and I could completely imagine him writing “must have a sense of humor” on a job advert for an assistant.

      1. Specialk9*

        See, I’ve never had a problem with the sense of humor thing so it doesn’t raise my hackles, but decades of roommates have taught me to steer clear of anyone who says they’re “laid back” (they’re not), and dear heavens anyone who claims to not like drama (they do, so much, and create it from thin air).

        1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

          I also steer clear of roommates who say they like to clean. (No, they don’t.)

        2. SophieK*


          Some people are lying just to gain your trust some aren’t. I honestly do not do drama but will go to any lengths to get it to stop. I explain this to everyone. Everyone says they are the same. And some people have been awesome and I keep them forever, and some have been drama factories that I excise from my life with a quickness.

          I’ve personally never met someone who says that they are a high strung terrible person who flips out about everything, even though a large percentage of people are. Have you?

          1. selena81*

            Some people will be honest about themselves and some people won’t (either because they are also dishonest to themselves or because they want to screw you over). There can be all kinds of reasons for someone to make a big point of something, some positive, some negative. Maybe they have been burned by a drama-queen, maybe they want to be a reformed drama-queen, maybe they fear that their ethnicity puts them suspect of being a drama-queen

            Also: people who obsess about ‘red flags’ are a red flag in themselves

          2. Wintermute*

            here’s the thing, “Drama” is just a dismissive codeword for “people being upset about things”.

            Given that, I think you can understand why a policy of “not doing drama” or “not engaging with drama” is not a strategy for a hassle-free life. Sometimes in the course of business and interpersonal relationships, people will get upset about things. Sometimes justifiably, sometimes unjustifiably and sometimes over things they think are justified because they have a mistaken understanding of the situation.

            Never, once, in the history of the world, has anyone been LESS upset about something for their issues being ignored. Sure time heals all wounds but there’s a difference between a cooling off period and just not addressing problems.

        3. Julia*

          I feel like making a point about saying you hate drama is a really big red flag that drama follows you around, most probably because you cause it.

          Like women who say they’re “not usually friends with other women”, because “women are soo complicated.” Giant red flag.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Oooooohhhgod that kind of internalized misogyny is not only a red flag but a giant red flashing strobe light.

      2. Paralegal*

        I have never seen ” must have sense of humor” as a laid back office. In my experience, it means, the job is active. With active (busy/over-worked) people, they get punchy and they say stuff. If you are a PC type of person, you might get offended. It is not meant to be offensive, it is a release, like the term gallows humor or cop humor.

        The people in the office have spent their energy working and do not have the energy to watch their mouths on people with no sense of humor and are looking to find thing offensive or start an EEOC case. From my experience, it means “must have sense of humor”. I am old school and really do find the old slipping on a banana to be funny (as long as there are no broken bones or head concussions) and accurate word puns to be funny.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          …how much energy does it take to not say stuff bad enough to start an EEOC case over?

      3. OES*

        I’ve found that people who have been criticized for certain types of behavior in the past tend to claim (without being asked!) that they don’t exhibit that behavior. E.g., I have a colleague currently who told us she’s low maintenance before she started working then pitched a major fit when her office wasn’t entirely set up when she arrived (bookcases were being installed). She’s also said over and over again that she’s a team player. That would be no, not in this universe.

    2. Someone else*

      I’ve occasionally seen it where the company has a particular “voice” they associate with their brand, and what they really mean is they want someone they think will be able to utilize that voice easily (without being 100% dependent on existing scripts). And the “voice” in this case involves intentionally trying to be funny in a lot of their communication, even when it’s not explicitly a comedy-based gig. That sort of thing, where if you prefer a very formal tone in work communication, and consider anything less to be unprofessional, that’d be a problem. Not that they’re going to say rude or inappropriate things on the reg, but just that, if you bristle at, say, use of “on the reg” in official communications, you’re probably not a good fit.

      1. Silicon Valley Girl*

        +1 for brand marketing & various jobs / departments that include writing or design. It’s trendy in these fields to have a “funny / light / quirky” tone in writing & design these days, so “must have a sense of humor” can come up in job listings. I also see it in tech because companies believe their own marketing.

  3. Super stressed*

    I see this kind of a lot in organizations that have (or that try to have) a young workforce. And, as a millennial…I kind of like it! It makes me feel like the organization isn’t super stuffy, which I think is what they’re going for.
    I’ve never actually worked for any of these companies, though…and the one I did interview with had a manager that didn’t smile once in the whole interview. So.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I agree, I’ve always just assumed it was meant to make the ad seem a little more light-hearted and that’s how I take it, I don’t really think twice about it. Interesting that people are taking it as a “red flag,” that would never have occurred to me.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Although, there are places that should have posted ‘Ability to laugh when you really should be crying’ but none of those I ever worked at said I needed a sense of humor so I just go to be surprised.

      2. Spooky*

        And on the flip side, for as long as I’ve been in the work force, I’ve never once seen it be meant literally as “funny.” It is at best “roll with the punches when bad things happen and don’t complain,” or a worst (more commonly) “we like to lob racist sexist crap around and don’t want anybody complaining about it.” This is honestly the first time it has even occurred to me that actual humor might ever be involved – as far as I’ve seen, it isn’t.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          That’s so interesting, I really haven’t encountered that. I see it often on job ads, and have interviewed at those places and found them to just value a more casual, friendly culture (or be in no way differentiated from anyone else, meaning they probably just co-opted it boilerplate).

        2. Pudgy Patty*

          I’ve not encountered this, thankfully. I think it’s been more, “sometimes things get crazy and we need you to be able to roll with it.”

        3. Specialk9*

          The one client who expected me to roll with sexist racist crappola actually told me all about it, in what turned into my 2nd worst interview experience ever. “We need someone who can deal with some off color jokes, this isn’t a place for anybody too uptight or politically correct… I fired the last lady because she got stuck in traffic on a bridge and called to let me know she’d be late, so I fired her for being late.”

          He genuinely had no concept that I could turn HIM down and be just fine. Like, no idea. So… I turned him down and was just fine. He apparently fumed for years, which hurt me not at all.

          1. Cactus*

            I fired the last lady because she got stuck in traffic on a bridge and called to let me know she’d be late, so I fired her for being late.”

            Sounds like someone I used to work for…

            1. Specialk9*

              Were you the lady on the bridge? Was he as awful as I was extrapolating??

              I know you’re almost surely not, but I’m really enjoying the idea of this.

        4. Blueberry*

          This has been my experience of “must have a sense of humor” as well, and also my SO’s experience (he’s a conservative-looking White man who often tells me in an exhausted tone the latest horrible racist/sexist/homophobic/otherwise bigoted joke some awful person thought he’d laugh along to).

          And oh, the people who say, “don’t be PC”. I find swapping in “don’t expect me to treat people in other demographics like human beings” makes their meaning pretty clear.

          1. Autumnheart*

            People who complain about political correctness are almost always presenting the expectation that they shouldn’t be treated the way they (want to) treat other people.

        5. selena81*

          Yeah, to me it signals ‘we are afraid of getting sued…again’.
          But maybe i’m just old-fashioned.

          A job that actually involves humor (like handling a quirky corporate twitter) would be more specific about the type of humor they are looking for.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Way to support age discrimination! And I’m more than annoyed that you seem to think “not young” means stuffy. Two biases for the price of one!

      1. Myrin*

        Huh? I think the “it” in “It makes me feel like the organization isn’t super stuffy” refers to the fact that a company specifically spells out “sense of humour” in their job ad, not that they have a young workforce!

        1. Lily in NYC*

          The commenter states a belief that orgs with a young workforce have better senses of humor and are less stuffy. Commenter then agrees that it’s great. Not sure how else to read it.

          1. Pollygrammer*

            But an organization where every employee if over 40 is going to feel stuffy, especially for a millennial. A younger workforce is going to be more likely to socialize, that’s just a fact. Calling acknowledging that “discrimination” is ridiculous.

            1. Les*

              Uh, no. Preferring to hire young people is age discrimination, no matter what twisted justifications help you sleep at night.

              1. Sal*

                @Les – the poster implies that, as a millennial, she would prefer to BE hired by an organization that has a sense of humor, and that orgs with young workforce tend to claim they have a sense of humor. She does not say anything about preferring to hire young people.

            2. AnotherAlison*

              What? That’s just a strange comment.

              My spouse is 42 and isn’t stuffy at all. He likes pranks, joking around, and sending hilarious memes to business associates. (He’s self employed, so he can do what he wants, more or less.)

              I’m probably someone who prefers a stuffier culture, but I liked it when I was 22, as well. I’m at work for results, not fun time.

            3. Myrin*

              Is a younger workforce going to be more likely to socialise? I honestly don’t think so. I’ve been both the youngest and the most boring person at four of my workplaces; I feel like this has much more to do with indvidual personalities. So far, I’ve always been at workplaces where the average was late forties, and even though I’m technically a “millenial” (we don’t use these generational terms where I’m from), I’ve certainly never felt that they were generally stuffy, so I really wouldn’t proclaim that so confidently!

              1. Pollygrammer*

                Younger folks are going to be less likely to have spouses, children, and other obligations, and therefore have more free time to socialize after work if they so choose. “Stuffy” isn’t a word I’d use, but I would call an older workforce less likely to form real friendships at work.

                1. Myrin*

                  Aha, that’s a sentiment I can get behind much more easily! I didn’t realise that you meant “socialise” as in “after work”, I thought you meant being sociable during working hours, which I firmly believe is highly personality-dependent. I don’t know if I’d equate that with an ability to form “real friendships” at work (and wasn’t there a thread here once where the general consensus at least among commenters seemed to be that it’s relatively uncommon to form “real”, long-lasting friendships at work anyway, regardless of age?), but I do agree that as I’ve gotten older, priorities among my peers seem to have shifted and there is, for example, less interest in wild parties (on a general scale; there certainly are still some wild party-goers here, and I’m sure they’ll still be that way when they’re 50).

                2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Younger folks are going to be less likely to have spouses, children, and other obligations… you forgot to add for now. We the olds, on the other hand, are already done raising children. Heck, some of us are already done being married (stands up, takes a bow). So, as long as we are taking this weird route of making hiring decisions of who’s going to have more free time and fewer family obligations in the next 5-10 years (which I personally would advise against, but you do you), the millennials are not exactly coming out on top.

                  I have formed all my real friendships at work by way of working together, on nights and weekends if needed, to get things done. Brings people much closer together than beer pong on a Saturday night.

            4. Samiratou*

              Yeah, I would say most of my team, at least, is near or over 40 and I don’t think I’d call us all that stuffy, even as we are data analysts. We even hang out with each other and the younger team members at brewpub happy hours, sharing pictures of our dogs and everything, though I’ve yet to see any avocado toast (if we’re going to get stereotypical, here).

              Stuffy offices rarely have anything to do with age, as it turns out, and a healthy workplace should have people from across the age spectrum, not focusing on younger or older, in particular.

              1. Specialk9*

                I’m old, and I’ll admit I’m fairly stuffy – and I freaking adore avocado toast. Dave’s Killer Bread, with campari tomatoes, and lime juice, and maybe some eggs. Yum yum yum delicioso!

                My kiddo also loves avocado toast. He gets this little green grin, because he eats the middle and avoids the crusts.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  I love it too, but I make mine myself, which is apparently not the cool thing to do; I am supposed to drive out to the one place that makes it just right for only $15.

            5. Clare*

              People seem to use the term millenial as some sort of catch-all for “young people” these days. The older end of the millenial generation is now in their mid-thirties, so an average employee age of 40 wouldn’t seem stuffy to them at all.

            6. Oryx*

              I’m 36. I’m a millennial. So, no, a workforce of over 40 is not going to feel stuffy to me or all millenials

              1. Classic Rando*

                I’m 35, the youngest employee by a good 10 years, and I’m probably the stuffiest person in the company. We’re only 5 people, but still…

            7. Ro*

              Making a blanket statement like all organizations where everyone is a certain age will (without exception) be a certain way, that is the definition of discrimination/prejudice. It’s not a fact.

              1. Pollygrammer*

                Nobody here has used the word “everyone.” And thinking in terms of what you prefer in a workplace’s energy and general atmosphere and connecting that to a demographic you find more likely to correlate isn’t discrimination.

                Discrimination would be “I won’t hire people over 50 because they don’t know how to use computers” or “younger women should only be hired for admin work.”

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Yes, it very much is discrimination. You’re making generalizations about a group of people based on a protective category and trying to justify it as A-OK based on ‘culture fit’.

                  And the same arguments you make have been on the losing end of age discrimination suits. FYI.

                2. Pollygrammer*

                  Protected category for employers. Not, like, life as a whole. I’m not at all advocating an organization target a specific demographic for hiring. But it is still okay for someone to factor in what kind of energy and culture they’re looking for when they’re deciding where they want to work, and, yes, it is okay for that to include “I’d like to work around other people in my age group.”

                3. Autumnheart*

                  Well, there’s the part where you’re just plain wrong.

                  There are plenty of people in their early to mid-20s with spouses and kids. There are plenty of people over 35 with neither and whose personal social circles include coworkers. There are plenty of people at any point in their career path who do or don’t want to go for a beer after work.

                  And no, declining to hire people over a certain age because of culture is textbook age discrimination. It doesn’t matter why you want to hire employees of a certain age, *you can’t* because it’s discrimination.

              2. Indoor Cat*

                But when looking for a job that suits my personality as well as my skills, is it really so strange to use shortcuts, when reading ads and interviewing, to figure out if the culture of a given workplace is better for me than another?

                Hence all the reading into single lines like “sense of humor” in an ad in the first place. FWIW, my experience corroborates Alison’s advice, which is that “sense of humor” in a job ad is basically meaningless at this point.

                But, if SuperStressed’s experience is that this line correlates to a younger workforce, and SuperStressed is a young person interested in spending a third of their waking life in an environment where people are at a similar life stage as them, and are likely to enjoy similar trends or shows that will make workplace social conversation a bit easier for them, they’re allowed to have that preference.

                Honestly, being a minority in certain ways in a workplace can be a bit draining, whether it’s an official, protected minority (gender, religion, disability, etc) or simply a sub-cultural minority (the only person who doesn’t like kids and dogs, the only person who doesn’t follow sports, the only introvert). Wanting to avoid that drained feeling by seeking out workplaces that have more people like me, however superficially I choose to define “like me,” is a perfectly decent thing to factor into a job search.

            8. mark132*

              If we are dealing in stereotypes you can argue younger people don’t socialize as much because they are so glued to their phones/social media. (Of course I’ve seen a few grandparents glued to their phones as well, my parents in their 80’s are on their phones all the time.)

              I doubt their is a difference in the “social IQ” of any particular age group. And I have no clue how to even measure it.

              1. Autumnheart*

                What about the stereotype where people want to hire young people because you can get them to work 70 hours a week for under-market salaries, and appease them with a game room and a dress code that allows jeans? BTDT, literally got the t-shirt (and the mug, and the lanyard, and all the other swag that became obsolete when the company shut down for lack of funding).

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Yup; while telling them that they are being hired over the older candidates, not because they are a better deal to the employer, but because they are a “culture fit”. Now that is the real stereotype; and the real reason behind all the “must be funny haha like a clown”, “work hard, play hard” etc. Always follow the money!

                  PS. I’ve always given the swag to my parents. They loved it.

            9. Rusty Shackelford*

              But an organization where every employee if over 40 is going to feel stuffy

              Absolutely. Deity forbid I get stuck in an office full of old farts like Bill Murray.

              1. Quoth the Raven*

                I’ve never found Bill Murray to be particularly funny, myself, so for me it IS one of those “Odin, no” things. That said, stick me in an office full of old farts like Lewis Black and we’re talking (31, for the record).

            10. Lily in NYC*

              How is assuming personality based on age NOT discrimination. I cannot believe what I am reading here. I am not the ridiculous one in this conversation.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Nope you are not. Let’s hope the young, dynamic participants of this thread remember it in 20 years.

          2. Myrin*

            I don’t think she says that orgs with a young workforce have a better sense of humour? Am I missing something?

            She says: “I see this [= ads listing “sense of humour” as a desirable trait] kind of a lot in organizations that have (or that try to have) a young workforce. And, as a millennial…I kind of like it [“it” = the fact that the ad specifically looks for a sense of humour]! It [= again, the fact that “humour” is even included in the ad] makes me feel like the organization isn’t super stuffy, which I think is what they’re going for.”

            I don’t want to hugely derail because of one comment but I’d really love to know how we’re reading these three sentences so differently.

            1. HMM*

              Agreed with Myrin on this interpretation. I think Super Stressed is just talking about her own thoughts on that particular phrase, not that she’s justifying age discrimination. Especially given that she says she actually doesn’t know if listing “humor wanted” is causing the company to hire younger folks and gives an example where she actually experienced the opposite.

              It’s hard to know for sure if it’s nefarious or not from the outside. My org does say we want people with a sense of humor and we often come across as if we are a young org because of our marketing and branding, but in fact we are majority non-millenials.

            2. Specialk9*

              Yeah, it felt like some people were looking for a high horse to lecture from. We all get it, age discrimination is bad, but I don’t think that’s what they were saying.

          3. Super stressed*

            Orgs that value a sense of humor feel less stuffy to me. I like organizations that are not stuffy. Based on my experience as a current young person, I think my perspective is common among millennials/young people in general, although I don’t expect every single person to feel the same. My perspective also shapes the types of companies and job ads that I look at.

            The above statements don’t actually have anything to do with the age of the people I work with. I don’t think that non-young people are stuffy, or even that the organizations I was referring to only want to hire young people. I think you’re misinterpeting my comment quite a bit….and reading much more emphasis than I intended on my comment that these organizations “try to have” a young workforce.

          4. Starbuck*

            They might be more likely to share the same sense of humor (which would feel “better”) if they’re all in the same age cohort, especially if their jokes tend towards cultural references. My workplace has split demographics and my humor lands well with the group that’s close to me in age, not so much the group that’s closer to my parent’s age. It goes both ways though; I don’t always get their cultural references or the jokes they make with them.

      2. Hills to Die on*

        In all fairness, I could be kind of stuffy sometimes when I was younger.

          1. PhyllisB*

            Me too, Decima!! 67 here, and much more laid back than I was in my 20’s and 30’s.

          2. Specialk9*

            Oh, good point. I am too, actually! I can still be stuffy, but I also wear pink flamingo dresses to work these days.

          3. PlainJane*

            It’s easier for me to be less stuffy at work now (51) than it was when I was just starting out and felt I needed to project a mature, competent, “professional” image. I love being a middle-aged goofball (who is also competent and professional; I’m still working on the “mature” part).

      3. Sketchee*

        I do think “try to have a young workforce” is probably something that they wouldn’t put in an ad for that reason

      4. Rat in the Sugar*

        That’s a pretty hostile way to say that, and I think you’ve misread Super Stressed’s comment anyway. The antecedent for the “it” in the sentences “And, as a millenial…I kind of like it!” and “It makes me feel like the organization isn’t super stuffy…” is “sense of humor” in the job ad, not “young workforce”.

        1. Myrin*

          That is a much more concise and linguistic way of saying what I tried to convey in my roundabout comment above!

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Agree with everything you said here, but I’m glad this commenter alerted us to the fact that “must have a sense of humor” in an ad can be code for “we don’t hire any olds, but it’s against the law to say it out loud, so here’s a hint”.

        1. Stardust*

          That’s not what super stressed said, though. But I do agree that that kind of wording could indeed be meant to convey something like that anyway.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Looks to me like “I see this kind of a lot in organizations that have (or that try to have) a young workforce. ” is exactly what it is. They want to have a young workforce, know they cannot enforce it legally, so they put sense of humor on their ad.

    3. Bea*

      I spent 10 years as the youngest in the company. I’ve had no rigid bosses, that’s industry dependent. My current boss is the most buttoned up and we’re the same age. So that’s more due to staying in lanes and staying respected despite youth because we’re millennials too ;)

    4. mark132*

      I get where you are coming from, but millennials are also stereotypically “stuffy” as well. Like the whole cell phone issue, the stereotype they are glued to their phones constantly. In the end people are people whether young or old, whether “stuffy” or not.

      1. Starbuck*

        I’ve never seen the word “stuffy” interpreted that way and wonder if you mean something different? I’ve always understood it to mean serious, work-focused, procedure-following, perhaps even uptight etc. but not having anything to do with time spend on phones.

        1. Autumnheart*

          I’m not claiming that this is what you’re saying, but I could read that two different ways. A company could be overly conservative and rigid, and be the kind of place that writes you up for being 3 minutes late or that constantly polices everyone on dress code. But there’s also the kind of company that prides itself on not being “stuffy” and as a result they’re tremendously unprofessional, and have so many cowboys and mavericks that they can’t accomplish any actual business goals.

          Being serious, work-focused and procedure-following makes you effective as a workplace. Being too much of those things makes you too rigid and unable to adapt quickly, being not enough of those things makes you ineffective and potentially liable. I would look askance at any company that made “stuffiness” a factor either way.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        In the end people are people whether young or old, whether “stuffy” or not.

        Yup. Where does everyone think the stuffy older people come from? They are stuffy young people who have grown up.

        Since everyone is sharing anecdotal evidence, out of all the places I worked, the one that I was the best fit in, enjoyed the company of my coworkers the most, and still have friends that I met at, was a workplace where I was the youngest by 10-15 years (along with a few other people in my age group, but we were definitely exceptions). I have also worked at places where I was in my 40s and everyone else in their late 20s and early 30s. I was the boring adult with my boring adult life, surrounded by the hip young crowd whose biggest life problems were having to choose which club to go to on a Friday night. Know what eventually happens at a workplace like that? Ten years go by, and the hip young crowd becomes a workplace full of boring adults with boring adult lives. At the end of the day, you are who you are. If you’re a “stuffy”, rigid, boring etc person at your core, it will come out eventually. And if you’re not, you will never become one, even when you’re 80.

  4. MechanicalPencil*

    My team in particular uses humor to diffuse the “well, there’s a delay in our work because the llama shearers are backed up” feelings. Or like today, one coworker and I unintentionally began trading movie references and it diffused some frustrations about a lack of clarity.

    1. Nan*

      This. If you can turn “IT boofed this up again” into a Monty Python quote fest with me, you can be on my team forever. and ever. and ever.

        1. Samiratou*

          The people responsible for sacking the people who sacked the IT department have been sacked.

          1. Kelly O*

            We are now redoing the comments section at the last moment and at great expense.

    2. iglwif*


      I work in social media / marketing, but for a really small firm, so I sometimes swing in on the QA and Customer Support teams. It’s a lot easier to succeed in these roles if you respond to incomprehensible support queries and overnight server glitches with humour than if you react by yelling and throwing stuff.

  5. Lumen*

    I think Alison is correct here – could just be boilerplate, could mean something icky, could mean they’re actually just enjoyable people. It’s not a big enough red flag to move past the ad entirely without applying, but if it’s a concern, keep an eye out at interviews and in written/phone conversations.

  6. Let's Talk About Splett*

    It seems like one of those qualities that’s hard to be subjective about yourself anyway. Like being a good driver. Is there anyone who thinks about themselves, “I don’t have a good sense of humor”?

    1. Lil Fidget*

      So true haha (also see “attention to detail,” this isn’t something I find people can self-report on). When I see this in an ad I usually try to put some slight humor into my response so they can decide if they think I’m funny enough, but someone who responded “I have an excellent self of humor” is probably wrong :P

        1. Ali G*

          That one I see less as a buzzword and more as a euphemism for “you never know what we will want from you day-to-day and will just throw stuff at you whether you have time for it or not! But since you have such a great sense of humor you will just laugh, while crying inside.”
          Or that might just be my experiences coloring my perception…

    2. Classic Rando*

      I dunno, I’m like… 40-45% curmudgeon. If I saw that in a job ad I might wonder if the team in question was really jokey, and I probably wouldn’t fit in. But sarcasm and dry humor, I’m totally there for that.

    3. GS*

      I don’t have a sense of humour. I have a painfully dry sense of irony, which can only sometimes be substituted. I would probably mildly avoid a workplace that advertised a sense of humour, if only because our sister office is supposed to have a sense of humour and we’re the serious one, and over there I need to say “I don’t want to hear about your penis anymore” more often than I prefer.

      1. yet another Kat*

        @GS your comment made me actually audibly chuckle at my desk, so at least for me, your dry sense of irony is sufficiently humorous.

      2. sunshyne84*

        Same. I take a long time to warm up to people so I’m not likely to engage in many jokes until I get comfortable around you. This reminds me of that post where someone brought up people being task oriented vs. those that are relationship oriented.

        1. Specialk9*

          The funniest person I know is like that. She flies low low low under the radar, and then just slips something hysterical in and then floats back out before it registers, then everyone dies laughing. It’s the most beautiful stealth bombing imaginable.

    4. Aunt Vixen*

      Everyone thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor, but they can’t possibly all have good taste.

      /Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby in “When Harry Met Sally …”

    5. Red Reader*

      I regularly disclaim that I have zero sense of humor. I deliberately set the bar low so nobody is surprised. (What sense of humor I do have is super super dry and even so, not very quick on the uptake.)

    6. baffled*

      I sometimes remark that I had my sense of humor surgically removed when I joined the feminist cabal, which is why I don’t find *ist jokes funny.

    7. Not a Mere Device*

      I know at least one person who has no sense of humor. She’s never had one, and doesn’t miss it; she also says that it stops a bunch of teasing/*ist jokers . People use “don’t you have a sense of humor?” as a defense against charges of things like harassment and sexism, or a way of derailing the argument by getting the objector to defend herself; they’re not prepared for someone to say that no, she doesn’t have a sense of humor, and she wants them to stop.

      1. Kat in VA*

        Ah, yes. The person who says something really awful and then follows it up with, “Jeez, I was just joking, where’s your sense of humor?” when you have the audacity to be appalled at whatever horrible thing they said.

  7. Lily in NYC*

    I think that is just code-speak for “please don’t apply if you hate being around people all day and it shows”. I’ve also noticed that some “requirements” for a job are things that annoyed them about the person who is being replaced. For example, if the ad says something about “must be able to get along well with teammates”, it’s likely that the last person was difficult.

    1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

      Yeah, I agree. When I read that, I just presume that it’s a friendly office where people share memes or tell jokes or goof around a bit from time to time. Which would drive some folks a bit batty, I think, but would absolutely be a good fit for me.

      1. Breda*

        Yeah, we don’t put it in the job ads, but we mention it in the interview to indicate that we’re kind of silly nerds, and since it’s a really small company, we want people who will joke along with us.

        1. TardyTardis*

          I would love to work with silly nerds. Once, during a non-profit banquet, I was left at the um, Differently Thinking Table to basically ride herd on them. Instead, we became the Banana Daiquiri Table (cf Gary Larsen cartoon) because I love Star Wars jokes, too. It was loads of fun.

    2. Kelly O*

      AKA “Please do not be a wet blanket. If other people are laughing about something, don’t walk by with your nose stuck in the air saying loudly that you sure wish YOU had time to stand around the copy machine and laugh but it must be just great for those who do, HYACINTH.”

      Or you know, whatever.

    3. Specialk9*

      Oh, so it’s like online dating, where you can figure out the shape of the last partner they’re still not over based on what they say they’re looking for.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I remember this from college housemate ads. You could always tell what issues they had with the departing housemate depending on what they required now. “Must pay bills on time” was not uncommon.

  8. Guy Incognito*

    It means at least four or five pies in the face a month. You’ll also be required either one spinning bow tie, or a slide whistle whenever you sit down. That part is up to you.

    1. OhNo*

      Also, your boss will be wearing one of those water-squirting flowers at all times, so be prepared for occasional splashing.

  9. Self employed*

    I think it’s a potentially good sign. Like, we like to be at work and are not curmudgeons all day. Like Lily in NYC said above, I would hope it indicates people who are willing to be friendly and lighthearted and not take work too seriously all the time.

  10. Delta Delta*

    Conversely, ever work somewhere where there is zero sense of humor? Among anyone? Make a funny comment about the weather or traffic and it leads to blank stares. I have both been there and done that and would not do it again. Yes, I recognize there are very serious work places (air traffic control or 911 dispatcher springs to mind), and that humor is not appropriate. I also recognize that in more average workplaces on the seriousness continuum, sometimes people make a joke and sometimes people are a little lighthearted, and that’s ok.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Ironically I bet the places where you’d expect the least amount of humor (cancer ward, morgue) are actually full of at least black humor all day long. The humorless places I’m aware of are usually HR and Accounts Receivable type places.

      1. OJ Mojo*

        Seconding the AR and HR positions observation. They are serious all the time and expect you to be too.

        1. Kc24*

          Worse still, small open plan offices where AR and HR and all the senior managers are lobbed in together across the partitions from one another. That was my old work place and it was excruciatingly stuffy. We were constantly “reminded” by our manager to quieten down and having our productivity and output challenged because she would get strong armed by the HR manager and GMs assistant. The feeling of being watched and judged constantly is so unnerving!

        2. Kelly O*

          We have a global HR manager in our office. I technically report up to her instead of the CEO for a variety of reasons that are total BS, but I just roll with it.

          Her comments to me are that I “talk to people too much” to be in HR and that I am “not serious enough” to be in HR. Never mind the other criticisms. She seems to think if you laugh “too much” whatever that means you are not serious enough for the job.

          1. Specialk9*

            That’s so interesting. I occasionally present to the 30ish HR people at my megacorp, and the amount of laughing – like real, hard, we’re actually totally loving this laughter – on those calls is so high. I kinda thought that was an industry thing. (My other HR interactions have been topic-focused: how do I…)

          2. Trilliongrams*

            Goodness, no. I’m not sure how anyone can survive HR without some sense of humor. Some of the stuff that we deal with is so absurd you have to laugh to keep from crying. Boo on her.

      2. ArtsNerd*

        Dark humor is definitely a common coping mechanism among emotionally draining professions. You have to be sure to keep it professional and separate from any interactions with outside parties and the public, of course, but humor and pain or grief go hand-in-hand for many people. (Myself included. I kept a running list of absurd and hilarious instances stemming from an illness and death in my immediate family, because I’m pretty sure I could not have functioned in any way without the distancing that perspective afforded me.)

        1. Canarian*

          My extended family has an above-ground tomb with shelves along the sides for coffins. Problem is, the tomb floods when it rains and the bottom couple shelves regularly end up underwater. At every family funeral, someone brings out the diagram of who is on which shelf and an argument ensues over who gets to die next to avoid being slotted under the floodplain.

          1. A Nickname for AAM*

            *am glad I’m not the groundskeeper in charge of running the sump pumps full of corpse tea*

          2. Specialk9*

            (blink blink) That’s… wow that’s fascinating. Families, man.

            Out if curiosity, can you be buried elsewhere? Or is it one of those insurmountable historical traditions, or very limited space like Hong Kong?

            1. Canarian*

              It’s everyone’s choice whether to end up in the family tomb or not. Mostly people want to, regardless of flooding, so they can be with the family (often their spouses/parents/siblings/kids are already in there, so it’s the obvious option). It’s actually running out of room, even when remains are consolidated into ever smaller boxes, so my parents and their generation will probably be some of the last ones in there. The flooding discussions are really just a way to bring levity to a difficult moment, like ArtsNerd was talking about, rather than something anyone really is averse to.

              I’ll personally be buried elsewhere (or more likely, cremated!)

              1. Autumnheart*

                Is there urban renewal for tombs? Tear the old one down and build a new one with, like, taller shelves?

        2. Steph*

          I am a nurse and we often have to reassure visiting students that what goes on in our break room stays in out break room – having a safe space for banter and silliness (and complaints about certain clients) is essential to coping with our particular job, but we’d never be anything but professional and respectful with clients. I am also fortunate enough to have a team that is introspective enough to recognize and respect different limits for different people. But, yes, humour in my work place is imperative.

      3. Delta Delta*

        I’m a criminal defense lawyer. Many of us tend to try to have some humor because if we didn’t we’d lose our minds.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          See that’s funny because I would have said lawyers were among those who never seem to accept a joke. But I think that’s because I only deal with them during contracting, when it probably pays to be very literal.

          1. Specialk9*

            Yeah that’s really not true for lawyers. They tend to get annoyed by lawyer jokes, but the lawyers I know tend to be pretty funny and fun to talk to.

            1. Specialk9*

              I meant not true for lawyers off duty. I believe you that the ones you’ve met on duty have their dour game faces on.

            2. Gazebo Slayer*

              Yeah, both the lawyers I’ve worked with and the lawyers I’ve hung out with socially have often been hilarious.

        2. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          PD here and very much this. Also, our sense of humor is NOT for public consumption.

      4. Bea*

        I’m Accounting and HR…this explains why I regularly butt heads with others in similar positions. I’m OTT and goofy (when not submitting government forms or firing someone of course). I’ve never worked as coworkers in the departments, I’m a solo goofball. But yeah, talking to Clients or Vendor departments give me hives.

        I’m also upset by all the excitement and general enthusiasm I’m greeted with from coworkers when doing HR things. Internally I’m thinking “who hurt you? Why are you so cautiously approaching me to ask me to do something that’s my job?!?” argh.

        But it did cause one job to crash and burn but ef that place.

      5. Cedrus Libani*

        And seconding the use of black humor in medicine. That kind of work requires…it’s not a sense of humor, exactly, but it’s the ability to wade into an objectively awful situation without being flustered by it. Nobody actually enjoys rotting flesh, pus, feces, etc – but if you shrug it off with a “well won’t THIS be fun” and then get on with your job, it’s better for all concerned, including the patient.

      6. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

        Have you ever worked in HR? We are one of the loudest and jokiest departments in the building here. And from what my colleagues say of their previous companies, it’s not exclusive to this job.

        1. SpaceNovice*

          I’ve always had HR departments that are like yours, too. I suspect it might be in certain sectors that HR tends to be more serious. (I could be entirely wrong, though.)

        2. Alienor*

          The HR department at my company is pretty humorless, and when they accidentally hire a fun person, that person usually doesn’t last long. BUT they do go all out at Halloween with group costumes and big decorations in their work area, so I guess they save it all up and let it out once a year. :-P

      7. Cactus*

        I worked in abortion care for two years. There was a lot of dark humor. And raunchy humor (almost all women).

      8. Blueberry*

        I work in medicine, and IME hospitals are full of gloriously morbid humor, and the more ill the patients are the more wicked both they and their caretakers get. (And morbid humor doesn’t have to be cruel or based in bigotry at all, despite what people sometimes say. It just turns on the fact that we’re all dying, some faster than others.)

      9. SophieK*

        I used to work for an answering service that had all the services that might surround any given 911 call, including seven funeral homes and YES! Funeral directors have stories all day long. They ended up being my favorite clients. A private ambulance service that did a lot of mental health transports was also surprisingly cheery–my favorite EMT used to (respectfully) have full conversations with the patients who had a break from reality, just delving into their world with them, and I could hear it while dispatching.

        To the poster above, 911 dispatchers also tend to have a good sense of humor. One of my favorites used to make fun of some of my more…interesting…Security guards with me. “WHAT is going on? Why is he doing that?” “Yeah, I have nooooo idea…just reporting here.” (Also a security dispatch center.)

      10. TardyTardis*

        Medical humor is definitely something else; I was once a nurse’s aide but worked in an office with someone who used to be an EMT. We could clear the office in five minutes playing “Grossout” (though we were told to not do that again after the first time).

        But Accounts Payable has its moments–some vendors are Speshul.

    2. Bea*

      I’ve worked with funeral home folks (as clients), talk about scary blank stares with just a hint of a confused smile.

    3. Argh!*

      I work at one now. My boss has a somewhat cynical sense of “humor” but I don’t find it funny. I have one work friend who is as adept at Monty Python references as I am, and we’re besties! Everyone else is a stereotypical school marm or is on the nerdy side of being neurologically atypical or OCD/OCPD-ish.

    4. Specialk9*

      I take it you don’t know any 911 dispatchers? I can’t comment on air traffic controllers, but in general people who make it long term in the emergency services have black gallows humor down PAT.

  11. It Might Be Me*

    I’ve seen an unfortunate trend in cutesy job ads. They want someone who is going to take on the wizarding world or slay dragons. These are good organizations, but it’s over the top. Indicating the need for a sense of humor is the nicest variation of this I can think of. It could also indicate that sometimes they deal with some crazy clients/requests and you need to be able to not take it too seriously. Honestly, if my co-workers and I didn’t have a sense of humor I think we’d all quit. Yesterday it was the customer who wanted to file a complaint about Patsy Cline and President Obama coming over and raiding her refrigerator. No we don’t work in mental health.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Oh, well, that’s not where I though your last sentence was going at all.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Agreed! Also is it weird that I’m appreciating that Patsy Cline is one of the offenders? She doesn’t get much attention these days, and she is an absolute genius.

        1. owlie*

          Particularly because “was an absolute genius, before she died in 1963” is a longer way of stating that

    2. Bea*

      It’s what the templates you find on job ad placement sites and consultants recommend. I was just looking into it because our applicant pool is abysmal but yeah we aren’t going that route.

    3. Specialk9*

      I am one of the most optimistic, smiley, can-do people you’ll meet at work… and even so BS cutesie job descriptions like that turn me into a cartoon lunch lady grumpily banging down a ladle of sloppy joes and croaking “next!”. I just freaking can’t, with that nonsense. It just feels really childish and patronizing at the same time.

  12. nnn*

    I’m not going so far as to say this is a good idea, but it occurs to me that you could ask in interview “Can you give me an example of someone who worked here who had a bad/incompatible sense of humour?” (You could preface this question with “I noticed this unusual requirement in the job ad and I’d like to know more about it.”)

    Because really, there are no objectively good or bad senses of humour, just compatible and incompatible.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      There’s probably an objectively missing sense of humor … I could picture the quiz: a) do you often respond blankly when people say something lighthearted? b) are you extremely literal in all aspects of life, c) do you like to “get right down to business” when someone new enters your workplace, etc … :P

      1. Dragoning*

        The way you describe it, it sounds like selecting autistic people out, because many are known for those traits.

          1. Turner*

            me too. I’m on the spectrum and do take a while to understand some kinds of jokes and I do take things literally and…

            But I do have a sense a humour! Haydn’s Surprise symphony makes me laugh everytime I hear it. Also I really like jokes that require you to take things literally. For example, the other day it was raining and there were sirens. So I typed “sirens” and put my fingers in my ears. Then when i could type again I said rain attracts sirens because it’s the closest thing to their native habitat and that these sirens need to work on their singing because they couldn’t lure me anywhere.

            Q: What’s purple and commutes?
            A: An Abelian grape!!!

            We do too have senses of humour we just have them differently.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Ironically, I was not meaning this to be literal. The comment I was responding to is, “there is no objectively bad sense of humor.” I was trying to make the point that there is such a thing as having no sense of humor at all, which is different than making jokes that somebody else doesn’t think are funny.

          1. Dragoning*

            I’m still not sure you’ve made your point. I know many people with those traits who do still have a very subtle sense of humor that is very difficult for new people to parse–but it does exist.

        2. Rat in the Sugar*

          Hmm…I agree with Dragoning and Close Bracket that those are such common traits in autism that you may inadvertently be screening people out.

          Also, maybe it’s just because I have those traits myself, but I don’t think they equate to a missing sense of humor. I sometimes respond blankly to lighthearted comments because I’m in work mode and forgot to check for facial/vocal signals and so didn’t even realize that they were being lighthearted. I’m often very literal cuz that’s how everything that people say sounds to me, and I also like to get right down to business with someone new because it’s hard to have a genuine conversation with someone whose facial expressions and vocal tones I haven’t been able to familiarize myself with (also I’m trying to spare them my awkward). But I still have a sense of humor and like to tell/be told jokes, and I love that the Accounting department I work in is very easygoing and people like to joke and laugh. Sometimes I do have to be told that something was a joke, but if so I’ll just make a comment about how silly I am and then we’re all laughing together. I’m honestly not sure how you would describe a genuinely missing sense of humor…

      2. nnn*

        The interesting thing is those are also commonly-recommended strategies for if you have to deal with someone who keeps making racist or hateful comments etc. – respond blankly to or fail to understand the hateful comments, and try to redirect them back to business.

        Obvs you, personally, are not being racist, but it just goes to show how subjective it all can be – one person’s “I want a workplace where a modicum of lightheartedness is possible” can be expressed identically to another person’s “I want to be able to make racist jokes at work”, and one person’s “objectively zero sense of humour” can look identical to another person’s “I just want to get through business without having to hear racism”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think asking that would come across as if you’re putting too much weight on it and not taking lightly something that was meant lightly. (I know that then raises the question of why they put it in the ad at all, but it’s generally a tone they’re striving to convey, not a strict requirement.)

      1. OhNo*

        Is there a good, or at least more light-hearted, way to ask about it, though? Because I’ll admit that whenever I see that language in a job ad, I tend to equate it with bro culture, and it would be great to have a way to ask about that to see if I’m way off base.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Wouldn’t you just go to the interview and look for evidence of bro culture though? All interviewers named Chad, lots of sports references, “locker room talk” etc? I don’t know if there’s any benefit to asking this, certainly not because of this phrase that in my experience is pretty innocuous.

        2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          I think the only way it could be brought up in a lighthearted way is to reference it as part of another discussion in the interview.

          Interviewer Irene: Tell me about a time that you were involved with a work crisis
          Candidate Caleb: blah blah blah… and by the time we’d all worked 48 hours straight we had to pull ourselves together from the giggles and the punchy jokes to deliver the good news to the boss. What really helped during that crisis is that we ended up taking ‘letting of steam breaks’ to keep each other going. I was encouraged by the ad I read for this position and hope that this is also a place where people can feel comfortable to find humor in stressful situations.

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            Weird… the last bit of my post cut off. Here it is:

            The hope would be that the related tale would prompt Interviewer Irene to come back with a story of how their office culture views humor.

      2. Rex*

        Agreed, but if the line is raising flags, I think it might be extra important to ask about work culture, and read carefully between the lines about how they answer.

    3. Millennial Lawyer*

      Asking that would be like holding up a sign saying “I do not have a sense of humor.”

    4. Blueberry*

      As someone who’s wary of that phrase, I think this is absolutely excellent advice and am adding it to my Interview Questions pile.

  13. Bend & Snap*

    “Work hard play hard” is waaayyyy more of a red flag IMO. Usually that means “work obscene hours and we’ll throw you an ice cream social once in awhile.

    1. Classic Rando*

      It can also mean “work obscene hours and then get sh*tfaced with the office dudebros who are all high functioning alcoholics.”

      1. Specialk9*

        Both of these. Also ‘we way underpay, and expect you to be a never-ending rotation of workers, but we spend a lot on mandatory fun, and you better act enthusiastic’.

    2. Artemesia*

      I’ve always interpreted ‘work hard/play hard’ to mean ‘we have long long hours and don’t respect work life balance at all and most of us are alcoholics to deal with that. ‘play hard’ has literally always heralded heavy drinking cultures in my experience.

    3. GlitsyGus*

      That or “we want you to work 90 hour weeks, but in exchange we put a kegerator and ping pong table in the break room. You must accept challenge matches from upper management.”

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      “We’ll work you so hard, you’ll never have the time to leave the office except to catch a few hours of sleep, but you’ll never want to anyway, because get this, there’s a slide going from the 2nd floor to the first!”

      (There is a software company in our area that has the aforementioned slide. It is also famous for underpaying and overworking people. A few of the glassdoor reviews mention the slide, and point out that it is not a replacement for work-life balance.)

    5. Spooky*

      Yep, this is a huge red flag for me too. I see that and I run for the hills screaming.

    6. SpaceNovice*

      In the past, I’ve definitely gone “this all sounds really good” as I went through a job description, only to immediately shut the tab on my browser when I got to “work hard, play hard.”

  14. Oxford Coma*

    In my experience as a woman in tech, a company’s willingness to put that sort of thing in writing doesn’t speak to any nefarious purpose. It’s when they are careful to only express the sentiment verbally that you have to suss out whether or not they mean “You will be hassled by bro-coders endlessly, and we don’t have the time or inclination to soothe your fee-fees.”

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      As another woman in tech, I have never seen it on a job ad, and if I did, I probably wouldn’t apply because of the general weirdness and ickiness of this requirement in the overall tech job context. I’d be like, “I don’t know what shady stuff you guys have going on there, but I can tell you’ve got something!”

  15. Name Required*

    I saw a job ad the other day that seemed fine until it got to the part that said something along the lines of, “Only apply if you’re actually going work the entire day. We don’t need someone who wants to get paid to spend 8 hours watching videos, texting and checking Facebook.”

    Did not apply.

    1. GlitsyGus*

      Either the manager is a major hardass or the person who had the job previously was a complete slacker who never got anything finished. It could go either way.

      1. fposte*

        But it’s not just that the previous person was a slacker, it’s that they’re still bitter enough about it to put it in the job posting. That’s a no.

        1. Triple Anon*

          Exactly. It’s like dating ads that say, “Must not be a lazy, whining liar who expects me to pay for everything,” or something like that. It says more about the person being angry and bitter than who they are and what they’re looking for.

    2. Bea*

      I cackled. They’re stupid.

      I ended up in my long term job that shaped me into the business woman I am because the first pick screwed up totally by surfing the internet the first week of training and having to be told constantly to answer the phone.

      I was told in passing that was an issue. I didn’t dream of doing that for training WTF there was a large amount of duties to learn!!

      Fast forward when the trainer left (she was training me as her replacement to return to school. So I had a nice six weeks of her lurking as I took the reigns). When I got settled I spent tons of time online because I had time, I had the respect and authority to work around my own setup etc. The boss boss didn’t care.

      I dig it, I’ve fired inept time wasters after that experience. You still never snap off a stupid line in a posting, you recruit better!!!

    3. smoke tree*

      Finally, the professional equivalent to “I’m looking for someone who’s NOT INTO DRAMA.”

    4. the gold digger*

      We don’t need someone who wants to get paid to spend 8 hours watching videos, texting and checking Facebook.”

      All I want to know is, who IS hiring for someone who wants to get paid to spend 8 hours watching videos, texting and checking Facebook? Because that sounds like the perfect job. (Well. They would have to add cats and free food, but it’s almost the perfect job as is.)

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        That was my first job out of college. I was the office admin for a very small university department, and I had to order office and lab supplies, answer the phone, and do some end of semester grading, but except at the end of the year I didn’t usually have more than half an hour of real work a day. It was fun for about two weeks and then SO BORING.

      2. Autumnheart*

        I’ve had that job. That obviously wasn’t the list of job duties, but that’s what the job became when I ran out of projects and they didn’t create any new ones. The lack of mental stimulation was horrific, and I certainly had no professional accomplishments that I could point to. I was getting paid 25% over market to sit and play solitaire all day, and I left after less than a year because I thought I was going to have a mental break if I didn’t.

        A day of downtime is nice. A few days feels like a vacation. A month feels like prison. Six months feels like hell.

  16. LouiseM*

    I think this is a silly thing to put in an ad. I have a great sense of humor, but if I saw this in a job ad I would assume that *they* had no sense of humor. It’s sort of like when someone puts “I like intelligent and deep conversation” in their online dating profile and you know it means they’re dumb as s**t.

    1. Les*

      Or it means you…want to have interesting conversations with your date? Some of us have higher intellectual standards for our partners and I’ll thank you not to make assumptions just because you don’t.

      1. Bea*

        Yeah…my SO had something similar in terms of being able to have interesting conversions etc. He’s the goofiest of all goofs and is intelligent AF. So yeah I don’t get it.

      2. Ella*

        I think LouiseM was being a little sly about the way people talk about themselves vs. the way they actually are. You don’t have to be mean about her presumed lower intellectual standards. :/

        1. LouiseM*

          Yes, that’s exactly right! Sorry if that didn’t come across :(

          Maybe the “deep conversation” example wasn’t the best, but my point was simply that *everyone* thinks they have interesting conversations. Ditto having a sense of humor, or the dreaded “I like to have fun” (is anyone going on a date thinking, “I hope my date is a boring conversationalist with whom I do NOT have a good time”?) Yes, I do like to date people I think are smart, but everyone thinks that about themselves! tSo it kind of makes me wonder about people who feel the need to specify. Just like with the job ad.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        If you put that in your dating profile, I assume you get stoned a lot and want someone to listen to all the smart, important things you’re realizing in the moment. It’s like putting on your dating profile that you’re good in bed: if this is so tip-of-your-brain that you’re compelled to tell me about it, I’m skeptical.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah, truly clever people tend to just… talk about interesting things in fascinating ways. Often little, not obviously Smart things. People who aren’t so clever like to talk about how smart they are, and about how they love to have long deep conversations.

          It’s like if you walk into a straight guy’s place and he has one book of poetry and it’s Robert Frost… he’s most likely being a poser because he thinks chicks dig poetry, but the only poem he knows is The Road Not Taken from 6th grade lit. (I called a date out on this once and he totally admitted it.)

    2. Mary*

      100% with you! I think sense of humour is so subjective, such a chemistry-type thing, and seeing references to “sense of humour” in a job ad or a personal ad makes me immediately wary. I automatically read it with a very, very negative vibe.

      (Ditto “intelligent and deep conversation”. Sign me up for small talk and superficial chat, please, and the deep and meaningfuls can look after themselves.)

  17. Keyboard Cowboy*

    It sure does smell a little like bro culture to me, but that doesn’t mean I’m right. And my bro-detector has to be set super sensitive working in tech in the Bay Area. If you’re a hiring manager reading this, I encourage you to not put this on your listing :)

  18. Ask a Manager* Post author

    You all are surprising me today. The last time this came up here, something like 90% of commenters totally disagreed with me and insisted that “sense of humor” in a job ad is always a danger sign. And this morning, people agreed with me that a lunch interview is a normal thing and not an outrage (whereas the last time that was the subject of a post here, a huge majority of commenters insisted the opposite, and I think told me it was just because I’m in D.C.). I had expected to have to argue the point on both of these!

    1. Liz*

      For me “must have a sense of humor” is something that hiring managers thoughtlessly regurgitate to the point where it has zero meaning at all, so my only assumption is “whoever wrote this job posting is not terribly creative.” Like if a person says “I like to have fun” in a dating profile. Like… great? You’re a human person, then, I guess?

      1. OhNo*

        Same. In my head, “must have a sense of humor” translates as either “meaningless words padding the job posting” or “yellow flag: possible bro culture ahead”, depending on the framing.

        Either way, it’s not an automatic disqualification for me, just something that means I keep an extra eye out for possible issues, whether it’s culture fit or the company not having a clear idea of the position.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          interestingly, I’d say the exact phrasing of “must have a sense of humor” is worse than when “sense of humor” is just mentioned among desirable qualities in the list. This may be just me.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      If it helps, I do still believe it’s a red flag! I started to compose a whole thing about it.

      But then I deleted it because I couldn’t justify the time spent on my inevitable rabbit whole of looking for some egregious job postings I vaguely remember reading to back up my points, which were not terribly compelling to begin with.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Also because I’m having some cognitive issues with writing that leads to a bunch of grammar, diction and other errors (“rabbit whole”) and I appreciate the community’s stance on not policing that stuff, but it still drives *me* nuts, so rants are off the table.

    3. Washi*

      I don’t remember the last time this came up here, but I wonder if, with the improvement in the economy, we’re now seeing companies trying harder to make their ad stand out in some way, which has made us used to seeing more variation in language in job ads, and less of a correlation with how the actual hiring manager manages. I know that I try to stay open minded about all the steps managed by HR, even if I think some things are kind of silly, because often it doesn’t tell me anything about how the day-to-day will work on the job.

      1. Specialk9*

        Oh interesting, so your theory is that it’s a reflection of the low unemployment rate, not the culture?

    4. Guacamole Bob*

      The last time a lunch interview came up, wasn’t it in place of actually getting to see the office? I have a vague recollection that there was something else kind of off about it, like the manager was trying to hide the fact that there was someone in the position who he was planning to fire, but that may have been commenter speculation.

      Lunch as one piece of a multi-part interview seems really different. It strikes me as slightly odd to have it first, but that could easily just be a matter of scheduling.

      I had an initial interview once at a coffee shop, which made sense given that I was in town for a conference that my interviewers were also attending, but it was with the understanding that there would be a second round interview at the office later if the first went well. And at the second round they invited me to lunch with most of the staff, but that was only one piece of the process.

        1. Close Bracket*

          Yes, that. *Only* a lunch interview vs. lunch interview + onsite interview. Two totally different ballgames

        2. Specialk9*

          I mean, the problem in that one seemed to be that the dude was coming off as a creeper, who was romancing them rather than interviewing them. They were fine meeting the recruiter at a coffee shop.

      1. Parcae*

        Yes, I think this distinction is important!

        Red flags don’t occur in a vacuum. You have to interpret them in the context of everything else you know about the employer. Here, I wouldn’t think much of a job ad that requested a sense of humor… unless there were other signs of the org having problems with boundaries or a bro-y culture.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I think both depends on the field. Like I said above, “sense of humor” in a job ad is pretty rare in my line of work; I have never seen it. The lunch-interview OP appears to be applying to a job in higher ed, and from having closely known someone who worked in academia and was part of their hiring process, I have heard that lunch/dinner interviews are a standard thing with them. In my field, I’ve had a couple, but they are rare. But I’d go to one if invited, sounds like a more interesting way for the candidate and the team to get to know each other than a mutually tense “tech screen”.

    6. AnotherAlison*

      I think I missed the previous lunch interview question, but my very first off-campus interview ever (20 yrs ago) included a lunch, and I’ve had some sort of restaurant-based interview with 4 candidates in the past month, so I would have to agree that it’s normal. My field is engineering, where people might expect that social skills would not be as valued, but they are for the positions I’m hiring for.

      As for sense of humor, I’ve never seen it in a job ad in my field, but if I did, I may just chalk it up to the recruiter finalizing the posting adding it in there because he was tired of boring engineers.

    7. Spooky*

      It’s definitely one of my “danger phrases.” I’ve interviewed at several places that listed a sense of humor in the requirements, and it always, always ended up being workplaces that treated their workers like crap, especially women/minorities. I’m very surprised so many people here don’t balk at it – I run for the hills when I see it.

      1. Specialk9*

        Different industries act differently. I have never been in an industry in which being young was valued – it has been experience, gravitas, and depth of knowledge. We have the -isms, in spades, they just don’t manifest this way.

    8. phedre*

      “Sense of humor” alone in a job ad doesn’t raise red flags for me. But “sense of humor” combined with other keywords like “work hard play hard” or “looking for a rockstar/guru/ninja” or “no 9-5 mentality” would make me run in the other direction. “Sense of humor” without any of those red flags just makes me think that it’s a warm, friendly office and not stiff/overly formal.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        People actually put “no 9-5 mentality” in their ads? They do realize, don’t they, that when applicants see this, they don’t read it as “you will need to stay till 7 sometimes”. They read it as “you will never leave this office”. Uh… thanks for your honesty, I guess?

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I think there are legitimately some jobs (media stuff, PR) that aren’t expected to be 9-5 because of the timing of events, so they probably need to include that – but I agree that personally I wouldn’t want a job like that.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Or funeral homes! (an ex’s family member worked at one. You have to literally live where you work, because work happens at all hours.) Ah, I see. I was thinking more of a job that would typically have some kind of fixed hours, with the employer randomly saying “no 9-5 mentality (and here’s a keg and a pingpong table)”.

            1. SophieK*

              Yeah, no, that’s not true.

              I used to work for an answering service that had seven funeral homes, and, while that probably happened, the way it usually works is that there is an on call for pickups (the term for deceased.) The O/C takes the person back to the morgue for storage and all arrangements are generally done during normal business hours.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Ah, maybe it differs from one business to another. This person had to live in the apartment provided by work, that was on the top floor of the funeral home building. It was dirt cheap, but of course it came with a lot of rules due to its location (no guests, no pets, no parties whatsoever etc) The person did have off days, but on their work days, they had to be easily reachable and on call 24-7.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        What is up with that garbage? I am so sick of seeing that. It pops up in admin jobs too, and I’m like, you want a rockstar employee but only pay $10 an hour with a measly week of PTO after a frickin year? Don’t ask for a rockstar unless you’re offering rockstar perks.

        1. Kelly O*

          What do rock stars do?

          – Get trashed and make inappropriate advances towards groupies
          – Destroy hotel rooms and super-expensive equipment
          – Fire managers because the candles were eggshell instead of white
          – Make one good song on an album with eleven other crap fillers
          – Get mad when you want them to play the good song they had years ago because they’re “creative artists” or whatever

          So no thanks. Not interested in being a rock star.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          Holy crap. At the call center, there was an entire training class of moody, incompetent, hard drinking types and we started finding empty random liquor bottles in the bathrooms on a daily basis (the building is locked and not accessible to the public).

          I’m now realizing all that happened is they finally managed to hire the rock stars they’ve been posting those job ads for for the past year or so. (Not kidding: there is a banner on the outside of the building that says ROCK STARS WANTED!)

        3. Gazebo Slayer*


          If you want a rockstar you’d better set out bowls of M&Ms with all the brown ones carefully removed.

          (link in my username if you don’t get the joke)

    9. Ralph Wiggum*

      It’s possible that the people who hold those positions felt they already made their statement and don’t feel the urge to hash it out again.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Are you new here? I refer you to the letters re: the correct temperature for the office thermostat, and other arguments that will never end no matter how many times they’re re-posted. ;P

        1. Specialk9*

          Or global maternity leave and health care differences.

          Or introversion vs extroversion.

          Or anything about disabilities.

          Or kitchen stuff.

    10. KayEss*

      I’ve worked at one place where I don’t think they mentioned it in the ad, but “how’s your sense of humor?” was a direct question in the interview. I took it as a red flag, but allowed myself to be soothed by the fact that the owner and like 75% of the staff were women. Turned out it was still code for “we’re way too cool and laid back for all that political correctness BS, and if you don’t think overt racism and pervasive sexual harassment are hilarious you’re clearly an uptight corporate stooge” along with a culture of deliberately cruel pranks that went all the way up the hierarchy to the sociopath owner.

      So for me, it remains a red flag, particularly for small companies. At this point I just weed out any company too small to have a functioning HR department, and evaluate others on a case-by-case basis.

      1. Blueberry*

        Ouch, and yes. I have had somewhat similar experiences, though not all together in one workplace.

      2. Julia*

        What kind of stupid question is that anyway? Can’t they just tell a joke or do something funny to test sense of humor, instead of asking about it?

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          They can’t, because they don’t have one themselves.

          Being into overt racism and pervasive sexual harassment is not the same as having a sense of humor!

  19. cantaloupe*

    At my first job, someone told me once not to take myself so damn seriously. It was good advice. I’ve certainly been a lot happier at work since I lightened up.

  20. Kc24*

    Being a female who recently went through a job hunt looking for administrative type roles in heavily male dominated type places (construction and transport) I find this pops up quite a bit. In this scenario, it is an acknowledgement that the company is aware they will most likely get female applicants and that they will need “a sense of humour” because they will need to be “one of the boys”. I personally have no qualms with this and get it because I’m used to these industries but it’s definitely a case of “read between the lines” in this context.

    1. Chinook*

      That’s what I was thinking. My current job didn’t have that in the ad but they definitely asked how I would handle a situation where one of the welders made an off-coloured joke. I later learned this was because the woman I was replacing had gotten a large payout when she was fired because she implied that this was a hostile work environment for women. Having seen the state of the files she left, the low standards for success (i.e. my boss keeps praising me for getting to work 5 minutes before we start and doing work the week it is assigned) and the way the men and women act, I suspect her claim was bogus.

      My response to the question was to say that I married a soldier and grew up as a redneck. I have my limits but also know that, if I throw back an equally “blue” quip or (if they crossed my line) told them to stop acting like 6 year olds or ignorant rednecks with the right tone, all would be okay. At it has.

      1. Bea*

        Woah woah woah. She could be off base and I’ve seen the false complaints myself over the years. However that’s a terrible way for them to continue to open themselves to another huge payout.

        The response is to defuse every unsavory remark not find someone who tells you they’re fine with it.

        And I’m rock solid backwoods, rooted in the lumber industry filth. The men still do not speak inappropriately around others. Swearing flies and farts are hilarious but anything sexual or gendered is off limits.

        1. Chinook*

          Which is why I said her complaints seem to be off-base. No sexual comments and on the rare cases where something gendered slips out, they apologize without prompting (which means they are aware of the issue and are actively trying to fix it). Plenty of swearing and fart jokes, which is fine.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I got that same question in an interview for an office job at an environmental remediation company. The boss said, “The field guys sometimes use curse words. Does that bother you?” I said, “Hell no.” :)

        They weren’t gross or sexist; they just sometimes swore. If they had been, I would have found another job because there is no changing an atmosphere where it’s entrenched and management is fine with it.

        1. Specialk9*

          I always find that line so hard. I cuss like a firefighter at home (or did before my kiddo started repeating everything he hears), but I’ve found that a lot of guys hear a woman say “damn” and think they can let ANYthing fly.

          Through trial and error in my male dominated field, I’ve come to keeping it super clean, and slowly (as I come to trust them) filtering in mild cusses, then dropping a few F-bombs.

          So I never know if swearing is just cussing, or cussing + icky sexist stuff.

        2. SophieK*

          I once made instant friends with a trainer because she accidentally brushed my b@@b. I said “hey, job perks!” She laughed and laughed.

    2. Bea*

      Similar background but not collared with the administrative load. Somewhat have to disagree, it’s a sign it’s a casual environment.

      I’ve seen more uptight intense men than anything. They’re letting those guys know just as much as us lady folk.

    3. Lil Fidget*

      Wow I would never assume this myself, it’s interesting that this has been your experience. Perhaps its field-dependent.

  21. Quickbeam*

    In my current job (8 years) I was asked about my sense of humor and then fairly clearly told that the CEO is “old school” and “coarse”. I was warned to not be offended easily. I outlasted him as he retired a few years ago but it was absolutely a heads up about misogynist behavior. I am an older woman and he’d call me “hag” and say “why aren’t you home keeping cats?”.

    It’s a great job but far better now without him.

    1. Triplestep*

      The hell?!

      Yes if “old school” means “being CEO means never having to apply ones own filter”, then yes – that’s what he was!

      1. Specialk9*

        He called you a hag?!

        The ONLY time that’s ok is when someone is doing a crossword puzzle, and then also is killing vagrants and hoodies in order to win a best village award.

        I… may love Hot Fuzz a little too much.

        1. Autumnheart*


          Every time I hear that phrase, regardless of context, I have to echo it in that voice.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Filter-free CEOs are not necessarily only an old-school thing too… google Miki Agrawal (the one from Thinx) to see a fine example of what Alison would call a “boundary-free loon.” (Link to her latest bit of WTF in my username. I found that this week and just HAD to share it with the AAM commentariat.)

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Wow, I’m sorry. I’m glad he’s gone and that there are enough other good things about the job to keep that from wearing you down.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      OH MY GOD.
      At least they have the decency (? using this term loosely) to warn people.

    4. Chinook*

      Quickbeam, please tell me that you responded to the hag and cats comments by implying that you were using your time instead to cast a curse that would increase his brain but it doesn’t seem to be working(or something of that sort). A comment like that is just begging for an equally insulting response.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Seconded! These comments are SO far out of line that they almost cross back in to humor to me. But I may just be in a weird mood.

        1. Chinook*

          Considering I just came out of a meeting where everyone was giggling over “stool support” and I used the “working with 6 year olds” line, I can only think that such an odd insult deserves a come back.

      2. Quickbeam*

        I had the capacity to sink the multi-million dollar business (I was their medical expert) so that kept me afloat. I’m ok with a crone designation and I wear that proudly but names followed by “ha ha” are an HR nightmare waiting to happen.

        Sometimes I have needed a job badly and this was a really decent skill fit except for this clown. I now have a wonderful income to prepare me for retirement at a company generous with benefits. I’m in a good place. I just wanted to share the “he’s offensive in every possible way” heads up I got.

    5. Dr. Doll*

      My eyebrows just leapt off my hairline. *What*? What a d*ck. Old school hell, he was just a d*ck.

    6. TardyTardis*

      If I hadn’t needed the job, I would have threatened to put a curse on him, and spoken warmly about my lovely hut with the chicken legs.

  22. Triplestep*

    OK, what if the person *applying* says he has a sense of humor? My son sometimes uses it in the wrap up of his cover letters. (He talks about juggling competing priorities while maintaining the positive attitude and sense of humor required for _____ [fill in the blank]). I have been proofreading these for him, and “bro code” never entered my mind. He’s a twenty-something male – I wonder if I should suggest he not say this?

    1. Triple Anon*

      I think stuff like that is all about fit. A sense of humor is good to mention if you’re looking for a place that appreciates that kind of thing and would like to avoid places that don’t.

    2. Specialk9*

      Totally fine. That’s ‘I keep my head up even when things are hard’, not bro-y.

      Although man there are a lot of bro-phemisms in that last sentence.

  23. YuliaC*

    I have once worked under someone who meant exactly what the letter writer fears is meant by including this as a job requirement. That boss would constantly make offensive comments and then say that the victim does not understand humor. After losing several employees in rapid succession, he changed the phrase to “must have a thick skin” as a euphemism for “I am a complete jerk.”

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Ooh yeah if I saw “must have a thick skin” in a job description I’d definitely run for the hills.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, “must have a thick skin” is a red flag so big it would look out of place carried by anyone but a bullfighter.

  24. Justin*

    I mostly think it doesn’t mean much (like someone above said, writing “I like to have fun” on your dating profile means you are a human).

    But, as another person said, way better than “work hard play hard.” That said, I think it’s a… what’s a neutral color for a flag? Blue? Purple?

    The real key is how they act in the interview. At my current job I was really happy when an offhand comment I made they picked up on and we laughed together.

  25. Goya de la Mancha*

    I don’t get why they put that in here because humor is subjective. I mean, I would be happy to work at a place where they value humor VS being stone faced all day long, but if their humor doesn’t match mine, it’s not going to be that different of an environment.

    Personally I’m more concerned with the “Daily and regular attendance is required” that I’m seeing on more and more job postings.

      1. Bea*

        Many jobs just aren’t remote access friendly, so…

        It means you need to show up. I had to fire someone last year for calling out and leaving early 4 times in two and a half weeks. Turns out he was also not efficient at data entry, I’m glad he gave me an easy way out there fml.

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          Yeah, unfortunately it’s because businesses in our area are having a VERY hard time finding reliable work. Most places have also started offering a 90-day bonus because they generally can’t find people to stick around that long. I just can’t comprehend having to be told that when you’re hired for a job that you need to actually go to work and do the job.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      It means: a) the job sucks, and no one wants to do it any longer than they have to, b) the company doesn’t pay well, c) there’s no PTO/sick time/other standard benefits, d) they tend to hire a lot of kids who don’t understand office norms, or e) some combination of the above.

      Source: The call center devoted an entire half day of training to discussing the importance of attendance.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        It’s a factory job in the one instance I’m specifically referring to – so I’m sure it’s not “great” work, but they do offer benefits. Pay used to be better but the company broke the union (threatened to move the factory elsewhere) and now it’s significantly less then it used to be. They aren’t really hiring “kids” per say, but yes, majority of their incoming workers have NO clue about work norms and are completely astounded that someone actually requires them to be present and function for 8+ hours a day.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Well, you get what you pay for. Play bad employer games, win bad employer prizes.

          1. Goya de la Mancha*

            Oh absolutely, not defending the companies practices. I’m just intrigued/dismayed that there is an entire population of people that have no idea how basic employment works, so much so that it has to be listed in the job posting.

  26. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

    I’ve always read the sense of humor line as code for “we want candidates who are productive but don’t take work rigidly seriously a la Dwight Schrute.” They’re just looking for somebody who the rest of the employees can get along with. Not that it’s always worth stating in the job ad, since they would probably decide that in interviews anyway…

  27. Zee*

    I would bet that there are an infinite number of possible variables, but in my experience, a LOT of workplaces use the word “humor” as a loose synonym for “camaraderie” or “sociability” thus “must have a sense of humor” means that it’s an environment where people tend to be outgoing and chatty and engage on a personal level often.

    1. Ro*

      I tend to read it the same way too. Although I’d still rather employers be specific and not use ANY words as “codes”. Trying to decipher job postings is hard enough for us job seekers. And even though I have and can appreciate a sense of humor, I’d want to know if what they really except is “sociability”- which is not how I am at work (I like to be all business and get things done and then go home). These two things aren’t the same things. And they aren’t mutually exclusive.

      Probably the best thing to do is still apply if you are otherwise interested in the job but then look for other signs about the work culture. Worse case scenario, you have to withdraw from consideration if you find it’s not a good fit.

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        Agreed. It’s better for all concerned if you can be specific. Do you need someone who’s collegial? Do you need someone who’s cool under pressure? Those might be different people.

        One thing I really respected about my current job is that they were super-specific about personal factors at the interview stage – down to “Grandboss is a workaholic. She’s doing what should be two peoples’ jobs, by her own choice. You won’t be penalized for setting boundaries with her, but if you can’t do that, she will keep giving you stuff to do until you break. Are you okay with that?” (This was 100% true.)

    2. bonkerballs*

      I somewhat agree. I don’t see it necessarily meaning “chatty,” but I see it mostly in non-profit organizations as a way to mean frequent human contact, conversation, and collaboration with other staff and, more importantly, with clients. I think it’s much less about being funny and social, and more about being friendly and welcoming and can make the best of things even when things aren’t necessarily great. If you’re someone who wants a “keep my head down, get my job done, don’t wanna talk to people” position (which is a totally fine thing to want) than this may not be the position for you.

  28. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    It means nothing. I try to suss out the culture while I’m there. By asking AND paying attention. The last place I interviewed, there was a lot of laughing. Someone even had birthday balloons at their desk. You can tell quite a bit if you look around. So, to me, this barely elicits a shrug. It is neither a green flag nor a red flag. It’s just…a flag? (I lost control of the symbolism here, forgive me.)

    1. ArtK*

      I agree that the phrase doesn’t signal anything of value. It is, however, a good opening to ask questions about the culture to get real answers. “I see the posting says ‘sense of humor…’ Are we talking clown noses and oversize shoes, Monty Python, or…?”

    2. Argh!*

      It’s possibly a red flag if you are on the autism spectrum, and a green flag if you’re a chronic cut-up.

      There is some evidence that a sense of humor is tied to intelligence, so I would want to work in a place that is full of clever people.

      1. Specialk9*

        I’ve noticed that in some cases, very clever people en masse can trend toward being unkind, because they’re so focused on getting a zinger in that they forget the people involved. I tend to be a little wary of places in which humor is the be-all.

        1. Birch*

          This. Neither intelligence (which… what does that even mean?) nor sense of humor are more important than being kind.

  29. Rex*

    For me, “sense of humor” reads, “this place is a total s***show, but at least we can laugh about it!”, instead of a bro culture warning, but maybe that’s based on my own experience specifically.

  30. KR*

    I take “must have a sense of humor” to mean that you would be comfortable rolling with the punches and be in a general good mood about things. We’ve had the same piece of equipment go down multiple times this month costing us thousands no matter what we do to fix it. Sometimes you just have to laugh and try again.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Yes – we had a situation like that in one place I worked – four printers that always went down. So I named them after vehicle brands which were not known for their quality and durability.

      High stress – but we had to crack jokes about things, the levity took the edge off of things. Our data security guy had the nickname “Barney Fife”, and we all just rolled with things like that.

  31. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    What they’re trying to tell candidates –

    – They want someone who can smile, take a joke and apparently deliver one
    – If you remember the movie “The Devil Wears Prada”, and Meryl Streep’s nasty character Miranda Priestly, I think they DON’T want someone like her.

    IOW – if you come in here to be a ladder-climbing jerk who can’t be amicable, and have a little humor with people at all levels, go apply somewhere else. We don’t care if you’re ever happy (probably never) but don’t bring your attitude in here. We can’t tolerate humorless, nasty folk.

    1. Julia*

      What’s wrong with ladder-climbing?
      And my first thought was that they already have a Miranda Priestly and now need someone to deal with her without bursting into tears.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Nothing wrong with ladder-climbing. But you can do so and be nice.

  32. Not My Money*

    In my niche field, seeing “sense of humor” and/or “team player” in a job listing means that you’re expected to help other departments but you’re SOL if you need help.

  33. Argh!*

    I wish my current workplace had said “People with no sense of humor need not apply.” It’s the most dour, unfriendly place I’ve ever worked at.

    Needless to say, I’m looking for another job, and the word that rankles me the most is “energetic.” Does that mean you have to work 12 hours per day? Does it mean only young people are welcome? Do they fire people who develop a physical disability or chronic illness? I never apply to those jobs. I’d rather work with a bunch of debby downers than be worked to death until I run out of energy and need 3 months of FML to sleep.

    1. Mrs. Fenris*

      My industry gets a lot of job postings that say something like “Energetic XXX needed for busy facility. Near YYY location allowing for ZZZ leisure activity. Work hard, play hard!” It comes across as “We are short staffed because everyone keeps burning out, so come work for us so we can burn you out too.”

    2. Borne*

      I actually saw a job posting inviting job applicants to join their ‘team of young professionals’.

      The President’s profile states that he ‘leads a team of young, energetic individuals’.

      I guess job applicants that are ‘not young’ need not apply.

  34. Triple Anon*

    I think it’s all about context. It’s a red flag if there are other red flags. If not, it’s just friendliness.

    I have noticed that the more “fluff” is included in job postings, the sketchier the job sounds. I remember when I graduated from college, “go-getter” and “dynamic personality” were popular terms. I would read those ads thinking, “So you hire people who make a certain kind of first impression. And what do you actually want them to do?” The details were usually vague. I like job postings that list the actual duties in a way that’s straight-forward but also warm, easy to read, and conveys something about the company culture.

    1. Autumnheart*

      “Go-getter” + “dynamic personality” = commission-only sales role where you have to find your own clients.

  35. Sisks*

    I’m all for it. It was clearly lacking in Amy Schumer and Samantha Bee’s job descriptions.

  36. Mrs. Fenris*

    I get approached by a company’s various locations for per diem work. I’m usually not available, but when I am it’s a painless way to make some extra money and make new professional connections. I got an email awhile back from one that said, “We know we’re a bit remote for some of you. But it’s a nice facility. Plus we rely on wit and sarcasm, so we have that going for us.” I really regretted that I couldn’t work any days for them. They sounded fun.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      They sound like my kinda people too. Specifying wit and sarcasm feels like they’re trying to give an accurate description of who they are.

  37. Megpie71*

    It really depends on the context of the ad, the role you’re looking at, and the other contextual information supplied. For example, for a minor admin role (coded feminine) at a heavily masculine firm, where the rest of the ad is very much aimed toward “we are professional, humourless, and expect nigh-robotic minions to work for us”, strong emphasis on “professional presentation”, and then a sudden mention of a “rugby/locker-room/sports culture” or a request for a “robust sense of humour” tends to act to me as a bit of a pointer that one of the senior partners has wandering hands and will attempt to go the grope on the prettier junior staff in good old feudal tradition. So in those sorts of circumstances, a “good sense of humour” means “the ability to laugh at/off things which aren’t really funny, on pain of losing your job if you don’t”. (My response for those ones is my sense of humour is both schadenfreudian, and tends toward a certain amount of practical joking – if I’m expected to laugh off the hand on my arse, the person who put it there is supposed to laugh off the police charging them with assault; fair’s fair.)

    By contrast, if it’s part of an ad which is very touchy-feely, full of details about the exact nature of the person they’re wanting to hire (or possibly date – sometimes it’s hard to tell!) and low on actual hard skills required, then the GSOH request is very much a manifestation of their particular hiring policy, where they’re looking for the right person, and they’ll worry about the skill-set later (“skills can be taught, the right person has to be born”). Often more common in the touchy-feely alternative side of the medical hiring areas (I see a lot of them for chiropractic assistants, or for admin staff with physiotherapists, beauty therapists, chiropractors, etc).

    Or, as other posters have pointed out, they’re pointing to “we’re trying to reach a younger demographic/hire younger staff/work with a less serious perspective”. Or even “things get hectic/chaotic/ridiculously out of hand here on very little notice; we’d prefer people who can at least cope with a disaster by laughing rather than someone who gets stressed/overloaded or melts down”.

    I’ll admit with my job search, I’ll tend to only pick up a job which asks about personal qualities like “sense of humour” if everything else matches. It’s just that much of a lottery.

  38. Ermintrude Mulholland*

    My job that I was recently made redundant from (and where the office has become increasingly dysfunctional) has started adding a sense of humour to their job adverts. It’s definitely a red flag for them! :o

  39. Birch*

    Seeing “sense of humor” on a job ad would definitely put me off, mostly because the situations in which sense of humor as a concept is discussed in the workplace are almost always negative–“lacking” a sense of humor is used as a weapon. Why not say something more direct as Alison said? If I were writing the job ad and I wanted to convey the same idea I would just put something like “we cultivate a warm, supportive atmosphere and enjoy a lighthearted, casual working environment.”

  40. CoveredInBees*

    When trying to get my last job to hire my replacement before I left, they insisted on including “sense of humor” along with a huge laundry list of more relevant requirements. They thought it made them sound “fun.” Neither had looked for a job in well over a decade, but wouldn’t take my word that it conveys nothing, at best.

    It was a hard job to hire for so I gave them 4 months notice and it still took them months after I left to hire someone.

  41. staceyizme*

    “Must have a sense of humor”? Sounds like a dating profile. Or perhaps they made a poor hiring decision with their last candidate and are determined not to be stuck with Darth Vader again? Either way, oddly off-putting.

  42. Dzhymm*

    Reminds me of this story out of history: back in the day Nikola Tesla worked for Thomas Edison. Edison offered Tesla a sizeable bonus if he could design a particular type of motor. After doing just that Tesla asked for his bonus. “Ha ha, I was just kidding”, Edison said. “You don’t understand my American sense of humor!”

    So “sense of humor” might very well mean “we’re just kidding when we make promises”

    (After this Tesla quit and went to work for George Westinghouse, and the War Of The Currents was on)

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