General Question

shilolo's avatar

Is it acceptable to have an alcoholic beverage while on an interview?

Asked by shilolo (18018points) March 12th, 2009

I will be going on some interviews in the near future. All involve dinners with the School Dean, Department Chair and/or search committee. In many cases, there is more than one dinner as the interview may last 2–3 days.

So, my question is this. Does having a drink with dinner (i.e. a glass of wine) alter their perspective of you in a good or bad way? These dinners are more informal “get-to-know-you” events where they are trying to learn about you, and vise versa. They want to know if you are normal, as a commitment to you may be lifelong.

Obviously, I would never go overboard, but, is even a single drink a red flag or a marker that you are “down-to-earth” and “mature”?

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45 Answers

augustlan's avatar

I don’t know this answer to this for sure, but I’d say follow their lead. If more than half of the others order a glass of wine, it’s probably ok for you to do the same. Good luck on your interviews!

Dog's avatar

I had a dinner interview with a manufacturer and wondered the same thing. I followed his cues and he ordered a drink then asked me if I would like a
drink. I did and still got the
contract. Had he not been having a drink I would have declined.

I would suggest that you follow
the cues of the interviewer.

aprilsimnel's avatar

But have only the one!

charliecompany34's avatar

depends on the setting. depends on the environment. depends on your intellect and discernment. the interviewer may be at the final employment stage with you and might be testing you. if he/she orders a martini, your best bet is to order the cranberry juice no matter how much you want that martini.

kheredia's avatar

I would hardly even consider a glass of wine as alcohol. Sometimes a good steak simply needs to be accompanied with a glass of wine. I would never think less of anybody if they were having some wine with their dinner. But I guess you just never know what they are looking for. Just follow their lead and do what they do :-)

bananafish's avatar

NO. Do not have a drink.

The rule for job interviews: Do as I say, not as I do.

I used to work for a job recruiter who always said that employers might try to “trap” you into situations to test your character and personality – things like getting personal and chatty. Be polite, but succinct and don’t start blathering about your personal life/problems.

In this case, the trap could be alcohol. Ask for a pop or “virgin” cocktail instead. You don’t need to give a reason to the employer, they will understand (since they could assume you don’t drink on principle, you’re on medication, you’re nervous, you’re sensible, etc.). You won’t lose points for not drinking.

And if you want to show that you’re down-to-earth, you can do that through conversation.

Besides, alcohol will take down your “good sense” filter. Don’t let even one drink help you to say something you normally wouldn’t.

…and just so you know, I LURVE alcohol, but I still would pass

asmonet's avatar

I imagine it would depend on the job, and the vibe you get from the people.
Multiple dinners over many nights with the same people, as long as you’re consistent and responsible I would assume you’d be fine with a glass of wine or two maximum.

I think wine is the only acceptable drink, I would not think twice about it. If you were ordering a rum and coke or something….then yeah. I might raise a brow.

PupnTaco's avatar

I’d follow the lead of your host. If they do, you should—but stick to one glass of wine with dinner or one cocktail before and water with dinner.

SeventhSense's avatar


SeventhSense's avatar


Jeruba's avatar

I think the answer from bananafish is sensible and sound. In your place I would follow it.

marinelife's avatar

The safest course is not to. You can turn it into a humor if someone asks about it. “We’ll have one to toast if you decide I’m the guy for the job.”

blastfamy's avatar

I tend to agree with @bananafish, that there’s more to be lost than gained in having that drink.

My advice is to come across as controlled. Whether or not you have alcohol, unless you’re applying for a position as exotic dancer, you should act cool and composed.

dlm812's avatar

I agree with @bananafish. I am a college student currently starting to interview and every mentor/professor/advisor has told me to be safe and never drink during a dinner interview. There are very few occasions when it is okay to have one drink with a potential employer. Always play it safe with any type of interview. Do not order any type of alcoholic drink, even wine, if you are just as capable of drinking a non-alcoholic drink. Does it really make that much difference to your dinner that you’re willing to take a chance, however small, in “failing” a test or disappointing an interviewer? If you really want the job, you’ll act responsibly.

Also, I have been to professional etiquette dinners and there are several foods you should not order as well (including spaghetti or any type of noodle and anything that has the possibility of dripping sauce).

Twidleywink's avatar

Well how old are you? Because if you are only say early 20’s I would say stick to a soda. If you are
Older I would say watch the interviewer… And I would say defiantly stick to one glass of wine.

asmonet's avatar

@Twidleywink: Shi is in his thirties, if I’m not mistaken. :)

SeventhSense's avatar

Those stars would come in handy at times like these heh?

asmonet's avatar


I think ordering a nice glass of wine with your steak dinner looks better than ordering water or a soda if you’re a professional. That could just be me.

steve6's avatar

It might be OK but I think you would be taking an unnecessary risk of offending someone important.

elijah's avatar

I wonder about the flip side of the test theory. Maybe if he/she orders a glass of wine, and others do too, would it be insulting not to? Would the boss consider you uptight or snobby towards drinkers as some non-drinkers do? I know it’s a stretch but who knows what’s going through their mind. Good luck :-)

wundayatta's avatar

I agree with @bananafish, too. Once, in grad school, a potential employer took a group of us out to dinner at a fancy restaurant for, what I now see, was part of the interview. I had two glasses of wine, talked a little more boldly and idealistically than I should have, and I didn’t get the job. I don’t know if the alcohol had anything to do with it, since I didn’t get any other corporate jobs, but I know it didn’t help. The job was in Houston working for a type of company I had fought a few years before, so had I gotten an offer, I might well not have taken it. Still, it would have been nice to know I was wanted.

Jeruba's avatar

If you have good reasons for not drinking (as very many do) and you feel pressured to drink at an interview, even subtly, run. You don’t want the job. No drinker should ever take offense at a nondrinker, and no nondrinker should ever sacrifice his sobriety for the sake of social acceptance.

In an interview situation, you want to stay sharp all the way, pass all the tests, and not signal in neon that you cave at the slightest suggestion of nonconformity.

shilolo's avatar

Thanks all for your input. However, would anyone’s opinion change if you understood all the people there to be doctors and scientists and not an HR person/potential boss? Just wondering…

Jeruba's avatar

Not mine. Definitely not. These are the people you’d be working with and not ones who see you twice, at hello and good-bye. They’re also the ones to judge your degree of professionalism and test your specialized knowledge. I would not take any chances, especially in this economic environment, for the sake of a glass of anything.

marinelife's avatar

In no way.

bananafish's avatar

@shilolo, NO my opinion would not change! And here’s the big reason why: My husband’s a chemist and I know enough of how scientists think to know you are not immune to interview trickery ir analysis.

Scientists are usually tough, smart, and analytical. And more than anybody, they understand the impacts of alcohol on the body.
My husband’s bosses are such scary domineering scientists, that most employees abstain from drinking at the company party, even though the bosses all do so with zeal. They’re too afraid of watchful eyes and slipped words. Scientists are trained to notice the details. Don’t give them any negative details to notice about you.

And by the way, I think it’s illogical to think they’d frown on you NOT drinking – you’re not trying to be their buddy or comrade. You’re there to present a professional, wise you.

Order a Shirley Temple, and then wow them with your personality, knowledge, and good conversation!

steve6's avatar

@shilolo Your comment struck me as slightly stereotypical. The types you speak of are the types I associate with. The “techs” might be more accepting of alcohol use but I’ve never run your patented double blind on the situation.
Is this a hypothetical question? Do you consider HR types to occupy a different strata than “techs”?

shilolo's avatar

@steve6. They are also the types I associate with. That is my job, after all. My point is, HR people are trained to handle interview situations. They are much more likely to focus on running through an interview “checklist”, whereas the doctor/scientists are (probably) less likely to do so.

steve6's avatar

I think you are right. Whenever we have a meeting the first order of business is to find out what the imported beer list looks like.

asmonet's avatar

Honestly, have one glass of wine, two tops, and water the rest of the night. If you were my age I’d say to stick to water. But I can’t get over how odd I would think it was if you ordered only water with a nice dinner. I’d find it curious, not necessarily in a bad way, but I would remember it.

steve6's avatar

@asmonet Are you too young to drink?

asmonet's avatar

Not at all, but at 22 you’d think I’d have a bigger red flag thrown up by a glass of wine than an accomplished doctor in his mid thirties would.

I’ve never had a problem with alcohol, rarely do I order it when I’m out, and I don’t drink much socially, save for a few parties every six months or so. But if my first inclination was to buy a glass of wine, do you think an employer would get that impression?

At 22, there are many more assumptions made about alcohol than later in life.

steve6's avatar

Good point, I like your thought process. I think you had valid advice for seVen too.

asmonet's avatar


Yeah, that’s pretty much all I say to him, I fear I’m becoming just as repetitive as he is at this point. Still, worth a try. I’m not the only one who thinks so. :)

Mtl_zack's avatar

Depends on the context. If it’s a fancy restaurant and you have wine, have a glass. If you’re at home, have water. If you’re at a party, have a coke. If you’re celebrating getting whatever you’re being interviewed for, celebrate with a drink with the person who accepted you.

marinelife's avatar

So, shi, how did it go?

shilolo's avatar

@Marina Interviews aren’t for a month or so…. Just planning ahead :-)

bananafish's avatar

Wow, I can’t believe how many people here would have a cocktail/glass of wine on an interview!

I mean, I’m the first one to raise a glass in ANY setting BUT an interview. It’s such a big no-no, and it really could cost you the job easily. Whereas there’s a 99.8% chance (I’ll show you my math later) that ordering a pop or Shirley Temple would not cost you anything.

Don’t say I didn’t warrrrrrrrrrrrrn yooooooou! ;)

Jeruba's avatar

@shilolo, I think you’ve answered your own question. If you are thinking ahead and worrying about whether to have a glass of wine at a dinner that’s more than a month away—well, I’ll just say this: if my husband or son or a close friend were in your place and asked me this question, I would say: “The fact that you asked the question tells me that you already know the answer and you just don’t want to hear it.”

I know they would do the same for me. In fact, my husband does it all the time. And it’s always “Thanks, dammit.”

shilolo's avatar

@Jeruba. Not really. I was just thinking about how all these interviews are scheduled with multiple dinners, and wondering what I would do. Thought I would ask the collective in advance. In truth, I am leaning more towards the “having a glass of wine with a steak dinner seems more than appropriate” theme than the “better to be a (funtional) teetotaler)” routine.

Jeruba's avatar

You could always drink at one and not at another and see if there’s any apparent difference in the reaction. Maybe try no drink first and see if you get a clue afterward (“We noticed you didn’t have a drink, and…”).

bananafish's avatar

I’m wondering – very honestly this is just curiosity – what do you think would be the benefit to drinking?

If it’s really to appear down-to-earth, I think you should have more confidence in yourself that you can inspire that with actions, words, and attitude.

Alcohol in no way conveys maturity – if anything it does the opposite. You might as well shout “Cool! – an open bar!”.

By the way, that hurt….calling me a teetotaler…what if my wine bottles heard you??

shilolo's avatar

I don’t know about benefit per se, but it seems mature and relaxed and confident to feel free to act as you please (again, within obvious limits) without fear of being judged for every action.

steve6's avatar

Yes, and you are an adult whose future does not depend on the outcome of one meeting so I wouldn’t think about it too much. When I have meetings, if I feel like having a Beck’s with my seafood or a Singha with my Thai food then that’s what I’ll drink. Most of the time I would probably have an iced tea or an Oolong tea, respectively.

Strauss's avatar

I love my beer, and a good wine with dinner. However, I would NOT have a drink at a dinner/interview. I also usually do not eat the whole dinner, no matter how hungry I am. (I usually finish everything served, if I’m alone or with family or friends.)

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