Should You Drink At Job Interviews?

Years ago I was on a job interview. I was having lunch with the boss (I’m call him Jim) and his second-in-command (I’ll call him Jack). It came to ordering time, and here’s how a portion of the conversation could have gone:

Jim: “Do you want a drink (as in beer, wine, rum, vodka, whiskey, etc)?”
Me: “No thanks.”
Jim: “You sure?”
Me: “Yes. I’ll have water.”
Jim: “Come on. It’s on us.”
Me: “I’m fine. Thanks.”
Jim: “Well, Jack and I are going to have one.”
Jack: “We sure are. Jim has a company credit card, and we’re going to put it to good use.”

They sure did. I only remember two things about that two hour interview.  1) Jim and Jack got loaded and were slurring their questions to me. 2) And I’m glad I didn’t follow their lead.

You never know what’s going to happen at job interviews. Maybe that’s what makes them so scary to many people. The whole thing is a test to see if you’ll fit in with the company. A slam dunk, and you’re in. Throw up a brick, and it’s on to the next interview.

What do employment experts say about whether it’s okay for a candidate to have a drink during a job interview?  I contacted a couple of the big national workforce/outplacement firms, and they take two different approaches. Here’s what they advise:

Manpower says don’t do it. “Even if others in your party order an alcoholic beverage, it’s best for an interviewee to decline. You want to show that you are serious about the opportunity and be at the top of your game when talking to a potential employer. Having a drink may give the wrong impression, influence what you say or change your behavior. In short, opt for a glass of water and just be yourself.”

Challenger, Gray & Christmas says it depends. “The candidate should follow the lead of their interviewer (host).” CG&C says alcohol is unusual during lunch (except for Jim and Jack, of course), and recommend a candidate order ice tea or water. It says it’s more likely to come up before or during dinner. If it does, here’s what CG&C recommends:

  • For the non-drinking candidate. “If the job candidate’s ‘host’ offers a cocktail/drink, we recommend that he/she order a non-alcoholic beverage, such as a soft drink, or a mixer with lime – or the candidate could simply say, ‘No thanks.’”
  • For the drinking candidate. “We recommend they accept the host’s offer to have a cocktail/drink before dinner. If the client drinks, but wonders if it is appropriate to accept the host’s offer, then they could respond by saying,’whatever you plan on having,’ thus letting the interviewer take the lead.”

CG&C says if the candidate does accept a drink, limit it to one, and two at the very most. “It is critical that the job candidate remain sharp and remember that he or she is constantly being judged, even if the interview situation takes on a more casual tone.”

That lunchtime interview with Jim & Jack? I didn’t get the job. Maybe it was a test. I doubt it. I don’t think they even remembered me. But I remember them, and they were sure entertaining.

2 Comments on “Should You Drink At Job Interviews?

  1. Pingback: Do These 5 Things To Turn Off Potential Employers « In the Noozroom

  2. Pingback: Lobby Observances: The Pre-Interview Job Process | Charney's Life of Charney

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