Fostering affiliation through humour in a job interview


  • Caroline Lipovsky University of Sydney



Affiliation, Comembership, Humour, Job Interviews, Professional Identity, Solidarity


Job interviews are task-focused rather than social encounters, with the primary goal of determining the employability of prospective employees. Yet fostering affiliation is also a significant feature of the job interview. Drawing on an interview between a job applicant and her potential employer and supervisor, this paper aims to contribute to an understanding of the ways in which power relations and affiliations are negotiated between interviewers and candidates over the course of job interviews. Specifically, it analyses the participants’ uses of humorous utterances. Alongside an orientation to the explicit goal of mutual amusement, humorous utterances perform more serious tasks. The analysis explores the dynamic negotiation of the interviewer’s and the candidate’s affiliative identities over the course of their encounter. Even though each participant’s differential status is still prevalent in the enactment of and response to humour, the analysis highlights how humorous contributions act as a test of affiliation, bringing to light in-group membership and probing the participants’ future ability to work together.

Author Biography

Caroline Lipovsky, University of Sydney

Caroline Lipovsky is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sydney. She has published widely on various aspects of self-presentation in job interviews, including the monograph Negotiating Solidarity: A Social-Linguistic Approach to Job Interviews (2010). She is the co-editor (with Ahmar Mahboob) of Studies in Applied Linguistics and Language Learning (2009).



How to Cite

Lipovsky, C. (2012). Fostering affiliation through humour in a job interview. Sociolinguistic Studies, 6(1), 149–172.