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Should You Accept a Drink at a Job Interview?

Job interviews come in all shapes and sizes, with an array of uncomfortable scenarios. One of these is a situation involving alcohol. Say you are out on a lunch interview with your potential boss, and s/he orders a glass of wine, offering you one as well. Should you accept the drink? Here is a breakdown of how accepting a drink might impact your job interview, and how to say “no” in a professional manner.

Some people have, no doubt, drunk alcohol during a job interview and come out with a job offer from the company. However, Alison Green warns that any activity that impairs your performance or judgment should be avoided. Job seekers should be at their best during a job interview. It is not a good time to “mellow out”— even if the official interview has already ended. A meal with potential coworkers after a long interview process might be casual, but that doesn’t mean people have stopped evaluating you (even if only subconsciously). You should remain as professional as possible during any contact with the company, and that probably means avoiding alcohol.

What if you feel pressured to accept a drink in order to avoid being the uptight one of the company? Certainly your judgment and sharpness won’t be impaired very much by nursing one drink throughout dinner. However, a study from the University of Michigan helps illuminate exactly how professional you might “look” with a drink in your hand.

The study found that candidates who drank alcohol during a job interview, regardless of whether the interviewer ordered first, were perceived to be less intelligent than their drink-less counterparts. Even the act of holding an alcoholic beverage lowered recruiters’ estimation of their intellect. However, drinking alcohol had no impact on how likable, honest or genuine the candidates appeared to be (interesting, huh?).

Although being perceived as less intelligent is never good, this might be a scenario when it is important to consider the company to which you are applying. In a small minority of cases it may be more important to be perceived as sociable, rather than intelligent. Beware of this, of course, and use your best (pre-imbibing) judgment.

Not sure exactly how to say “no” to an offer of alcohol? For most situations, simply saying a professional “No thanks” will get the job done. If anyone pushes the issue further, try a white lie like “I’m driving,” or a joke like “My mom told me never to drink at job interviews.” In a bigger social setting, it is also quite easy to order soda water and lime. No one should bug you. (And if they are bugging you, do you really want to work at that kind of company anyway?)

Thoughts on accepting a drink at a job interview? Is it smart? Is it professional? Share your thoughts below, or send me a tweet: @ithinkther4iamb

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by chris.corwin

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Kristin has a B.A. in English from the University of Iowa, with an emphasis in creative writing. In her free time she enjoys long walks, kitchen adventures, and making puns.

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