terse answer Tuesday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s terse answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. We’ve got a boss who wants to be “like husband and wife” with his employee, reference requests when you can’t give a good one, and more. Here we go…

1. My interview will be in a bar

After submitting my cover letter and resume to Living Social Experiences, I have been called back for the first round of interviews. The location is at a bar during cocktail hour. I’m a little wary of how to handle this as I am used to and expect the office interview. What is one to wear at an interview in a bar? Should I drink or not?

I have a little black dress that’s conservative, although the length is about mid-thigh and probably something I would save for happy hour and not wear to the office. The rest of my outfit, including jewelry, is also conservative. In terms of drinking, I have ordered tonic water and lime in place of alcoholic drinks at past work events. While this tricks other colleagues, the bartenders have given me weird looks. Plus, I’ve heard some people say that they just don’t trust others who don’t drink — although I’m not sure if I should put stock in that or not. What about if everyone else orders an alcoholic drink — should I follow suit and do the same? I’m not an alcoholic but I am a petite person so one drink is definitely substantial and I do tend to drink a bit more quickly than others. What is the best way to handle this situation?

A first interview at a bar? Oh, Living Social, what are you thinking?

In any case, don’t feel pressured into drinking if you don’t want to. Ordering a seltzer and lime is perfectly fine; if anyone questions it, you can simply say “I’m driving” or “I’m not drinking tonight” or “drinking at a job interview seems like a recipe for a disaster,” or whatever else you’re comfortable with. If anyone has a problem with you not drinking, that’s a huge sign that you don’t want to work in this culture.

A mid-thigh dress sounds too revealing to me, even for a company that’s holding interviews in a bar. I’d go with something slightly longer.

2. How should I handle this resume?

A couple of months ago, I attended a student networking event with my company. I am recently out of school myself, and I gave out my card to a few people, in case they had questions about the jump from school to work in my particular industry in general, or about my company specifically. Now one of these students has emailed me his resume and cover letter, asking about summer jobs! (He also sent a sort of generic “nice to meet you” email shortly after the event.) We are a fairly small company, and I was under the impression we weren’t really up for hiring summer students (I also told this to students who asked about it at the event). I am not a recruiter, or involved in hiring in any way, or even HR. I’m more in an extremely junior engineering type position . What is the procedure here? Should I forward this on, direct him to email someone who can better handle this sort of thing, or turn him away?

Just let him know that your company doesn’t hire students for summer jobs. Or, you can pass him on to whoever in your company handles hiring, but if you already know the answer, it’s nicer to everyone to just tell him.

3. My boss is gross

I am the assistant to a food service director for a large corporation. Ever since my interview, this guy has talked about how we would be like “husband and wife” at work. I know he means working as a team, but it makes me uncomfortable every time he mentions it. Also, he recently told me he was going to get a colonoscopy and then about a procedure he had recently where he had to have a catheter “in both sides” and get flushed out several times. I find all of this talk really inappropriate, but I don’t know where I stand legally on the issue.

Ew. Ew to the “husband and wife” talk, and ew to the medical over-sharing. Legally, he hasn’t crossed any lines, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t set boundaries with him. The next time he makes the “husband and wife” comment, just say “Can we not use that metaphor? Thanks.” (And if he keeps it up, ask him if he’s planning to split his assets equally with you when you part ways.) And the medical grossness? Just tell him to knock it off — “This is the last thing I want to hear about” or “I’d rather not hear this stuff” or whatever you’re comfortable saying.

4. Have I missed the window of time to ask for feedback after being rejected?

I’m currently job/internship-hunting while juggling a part-time job, an upcoming move, wedding planning, etc., and just realized that I let the latest rejection email (alas) slip by three weeks ago without responding or asking for feedback. Is there a timeframe past when it is appropriate to ask for feedback? If not (or if I’m still in a reasonable timeframe), should I simply re-introduce myself as one of the particular position’s applicants, or should I acknowledge the fact that I didn’t respond sooner? This was only at the initial application level, though I don’t know if there was any formal interview round.

I’d let this one go. If you’d had an interview, you might be just inside the timeframe where you could still reasonably ask for feedback (although just barely, if at all), but in this case, they didn’t have any interaction with you, and you’d be asking them to go back, dig up your materials, and re-familiarize themselves with your application in order to give you meaningful feedback, all weeks after you would have normally asked and for a job candidate who they had no interaction with. I’d just move on.

5. Should I tell our manager about my coworker’s disability?

I work in a call center for a government agency. A coworker in my department, who is a new hire, disclosed to me recently in conversation (without asking me not to share) that she suffers from a disability which interferes with her ability to talk for long periods of time. The nature of this disability precludes an ergonomic solution, and the agency would be accommodating about moving her to another department if they knew about the problem. She has not disclose the problem and does not intend to, but her job duties in our department put her at risk of injury. Is there a point at which it becomes advisable to talk to our supervisor about the situation? As a person with management and private sector experience and with a disability that has resulted in Worker’s Comp issues, I see a definite need to bring this to management attention, for the employee’s protection as well as the agency’s.

Assuming that you’re not in a managerial position yourself (which comes with a different set of obligations), this is your coworker’s issue to handle, not yours, and it’s up to her if she chooses to bring her personal medical information up or not. However, you can certainly encourage her to do it, and explain that you’ve seen your agency be accommodating in the past.

6. Writing a strong resume when your experience has been food service and retail

I’ve been trying to get a new job recently, and have been using your blog to give me some inspiration, ideas and advice. It’s clear, though, that your blog is geared more towards a higher professional level than I am at (currently working at a coffee shop, and looking for something retail like a shoe store, etc), so some advice you give doesn’t tend to apply. For resumes, for instance, you’ve said that the details you give about a job should illustrate accomplishments rather than duties, but I feel like unless I’m able to get promoted there won’t be accomplishment-based details to talk about. It’s not as if we’re even able to implement any new way of doing things, there are no “special tasks” that I could undertake or anything of that manner. So I’m lost about what to do. Should I just generally list duties, or is there something else I could put there that might make an impact?

I don’t know, since I don’t know what kind of worker you are or what the specifics of your experience have been. But generally, you want your resume to convey what kind of employee you are. If you were asked what made you really great at your job, what would you say? What might your boss or coworkers have said made you really great? Why should an employer hire you over someone else with a similar background? That’s what you want to get across with your resume, if at all possible. (And if not possible, that’s a signal to start approaching your job from now on in a way that will let you have good answers to those questions in the future.)

7. Giving a reference for a former intern who didn’t perform well

I’m getting reference requests for a former intern. He was not the greatest intern: he made lots of clerical-type errors, took a long time on projects, and was just generally a very nervous guy. Over the course of the internship I gave him feedback, and he improved tremendously, but still not to the point where I would hire him on my own staff. Now I am getting requests to speak about him from his interviewers, which is great, and I’m happy he’s getting to that stage. I just don’t feel comfortable sitting on the phone and gushing about his performance. The most impressive trait he had was that he improved from terrible to adequate, and I feel bad saying that to someone trying to hire him. Do you have any advice on what to say? I’m sure he would be fine once he was in a position for a while, but I don’t think he’s ready yet for the kind of responsibility that comes with the job.

You can certainly say that you worked with him when he was still an intern and had little experience and that you’re sure he’s matured and grown since. You could also say that he came to you right out of school (assuming that’s true) and was very green, but he took feedback very well and made real strides during his time with you. But a good reference-checker will ask more detailed questions that are likely to get at the concerns you had about him. So you might be better off just contacting the intern and letting him know that you don’t feel that you’re a strong reference for him to use, so that you hopefully head some/all of these requests off before they reach you in the first place. (I’m hoping, by the way, that you gave him enough feedback during his internship that this won’t come as a shock to him.)

{ 93 comments… read them below }

  1. Karthik*

    #1: A lot of techy companies, especially small ones, have company sponsored happy hours at bars once or twice a week where the entire team can go out unwind. They probably figured this was the most efficient way to conduct an interview.

  2. Kathy*

    #6–For my first ten years in the workforce, I worked in the restaurant industry. I did everything from waiting tables to washing dishes to cooking the food (never did any bar tending, though).

    Lots of the skills you learn in the restaurant industry are transferable to other settings such as: communication, pleasant demeanor when you’re under stress, multi-tasking (line cooks FTW!), working as part of a team, etc. For interviews you’ll want to be sure you can articulate how these skills will help you in your potential new job.

  3. Anonymous*

    Given the nature of most Living Social positions and assuming you are applying for a sales or coordinator position, I don’t find it surprising at all that the interview is in a bar. This setting more closely resembles the atmosphere you will be working in on a day-to-day basis as opposed to an office atmosphere, which is likely why they want to see how you handle professional interactions in such an atmosphere (since the bulk of your job will be similar interactions!). If you are applying for a behind the scenes web/editorial/office job, then this does make less sense, though.

  4. lindsay*

    I’ve interview for Living Social Experiences before with the same interview process. The happy hour is just a way for them to meet lots of people at once. There will be the manager as well as some of the current staff there, and probably outnumbered 2-1 by job seekers. If you don’t drink, I don’t think anyone would notice or care (and if they do, then that is a red flag like Alison said). If you have one or two, it would not be out of the ordinary for that setting. My advice is to not be worried if you don’t get too much face time with the manager – if you have a strong resume and make a decent impression, you’ll get a second interview (which will most likely be not in a office, but a coffee shop). Just be yourself and don’t pretend to be some gregarious person you’re not.

    Good luck!

  5. Melissa*

    #1 “Plus, I’ve heard some people say that they just don’t trust others who don’t drink”. Um, I don’t drink. I just don’t. It’s a personal decision. I have no problem drinking water or a soda while others around me drink. I’m happy to be the permanent designated driver. My husband loves that I’m a “cheap date”. But I’ve never worried about what others may think of me because I don’t drink. And I would never feel pressured to drink in front of others just to get a job. If someone thinks I need to drink to fit into the working culture of a certain office/company/corporation, then I don’t need to work there. If you know your boundaries, I agree with AAM; do what makes you comfortable and order tonic and lime.

    1. Andrea*

      I don’t drink alcohol, either, but I have had people say that they assumed that I was too serious and no fun because of it. And I’ve been put in

      1. Andrea*

        Sorry–hit submit without meaning to (would love to be able to edit!). I’ve been put in the position of having to explain to several people at the same get-together that no, I don’t want a drink, thanks, and I’m fine with this Diet Coke. It’s annoying. But I do think that some people make assumptions about that. Hopefully the OP won’t run into that, though.

      2. Kelly O*

        I don’t always drink either; not because I have any moral qualms and when with my husband or good friends I’ll have a drink (although I’m that lightweight that stretches one drink out over the course of a whole night.)

        I get that sometimes too – I’m too serious. I must not be any fun. I hate that. It’s just my choice.

      3. Rana*

        I used to get that when I was younger; I finally figured out that it was because the people who were criticizing me were feeling self-conscious about their own drinking (or eating fattening food, or buying expensive stuff, or whatever it was that they were doing and I wasn’t) and so saw my lack of participation as “judging” them. (This was as far from the truth as you can get; I figure it’s none of my dang business what other people eat/drink/buy/wear…)

        Figuring that out didn’t make it go away, but it did help me be less annoyed by it.

        1. Another Brit.*

          Amen on the thought that they think you are judging them.

          I have this problem constantly with my In laws who seem to use any meal as a reason to drink alcohol now they are retired. They constantly joke about whether I am pregnant (no, but thanks for the reminder that I’m not), driving (no) or just a prudish.

          I’m not, I just don’t drink with meals!

          1. Jamie*

            Why is it with alcohol you need a reason not to partake?

            I drink on rare occasion, because sometimes I want to but I generally don’t like it much. I am amazed that people find that so worthy of inquiry.

            For the record, no I’m not an alcoholic, nor do I have any moral issues with alcohol. In fact every now and again I like a nice french martini. But because it’s so seldom I’m not comfortable having even one if I’m driving, so I would only do so if I had a ride home.

            Trying to tell me that I would be fine to drive, even if I feel tipsy, because I’d be under the limit isn’t constructive. It’s stress inducing, just stop and let me enjoy my diet coke in peace.

            Oh, and the same people who find it so bizzare that I rarely drink are horrified that I have an occasional cigarette – alone – where it has no effect on them whatsoever.

            I just don’t get people – isn’t peer pressure supposed to end at some point?

  6. Anonymous*

    I’m curious about something OP #1 wrote. She stated that she had heard people don’t trust those who don’t drink. I was wondering where she had heard that. I don’t drink, and now I’m wondering if that’s another way I’m perceived. I have heard it makes others uncomfortable because they want company in their drinking. Just curious.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t drink either (save for the odd glass of ice wine, stuff that bars rarely have so I don’t bother to ask). I think there are always going to be some people who take a declining to indulge as a judgment on their indulging, but those people are generally not anybody to worry about; they’re also a lot rarer these days than in the Mad Men times, what with so many recovering alcoholics about.

      However, I think the OP may be concerned about to the point of overreading judgment. I’ve never, for instance, met a bartender who gave a damn what was in the drink as long as it was paid for and tipped on. Maybe she’s light on the tip part?

      1. A Bug!*

        Maybe she’s asking in a strange way. Since she thinks her drink order is weird, it’s possible that it’s coming across in her asking.

        “Psst, hey bartender! Shh, keep it down! I don’t know if you can do this, I know this is a really weird thing to ask, but could you please give me a glass of tonic water with a slice of lime in it? Iknowiknow, super weird! But please can you do that? And don’t say it out loud!”

    2. Andrea*

      That might be it. On the other hand, it makes me uncomfortable when I’m with a group of heavy drinkers. (I imagine that responsible drinkers don’t like that, either, though.) It’s not a ton of fun to spend time with people for whom social occasions revolve around drinking too much. Unfortunately, many people in my social circle do just that, and I’m talking about people in their mid-30s.

      And I do sometimes feel self-conscious about not drinking, though that feeling only usually crops up after I’ve politely turned down an alcoholic beverage about half a dozen times and received looks of confusion or nosy questions in response. (My husband’s boss–at his former job–asked me if I was an alcoholic. I’m not. But I just acted all shocked and said, “I can’t believe you just asked me such a question!” I resented having to respond to such rudeness in such a mild way, though.)

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I suppose it becomes a different matter if people are there to drink, rather than drinking while they’re there (hopefully not the case in the OP’s job interview!). But your husband’s boss sounds like a boor and I think your response was excellent.

      2. Anonymous*

        Thanks for replying. I don’t drink at all whatsoever when it comes to alcohol. The only two times I had a sip of wine was for communion and once when I went to temple with a friend (after the service in the community room there was a just a get together for those who attended the service).

        I have been to bars with friends on a couple of occasions. And almost every time there is someone who is pressuring me to drink. One went as far as to declare that I didn’t know how to live life. Meanwhile she was the one who was on her way to not remembering the night with all of the alcohol she was consuming. How can she know how to live when she doesn’t remember it? I don’t care if the people I’m with have a beer or a glass of wine or whatever. Just don’t push it on me to the point where I feel unwanted. After she made that statement, I told the person who was hosting the event that I was leaving, and didn’t even bother to say goodbye to the rest, I was that angry with her statement. But now that I look back on it, it was her problem, and I shouldn’t have let her bother me like that. But it is difficult to have fun when someone is nagging you .

        And if you ever see the documentary that was done on PBS about prohibition…it explains why prohibition was put into place…because American citizens thought this country was getting too booze happy. And I see that with a few people I know who can’t construct a social event without alcohol being the main event. And no, I’m not saying one equals all.

        1. Lisa*

          My sweetie doesn’t drink — and has had to field seemingly inevitable questions about why not. He doesn’t have a problem with alcohol, just doesn’t like the taste — which is the most common answer he’ll give.

          As to people preassuring others to drink . . . methinks there might be a bit of transference or guilt going on there. “I can only have fun when I drink, but that *can’t* be a problem, so its the ones who can have fun but don’t drink who have a problem.”

          (Sweetie, btw, gets as silly as the rest of us who are drinking, but he’s safe to drive at the end of the night. Alcohol doesn’t make someone the life of the party, their personlality does.)

    3. Anonymous*

      I’ve definitely heard people say that it’s “suspicious” or “weird” if someone never ever drinks and doesn’t even have one drink on special occasions (I’m talking about a holiday like New Years Eve, for instance, rather than a job interview). Often the assumption is then made that they’re a former alcoholic or have alcoholism in their family and there might be terrible consequences if they had even just one drink. Or that they’re hiding something and fear that, under the influence of alcohol, they’ll lose their reserve.

      It’s very silly, but unfortunately I often hear people assume that there must be something “wrong” (psychologically) with someone who doesn’t drink. I’ve had this experience myself when trying to cut back on calories by avoiding alcohol–there’s the same social pressure that there would be if you said that you didn’t want a piece of cake. Someone will always try to convince you that you do–or they’ll just gossip about the fact that you’re not eating cake. Or drinking. That’s in the context of a social situation, though, (hopefully) not in a job interview.

      1. A Bug!*

        Ahh, social pressure.

        “Why aren’t you having a piece of cake? What, are you on a DIET or something? Think you’re better than us fatties? Jeeeez, it’s just a piece of cake, stop making such a big deal about it already.”

        Sub vegetarian/alcoholic/whatever choice makes others insecure about their own. It doesn’t matter how low-key you are about it, someone’s going to make an issue about it when they notice and treat you like you’re lording your ‘superiority’ over them when all you wanted was to be left alone about it.

        1. Esra*

          People can get so pushy around those sorts of things. I have Crohn’s, so there are a few foods I just can’t eat, and people will press and press for the reason why.

  7. Anonymous*

    I’ve never heard of not being able to trust someone who doesn’t drink….

    … my only worry would be if I drank too much and spilled my guts, then that sober person would most certainly be able to recall everything I said, lol.

    I don’t judge people who don’t drink, and I don’t mind going out with people who don’t drink as long as they don’t judge me for drinking!

    1. Henning Makholm*

      I have heard of not being able to trust someone who doesn’t drink. Specifically, “they won’t trust you if you don’t get drunk with them” appears to be one of the industry-standard factoids to trot out in “how to do business in East Asia” articles.

      I have no trustworthy information on how accurate that is — it sounds exotically-quaint enough that it doesn’t need to be particularly true for writers to keep copying it off each other after it has gained some initial traction.

      Can’t say I’ve heard it outside those ethnic pieces, though. I’m a non-drinker too, but what I usually hear are claims that I’m missing out on the “fun”, not that I’m not to be trusted.

      1. Andrea*

        I wish I knew of people who went around saying that they wouldn’t trust anyone who didn’t get drunk with them. It would make it easy for me to identify, right off, the kind of people that I would never, ever trust.

        1. Anonymous*

          A type of person I don’t trust is the one who says that s/he is easy to get along with. I have come across way too many people who have self-proclaimed this only for them not be so easygoing. I guess it is easy to get along with them if everything is done to their specifications.

  8. $.02*

    1. My interview will be in a bar

    In Accounting profession one of the interviews is a social event (wine testing, bar or restaurant) – this is to see how well you do in social scenes. The assumption is at some point you will take the client out and you have to know the etiquette. I wasn’t a drinker myself but I learnt to be a social drinker (I have to for my profession). I always get Arnold Plamer, looks better.

    7. Giving a reference for a former intern who didn’t perform well

    AAM, you advised for her to contact the former intern and let him know he might not be the best reference for him – what if that was the intern’s only reference?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s still better for her to let him know, so that he’s not blithely thinking he’s going to get a great reference from her when she’s not. That way, he has the option of giving the employer some context (“it was my first job and I learned a lot, but they had to deal with my learning curve” or whatever).

  9. Unknown Genius*

    1. My interview will be in a bar

    If I have to drink ( Of course I don’t) what’s the best cocktail for men for happy hour, Christmas parties etc? I always struggle with this, one time I ordered some drink from a menu at happy hour and it came in lady’s (martini glass) and I was embarrassed. Is beer fine or no no? Would prefer men’s cocktails though. Thanks

    1. The Right Side*

      You could try a non-alcoholic beer or perhaps a small mixed drink (something like cranberry & vodka) and a glass of water and sip, sip, sip – back and forth.

    2. Caroline*

      Whiskey ginger? Whiskey/bourbon/scotch are definitely masculine drinks, and the ginger makes it taste good. You can ask them to go light on the alcohol, too. Plus it’s just like a warm-your-insides type of drink.

    3. Kathryn T.*

      Scotch on the rocks or scotch and soda are always good. A whiskey sour is pretty masculine, too. If you want to get slightly froofier but not all the way over to the distaff side of the bar, try a Rusty Nail (Scotch and Drambuie) — that’s my husband’s preferred drink.

    4. Mike C.*

      What the heck is going on with the genderizing of glasses or drinks? Are you guys really that insecure with your gender identity that the shape of a glass makes you less of a wo/man? They aren’t filled with estrogen or testosterone, they’re filled with booze. Hopefully lovely, delicious booze, but booze all the same. Get over it.

      Also, it’s called a cocktail glass, not a martini glass.

      1. KellyK*


        Yeah, the gendering of drinks is really silly. Mojitos are my husband’s preferred drink, and no one has shown up to take away his man card yet. He also makes a mean pina colada.

        If you work with a bunch of Manly Manly Men who will give you grief for “girly drinks,” you might want to avoid drinks with fruit or fruit juice in them and malt beverages that aren’t actually beer (hard lemonade, Smirnoff ice, etc.) But unless you know you’ll be around people whose favorite hobbies include enforcing gender norms and ragging on coworkers, I don’t think anybody will care.

      2. Ry*


        I don’t drink often enough that I would feel comfortable having a drink during a job interview. I’d have a soda. I have nothing against drinking, and I like the taste of a good whiskey sour, but I simply don’t like how drinking makes me feel. No judgment of anyone else’s decisions; it’s just not my favorite thing.

        OP #1, if you’re worried about people thinking you’re strange for not drinking, could you work on a set line to give them, to get them back on track? For example, “I’m curious about [specific function of this job]. Could you please tell me more about that?” I can’t think of a stellar “redirection” line at the moment, but would choosing and practicing a line help you?

        I’m kind of shy, so if I expect a certain conflict to occur, I’ll often get my “one line” ready so I’m not completely lost for what to say if it does. It doesn’t mean I have to use my line, just that I have something to fall back on.

    5. Amy*

      Martini glasses infront of a guy tell me, he’s classy. And a dirty martini is for everyone! Lots of men I know order them. Gin is pretty masculine. Also, maybe a pink daquari with an umbrella and strawberries on top might be crossing the line. ;) happy hour can be a tricky one bc bars purposely put your drink into some crazy glass for the effect of getting more fun for less money.

    6. mh_76*

      Whether/not you drink is your choice. If you choose to, go with whatever feels right at the moment. Don’t worry about glass shape and if you want a strawberry daquiri, go for it. Don’t get cheap beers, though, because they are emasculating and make it look like you only care about getting drunk, not about enjoying the taste of a drink that you like. I’m not a fan of chardonnay (one of the many stereotypical “girly” drinks) and will sooner order a dark beer. Or you could take a page from 007 and order a…oh wait, he drinks martinis.

      1. mh_76*

        (just to clarify a bit…cheap beers are also “defeminizing”…all they do is make people look like they only care about the quantity of drinks…good grief)

        1. Natalie*

          Cheap beer may also wreak havoc with your stomach once your past, oh, about 22 years old.

  10. Satia*

    For once I’m disagreeing with AAM. (Please, don’t shoot me!)

    She wrote: “drinking at a job interview seems like a recipe for a disaster”

    Please don’t say this in an interview. It implies you have something to hide and, as most people will admit, alcohol does have a way of loosening the tongue. There is the truism “There is truth in wine.” Just say that you aren’t drinking tonight or are driving (especially if you actually ARE driving) and leave it at that.

    (Oh, and if a bartender looks at you funny for ordering something non-alcoholic, I suggest you call the venue/bar later and talk with the manager. That is an incredibly unprofessional thing to do. However, be sure that you are not projecting your own discomfort and/or insecurity onto others. As some of the previous replies have suggested, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone seriously suggest that they don’t trust someone who doesn’t drink. It’s possible that you are less confident in your commitment to your sobriety than your choices are suggesting. These things come with time and age, of course, but unless you can say with 100% certainty that a bartender is treating you differently for not ordering alcohol, tread lightly. Otherwise, absolutely say something to the manager. A bartender ought to know better!)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      See, this is where fit comes in, I think. That’s precisely the kind of thing I’d say in that situation, and the people I’d want to work with would find it mildly amusing.(Or even if they didn’t, they at least need to not care that I make comments like this all the time.) So if you want to screen for fit, and this is your personality to say, say it!

      I’m glad you raised the bartender point, by the way — I meant to write something about that and didn’t. A bartender should be used to people who aren’t drinking (because they’re driving, or just don’t drink but are hanging out with friends who do, or because they’ve already had three drinks and are now switching to soda, or whatever). It would be really odd for a bartender to have a visibly negative reaction to someone ordering a non-alcoholic drink.

      1. fposte*

        My one unease is that if Living Social really does mean a big involvement with the cocktail crowd, it might be a bit impolitic to use the word “disaster” in connection with what’s essentially a part of their product. Kind of like chirping “A minute on the lips, forever on the hips” when interviewing for a guide position with a foodie touring company.

        But then I definitely don’t Live Social, so I dunno.

      2. Lisa*

        A lot of bartenders will give the designated driver free soda for the evening as a kinf od thank you.

        1. Emily*


          More often that not, I get a friendly or respectfully empathetic response when I order “just” a Diet Coke. After all, the bartenders are often the only ones in the house who are sober. They’re happy to serve any paying customer; a sober compatriot is a paying customer who’s also behaving herself you know? The only times I’ve sensed any kind of negative reaction has been when someone or a whole group of someones show up very late in the evening, having clearly spent their money on alcohol elsewhere, and elect to switch over to water, neglect to tip on it, parade in and out of the restrooms and head home.

  11. fposte*

    On #5–a really common guideline, based on the underlying U.S. law, for disability accommodation is that the employee, not the employer, must initiate the discussion. So even if you tell your employer, they may consider it legally problematic to initiate the discussion with the employee.

    1. The Right Side*


      I like to do a black suit with a white cami underneath – sort of my female MIB style lol. Especially when we hit up the rod & gun club to relieve some stress – lead-syle! Totally rock it! I try to do pant suits a lot – I feel like showing my legs actually knocks me down a peg in a man’s world (construction management) – and this way, I’m game for shooting, golf, a few beers but still look good! :)

      1. Natalie*

        The pants thing is funny – in more traditional fields (banking, law) a skirt suit is more formal and correct for women. But I could definitely see construction management being the other way around.

        1. mh_76*

          Why are pants funny? Some women (myself included) look hysterical in traditional skirt-suits and much better in pants or a longer skirt. And, even though the interview is in a bar, which strikes me as strange, it’s still an interview and OP should dress for a job interview. Many companies do have outings to bars and many groups of colleagues sometimes go out after work…in their work clothes, ranging from business suits/fancy shoes to jeans/sneakers (depends on the industry & company).

          1. Natalie*

            I’m not saying pants are funny, just that the different standards – which type of suit is more appropriate for women – is funny.

          2. Anon*

            Funny-strange, in that the relative level of formality shifts with the industry, not funny-ha-ha. You sound kind of defensive about this.

    2. Lauren*

      I agree!

      But honestly, I think even “mid-thigh” means something different depending on how tall you are (= how long your legs are, = how much leg is exposed). #1’s OP said she was petite — I’m willing to bet her ‘mid-thigh’ looks about as exposed as my 5’11” ‘knee-length’.
      Kind of like how for some more busty ladies a particular shirt could look inappropriate at the office, but for a smaller woman the same shirt wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in church. There must be some allowance for context.

      1. Riki*

        No. Mid-thigh is mid-thigh. That is a miniskirt and it does not matter how tall or how long your legs are.
        Examples A-Z: Most of what Kylie Minogue has worn in the last 2o years

  12. Camellia*

    For #1 – not trust people who don’t drink? What is this, a drug deal where you have to prove you are not a cop by partaking?

    Seriously though, the only people that I’ve met with this reaction are those who tend to feel guilty about indulging or, more commonly, over indulging, and want to see others do so also. And we still ignore the effects of even one drink on our reflexes and judgement. So stand your ground, say, “I’m all right, thanks,” when someone offers you a drink or asks why you aren’t having one, and rethink this job if alcohol seems to play a serious part in it. And congratulate yourself on not bowing to social pressures.

    1. The Right Side*

      Drugs and alcohol aren’t even close to the same… but fitting in becomes a fact of life from high school on. Who is going to get the raise? The worker who does he job and leaves? Or the worker who does his job and heads out with the boss for a round of golf and a beer? Exactly.

      1. Elizabeth*

        You can be sociable without drinking, though. My workplace has pretty frequent happy hours at a local bar. Some people show up to all of them but just drink diet Coke or something. It’s still great bonding time. The point’s not what’s in your glass, but the conversation you have over it.

    2. Laura L*

      Seriously though, the only people that I’ve met with this reaction are those who tend to feel guilty about indulging or, more commonly, over indulging, and want to see others do so also.

      Yes, this is true. Mostly. Not always. But, often.

  13. Laura L*

    Regarding #1:

    I had an interview with Groupon. While it was at their office, the atmosphere was closer to a happy hour/hanging out with friends setting than an office setting. On the advice of my parents, and despite my better judgement, I wore a suit. I ended up not getting the job (although I think there were other reasons).

    At any rate, being dressed so formally at a place that’s so casual made me really uncomfortable at the interview. So, I’d recommend something business appropriate (not jeans), but still stylish and fun (not a suit).

    Just my two cents.

    And I’m also not surprised that they want to do your interview at a bar, although I think it’s kind of odd.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yeah, I agree that a social networking company is likely to be much too casual for a suit, even for an interview. While people in finance/law will faint in horror at this, I would actually wear jeans to the interview. If it were me going to this interview, here’s what I’d wear: skinny jeans (dark wash), professional-looking ballet flats in gunmetal gray, a silky shell in a colorful abstract print, and a dark business jacket, worn open. The jacket is a nod to the fact that it is an interview, and adds a professional touch to the outfit, but the rest of it is appropriate to a happy hour setting. (This is of course, assuming the OP is a woman).

      And for the record, for my current job, I interviewed in a pair of dark wash wide-legged jeans and a blazer. (I’m a scientist)

      1. Laura L*

        Interesting. What I really wanted to wear to that interview was dark-wash skinny jeans, white Chuck Taylor high-tops, a flannel shirt (which is how I dress in the winter anyway), and then carry around a bicycle helmet for good measure.

        But felt that was too casual and I thought I would wear a colorful, v-neck sweater (with a shirt under it), black pants, and flats.

        Then my Mom (I was living with my parents because I was unemployed) told me I should wear a suit. Usually my Mom gives me good advice, but this was not good advice, I knew it wasn’t good advice, but I followed it anyway. And I ended up being nervous and over-dressed and seeming uptight (which I’m not, generally). Which was a problem.

        The other problem is that I’m never comfortable around people I’ve just met and I never open up to them and they expected me to do that in the interview. This made me more nervous.

        Oh well.

      2. Anon1973*

        I would wear a dress. But then, I almost always wear dresses, even to Happy Hour. It’s who I am. If an employer feels uncomfortable because I’m in a dress, then that’s a sign I wouldn’t be a good fit at the company.

        And yes, I do drink vodka martinis while wearing a dress, but for an interview, I’d probably order tonic and lime.

  14. Elizabeth*

    #6. Do you take initiative at your current jobs? If you’re not looking for what you could be doing better or how you can improve the place you work, then start. It will make your managers take notice, and possibly lead to special projects or items to add to your resume. And it will make your time at work more interesting. Do you ever have down time when you aren’t serving or cleaning up? What could you be doing for the business in that time? Or if you never have down time, is there a way you can change the processes you’re using to provide better service?

    I worked in a college dining hall supervising student workers and we told them that once you’re done with a task, look for something else to do. Do not just stand around waiting to be told what to do next, and if you’re not sure what to do, ask your supervisor. This meant that the student workers sometimes thought of ways to make our whole operation more efficient, or creative ideas for new services/meals. It really made it so much better for everyone.

    1. Tara*

      Perhaps I explained this wrong in my original question, but its not as if I stand around doing nothing. I work hard and am always doing something, and my manager and owner are appreciative of my work, but for things like my attitude, work ethic, etc. I have plenty to talk about in a cover letter/interview. Its the resume that gets me.

      Even if I could change something, though, it would feel weird to me to put something like this on a resume:

      Coffee Store (Aug 2011-present)
      – Changed cheese prep to allow for faster access and less food waste.

      It just seems out of place at this level.

      1. Ry*

        In my humble, non-hiring-manager opinion, your example is great, and even though it may seem odd to you, you’re headed the right direction (AAM, fposte, etc., please correct me if I’m wrong).

        Not only does it show what you’ve done at work, but also (and perhaps even more importantly) that you’re capable of assessing your own work, improving your process, and reporting on what you’ve done – at any level.

        If you took cheese prep (or any other sort of widget-making) seriously because that was your job, it also shows a good work ethic: respect for the work you were doing and the job where you were doing it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I agree — it shows that you cared enough to want to improve things and that you were able to come up with an effective way of doing that. I want to hire people who have a track record of taking things from A to B (with B being greater); this is an illustration of that, even if it seems small.

  15. JfC*

    Double-ew for number 4! The boss sounds like a bit of a lonely man trying to get some of his social/care needs met with his employees.

  16. Another Kate*

    #6 — I’d also say that having a strong (but not too long) cover letter to go with your resume will really set you apart in hiring situations like these, both because cover letters themselves are relatively rare for food service/retail jobs and because the format of a cover letter makes it easier to talk about qualities like work ethic and reliability, which is what I was really looking for when I was hiring for restaurants and retail. Procedural and experiential stuff– product knowledge, the register system, that kind of thing– you can teach, but good work habits can take a long time to form and finding someone who already has them, understands why they’re important, and has a work history that can demonstrate them is like finding buried treasure in your backyard.

    1. Nyxalinth*

      I was thinking along these lines, too.

      I have been trying to get out of call centers and into more office support work. I sort of fell into my one office position, and it was not your normal, every day office. It was small, casual, and while we worked our butts off, it wasn’t the usual “corporate” type office environment. So unfortunately, I don’t get hired, and I’m starting to think I’ll be in call centers forever.

    2. mh_76*

      Great idea! A lot of retail stores will already see the customer service focus but it’s always a good thing to reiterate that as much as possible and in writing is an excellent way to do that. Some retail stores have questions of their applications that require a narrative answer and a cover letter would be a good guide to answering those.

  17. mh_76*

    #6 – the common thread in those jobs is customer service and people buying coffee are sometimes more demanding than those buying shoes – ever been in line just behind that person whose coffee order has more options than most luxury cars? It sounds like you’re the person who has to take that order and/or make the drink. Focus that part of your resume on customer service and make as many parallels as you can when you (hopefully) get interviews at retail stores. Also maybe look at stores that have incorporated coffee shops and maybe you can start in the cafe part and after a little while, ask to move into the store part.

  18. Charles*

    I’ll second (or triple) that “ew” on the boss who wants to be “husband and wife.” AAM got the title exactly right on this one – The boss is gross!

    Yes, by all means tell him when he makes those comments that they are inappropriate. I would caution to not make too big a deal out of it just in case he is saying them to get a reaction – I’m thinking of him as a kind of “verbal” flasher; saying things just to get a reaction – just a simple “that’s an inappropriate comment”, or “that’s too much information” and then try to steer the conversation to something business related.

    Somewhat related, I had a boss once (the same one who did all the drive-by brain dumps) who was always asking me about the adult strip clubs in my area – I would always say “I wouldn’t know about them” and then ask him a question related to work. He never really got what I was trying to do; but, at least, it shorten those conversations that I really didn’t feel like having.

    1. Andrew*

      #3–Most of the comment are weird and gross and inappropriate. However, telling people about scheduling a colonoscopy isn’t one of them. It’s no worse than or different from announcing one’s mammogram or MRI. It’s a necessary procedure that saves lives and isn’t performed often enough.

      Discussing in intimate detail the results of the prep procedure would be entirely different, however!

      1. Natalie*

        Why would any co-worker be telling another co-worker they are getting a mammogram or MRI? In my experience, people simply say they have an appointment and leave it at that.

        The only time I’ve told people what my medical appointment was for was when it was recurring, and I didn’t want my bosses to be concerned about my health long term. But even then it was a judgment call on my part.

        1. Anonymous*

          I may be wrong, but I think the person is meaning to say there is nothing embarrassing/weird/shameful about getting a colonoscopy… so one should not be off-put by someone divulging this information as it is a standard procedure (Not that it needs to be shared with your coworkers, I agree!) As a benefits admin, I frequently have people sharing information like this with me as to know what they can expect co-pay/billing wise, though.

        2. Jaime*

          In addition to Anonymous, some workplaces are just more open and sharing. In my job (call center type place), I would think nothing of someone talking about some medical procedure they’re doing. Some people share and some don’t, but it’s not unusual around here.

  19. Amy*

    When your exp. Is food service, customer service related. I always would say in interviews how I have learned to mesh well with many different personality types. I have learned a lot of problem solving in working in a fast paced environment where sometimes making the customer happy is the top priority. Think about it, you work with that weird old guy, the noce grandmother type, the bratty spoiled kid, the people your age, people in college that don’t take the job seriously, maybe, and people that want to work there for ever, maybe they have no choice. Its not easy to get along with everyone. Saying and illustrating examples that you have and understand how to work with those personality types makes you valuable. Also great attendance is a freakin accomplishment. While you knew the strike system, you didn’t abuse it, bc you came to work to take pride in your job, got there on time and didn’t call in unless you were sick. I’ve had interviews at customer service/min wage places in my younger years ask “how many days did you call in during your employment at this co.?” There care. ;) this kind of stuff is great for resume maybe, but interview gold!!!

  20. Nethwen*

    #6 Showing initiative, etc. in food service

    When I worked in food service, within a few months, the managers were leaving me in charge if they had to be gone for half an hour or so. There were others who had worked there longer, but the managers trusted me more. I’m sure part of the reason was that I was older, but also, I did quality work and if there was down time, I found something to do. I organized the cabinets, I washed the kick boards on the doors, I refilled all the condiments, I washed the condiment containers, I washed all the door knobs and light switches. I did all of this without being asked, I did it well, and I cleaned up the paraphernalia of my project.

    I know these kinds of jobs can be mind-numbing and it can be difficult to see what makes you stand out. Does you boss always tell others what to do during down times, but leave you alone and let you choose your own projects? Does he give you the code to the safe when needed, but make others call him? Does he comment that he wants you to work inventory because he knows you will take your time and not make preventable mistakes? Use incidents like this as evidence of your trustworthiness, attention to detail, or whatever. The tricky part is phrasing it in proper resume terms, but if you start looking for this kind of information and keep track of hard data, then at the very least, you’ll have some good examples to help you answer behavioral interview questions.

  21. EJ (#1)*

    I will give you all an update on how the interview at the bar went last night. I ended up wearing the outfit that I originally described, I think I was the best dressed, I was definitely a little more dressed than most at the function. I opted for cocktail/chic/professional look while most went for casual/professional. I didn’t feel out of place but as they say, when in doubt, dress nicer.

    As to people not trusting others who don’t drink, I can not pinpoint those I heard it from as I heard it so long ago. It was just something that stuck with me. I think I agree with those of you who said this statement probably came from a person(s) with their own personal issues involving alcohol.

    I did drink one beer slowly towards the end of the evening as by that point, most everyone had at least one drink already. I actually ended up staying at the bar chatting with a few other interviewees to finish it after the event ended. The bartender last night was very sweet and extremely gracious . . . . no mean looks!

  22. Anonymous*

    Uh, I didn’t have my 21st drink until I was 22 yrs old. Does that make me weird? I don’t drink b/c I can’t stand the taste of it. Why can’t people just accept the fact that there are people who don’t drink just b/c.

    1. mh_76*

      No, doesn’t make you weird at all. I was already 21 when I found something that I actually liked the taste of and 24? when I found a beer that I could stand. I’ve never been a “big drinker” and when I do drink, it’s for quality, not quantity, and I have no problem being the only person at a table not drinking. I had no desire to get drunk in college or in my 20s or ever. Now, when I hear people my age talking about getting drunk…well that sounds weird (in addition to sounding stupid). Anonymous, you’re not weird, you’re (also) sensible.

  23. Liz*

    The intern took a long time with assignments, made simple mistakes, and was “generally a nervous guy?” Honestly, if I saw that situation I would wonder if the manager wasn’t being a good communicator. That’s exactly how someone acts when he doesn’t understand expectations and fears harsh consequences in response to questions.

    Maybe it was the intern’s personality that was the problem. I just know that when people act “nervous” around me, I ask them what they need and try to make them feel more comfortable expressing concerns. I don’t assume it’s a character flaw.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Definitely a possibility, but it’s also plausible that the manager communicated really well and this stuff still happened. I’ve definitely worked with people like this, especially early in their careers.

      1. anth*

        Being generally a nervous guy doesn’t necessarily mean that you act nervous when a manager presents a project they ask you to work on. It could be that you exhibit that characteristic when you need your hand held to write an email or you don’t show confidence in the work you are asked to complete by constantly seeking reassurance for something you’ve been doing for months.

  24. Scott Woode*

    #6 – Try focusing on these in cover letters/resumes:

    1) How much revenue did you generate on your shift sales versus the total for that shift? Were you one of the higher grossing salespeople? If so, mention it.
    2) Were you personally ever mentioned (positively) on Yelp, Chowhound, OpenTable for exceptional service? If so, mention it.
    3) Do you have a regular following of people who want you (and only you) to make your drinks? If so, mention it.
    4) Do your managers treat you in a different manner than other employees (i.e. do they leave you in charge while gone, do they give you better/higher paying shifts?) If so, mention it.
    5) Do you work a lot of higher volume shifts (which are almost always high stress with a need for economy of movement & clear, logical thought)? If so, mention it.
    6) Have you ever been mentioned on a comment card (in a positive light)? If so, mention it.

    These are important things to mention because they speak to salesmanship and business sense, provide you with verifiable proof of awesomeness, strong hospitality/customer service sensibilities, trustworthiness, ability to work as a team in high pressure situations (as well as solve problems with little hesitation), ability to prioritize (the needs of the store, the guest, etc.), and an overall hospitable trend in your career.

    All of these skills transfer, and well, but it would behoove all servers/retail workers if they spent more time thinking about those skills and how to creatively fit the square peg (non-traditional work environs) into a round hole (traditional work environs i.e. corporate, non-profit, etc.). I have complete faith that you can find something a step up from where you are. Focus on your achievements and you’ll do fine. Best!

    1. Tara*

      Wow, thanks for all the good ideas! Especially number 3 about customers who ask for me to make their stuff.

      Unfortunately, things like my specific sales are not tracked, and it wouldn’t count for much anyway because of the nature of the job (it would say more about my speed than any sales ability).

      One thing I’ve been wondering too. Four years ago I work for the same chain but at a different location, and I have more things to say about that job than my current one. I learned how to calibrate the machines and fix minor problems, won drive thru time contest and upsale contests and the like, plus got promoted, and was a supervisor for three years. I don’t have the same things to say abou my current job because this stuff is already handled by the managers unlike at the other store I worked at. I want to mention these things but feel like it might actually hurt me because they might think I’ve just started caring less about my job. What do you guys think?

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