My job interview for my current corporate position included, for some reason, discussion of visiting bars on the Jersey shore to listen to mediocre cover bands. While in my future manager’s office, we were not actually drinking. It’s a good thing there was no alcohol during the interview, because rather than winning the job, if we had alcohol it’s less likely I would have been hired.
That’s the conclusion of a recent study conducted by University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. According to the research, drinking alcohol during an interview triggers an “imbibing idiot bias.” Even if the interviewer offers the drink, and even if the interviewer is also drinking, the job candidate who drinks alcohol is less likely to receive the job offer.
The study goes even further. Just holding an alcoholic drink is enough to significantly reduce the probability of receiving an offer.
They found that job candidates who ordered alcohol in simulated interviews were perceived as less intelligent and less hireable — though no less likeable, honest or genuine — than those who did not, regardless of whether the boss ordered an alcoholic beverage first.
Moreover, even if the boss ordered the drink for the job candidate (i.e., the candidate did not choose to drink), the result was the same. This suggests that the imbibing idiot bias does not reflect a belief that less intelligent people are more likely to consume alcohol, but rather an implicit association between alcohol and cognitive impairment.
It may be true that the real business often takes place after hours at the local bar. Being in a social environment with the people you work with can be beneficial for networking and advancement. However, if you are interested in managing others’ perception of your intelligence, the study suggests staying away from — not just avoid drinking — wine, beer, and other alcohol while in the presence of others.
Have you ever participated in a job interview over a drink?
Updated April 13, 2016 and originally published August 12, 2010.