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To Drink or Not to Drink on a Job Interview? That is the Question...

September 17, 2009
by Tim Tolan
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This is a subject that needs to be addressed. Often, I have candidate's ask me what the standard protocol is on consuming alcohol during an interview. My answer is always the same. Water with a lemon please. Seriously! You are meeting with the hiring manager for a reason – to interview for a job – period. Once inside the eating establishment you can quickly become engaged in a great conversation.

Have an innocent glass of wine or a drink - then another (Please not a third libation). All of the sudden your words are slurring, you are throwing your current employer under the bus and the wheels are suddenly coming off. You've let your hair (and your guard) down. You may have forgotten the person’s name across the table from you and who knows what other thoughts might come out of your brain and eventually out of your mouth. This is a recipe for a real disaster. Some people are just wired that way. Two drinks (wine, beer or liquor) and it's (well) game over. Not good.

Let’s not forget why you are meeting - to interview for a new position and put your best foot forward to advance the search to an offer and a hopefully a new job. You are not there to see how fast you can down 2-3 shooters before the appetizers are served. The person on the other side of the table will be judging every move you make to see how well you handle yourself in a social situation. They may encourage you ordering a drink – just to see how you respond. This includes your consumption of alcohol and overall etiquette during dinner. Do yourself a (very) big favor, stay away from the booze. Period. If your host insists and really pushes the issue to share a drink before dinner - order ONLY one. That means a single glass of wine or a cocktail out of politeness and NURSE IT ALL NIGHT with a side glass of water (with or without the lemon). No Exceptions.

You are there to prove you are the best person for the job - not to showcase your drinking skills.

You want to be remembered as the professional that met the hiring manager for dinner, had a nice conversation and an enjoyable meal. Hopefully your performance will yield an offer the next day or so after showcasing your social skills.

Take the high road every time when it comes to alcohol during any important meeting and you will come out on the right side of the equation. Take the low road and well... you might be calling a cab starting over from scratch on your job search after you sleep off your headache.

Be smart!

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Comments

Kate:

Sober is a good thing when attending any important meeting or a job interview. If all things were equal - I would rather bet on getting a job by being able to clearly articulate a point in a business discussion to showcase my skills. On the other side of the equation - ordering another Sam Adams falls into a different category. Thanks Kate!

Good points...
Here's another suggestion, particularly if your host orders a drink. Order NA beer (or wine...ugh!)
It's got the right color and glass so you can better 'fit' in.

Rich:

Thanks for your post. Great motto " Just say no". I think I have heard that line before. But - it's always a safe bet!

One is OK if they order first and as long as you plan to "nurse" it for the entire meal. One and done is the right model. On company parties - you are there to have fun as you should plan to enjoy yourself. I still think good judgment should be used and if you plan to be at the party for 3 hours or more drink plenty of water between drinks and take it slow. More and more companies practice giving out 1-2 drink coupons to limit their liability as company parties tend to bring out the wild side of many employees that attend.

Again: Take the high road. People will remember you if you were the only one dirty dancing on the dance floor or on top of a table. Not good. It can haunt one for the rest of their career.

Hi Tim. I have had multiple job interviews which involved the question "would you like a drink/". I always said "no", just to be safe, and I usually got the jobs I interviewed for. I agree - one can't be too safe on this one.

Great - and highly relevant - post!

Now that's a great idea Frank!

Tim - this is great, and very helpful, especially for young people. There's a time for enjoying a cold beer or a nice glass of wine, and an interview is not that time. There was a Sam Adams commercial a few years back with a boss and 3 employees out to lunch. The first 2 employees ordered water or a softdrink, and the third ordered a Sam Adams beer, so the boss, admiring his boldness (and taste for good beer, perhaps) ordered a beer as well. Right away, the first 2 then changed their orders.
A funny premise for a commercial, but I think that for real life, whether it's an interview or a lunch with the boss, it's just better to be completely sober. Water with a lemon it is!

good advice Tim. I had always thought it was best to have a drink (since I certainly wanted one) if the interviewer ordered one first and encouraged me to do the same.

What's your advice when it comes to drinking at company Holiday Parties? :)

Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

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