Obviously we have no aversion around here to humor (or attempts at it). But lawyers and law students on job interviews should be very careful when cracking jokes.
Engage in some amount of cost-benefit analysis: Does the good that this joke might do outweigh the risk that it will fall flat? Could the joke be construed as offensive in any way? Does your interviewer seem like someone who might be receptive to humor — for example, has he or she made a joke already — or do they seem a bit dour?
Here’s an example of a joke that didn’t go over so well:
A few of us take the interviewee out to lunch. We sit down; menus arrive. The candidate mentions that she is deathly allergic to shellfish. She returns to this subject again and again throughout the lunch — perhaps worried that someone at our table, or at a table nearby, might order something with shellfish. At one point she says: “Hey — if I get an allergic reaction, and you have to rush me to the emergency room, then will you give me an offer?”
Awkward laughter. And no offer (for a whole host of reasons, which I won’t burden you with).
Disclaimer: We are not making light of food allergies. To the contrary, we caution job applicants against using them as the basis for attempts at humor.
Earlier: Interview Horror Stories (scroll down)