is it a red flag when your interviewer drinks a beer during your interview?

A reader writes:

I’d like to ask about your thoughts on something quite strange that happened to me.

I applied for a job in a Fortune 500 company and I was thrilled to hear that I passed the first phone interview and was called for a one-to-one meeting with my prospective new director. This company is opening a new office in my region and the director was going to fly all the way from a different state to interview a bunch of candidates pre-qualified by the HR team. Because the company doesn’t yet have a physical office in my town, the interview was scheduled to happen at a luxurious hotel.

When I got to the hotel, the director was still in an interview with another candidate and had me wait for an extra 5 minutes, which I don’t see a big deal; this can happen to anyone. After a friendly welcome, he led me to a table at the hotel bar (which wasn’t a bad idea because it was quieter over there than on the hotel hall, but I was expecting to go to a conference room or something like that) and told me to take a seat. At this moment, I saw on the table an empty beer glass and wondered whether he was interviewing someone while drinking beer. Then, to my surprise, while sitting at the table, he ordered another glass of beer for himself and asked what I what I’d like to drink. I ordered a glass of water.

The interview itself was great. It was a two-way conversation where for the first time ever I felt like a consultant rather than a candidate (as you say to strive for in your book). However, there were some moments when he yawned badly, so I’m not sure whether he was bored with my speech or if the alcohol was affecting his consciousness. But I certainly didn’t see much professionalism in him because of the beer, and I wonder to what extent that could affect my job if I were hired. However, if he is a top director at a major organization, there must be reasons for that. Plus, I want that position and don’t want to take this “beer case” too much in consideration, which is hard to do.

At the end of the meeting, he said that I was a good fit, but that he had to finalize some more interviews before making a decision. He also mentioned that if I go to the next stage, I would be interviewed again by HR because it’s the company’s policy, which is quite weird (I presume) considering that they already interviewed me, and also I should be interviewed by some of his managers from other regions who would be on my level within the organization.

The thing is that I don’t know whether I should take the beer drinking as a red flag (well, certainly it’s yellow) or simply let it go.

So, what do you think? Have you ever come across to something like that? What would you do? Shall I drop my application? Regarding the next round, do HR departments really interview candidates twice?

It sounds like this is going to surprise you, but I don’t think you should be especially concerned about the beer drinking. Some people do interviews over lunch and have a glass of wine or beer with the meal. This is no different. He didn’t seem intoxicated, and plenty of people could drink two beers without any noticeable effect, particularly if they were spaced out as these two sound like they were.

And in fact, it sounds like you had an interview that you considered one of your best, so it doesn’t sound like the beer negatively impacted anything. The open yawning is a little uncouth, but I wouldn’t assume his willingness to baldly yawn was was related to the beer, since you didn’t see any indications of intoxication.

I do think it would have been weird if you’d been interviewing in his office and he had a beer on his desk … but this interview was in a hotel bar, and plenty of people wouldn’t blink at having a beer while conducting business in that particular situation.

As for being interviewed another time by HR, that’s inefficient but not unheard of. Some companies will have HR do an initial screening, followed by an interview with the hiring manager, followed by a meeting with HR to talk about HR-ish things like benefits and salary expectations. It might signal that they’re a little bureaucratic, but I don’t think you need to worry that any of this means you’d be entering into a den of crazy hiring practices and drunken blow-outs.

{ 111 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie

    Given the venue this wouldn’t bother me, either. Yes, if it were in his office at 10:00 am I would be concerned…but this sounds like a really informal meeting that went very well.

    I would assume HR after the fact is to meet with them and have them do the background check, references, etc. I wouldn’t read anything into that.

  2. Grace

    I’m glad OP had a nice interview. I do share OP’s concern about the beer drinking during the job interview. What time of the day was it? The director has empty beer glass and another beer for your interiew in the hotel bar? I think that’s alcoholic-type behavior (check the AA website for information). I recently had an experience where I accepted a job with a boss who exhibited some of the same behaviors. He turned out to be a full-blown alcoholic AND drug addict once I was on the job. It was a nightmare to work with someone with active addictions. His adddictions impacted the entire staff, including no money for payroll, vendors, etc. I’m outta there! And I’m kicking myself that I didn’t pay closer attention to the red flags.

    1. Brandy

      disagree- he could have been there for four hours! I’d have no problem drinking 2 beers over the course of several hours and talking to candidates.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Just because you had that experience doesn’t mean that everyone who has a beer at a business meeting is an addict. You’ve got to be careful about extrapolating from one bad situation and assuming that the same dangers lurk everywhere else. All we have here is a guy drinking a beer in a hotel bar; it’s really not the same.

      1. -X-

        “extrapolating from one bad situation and assuming that the same dangers lurk everywhere else”

        This is sadly very common in life, and in comments on this blog.

    3. Emily K

      I don’t think it’s the best metric to judge someone an alcoholic just based on the frequency or volume of their drinking. The key aspects of alcoholism are the person’s relationship to alcohol (a feeling of dependency and lack of feeling in control of the drinking behavior) and the effects of their drinking habits on their ability to function at a normal level (missing work, messing up work, ruining relationships, unable to meet other adult obligations). My workplace has a moderate drinking culture, but it’s also the most highly effective organization I’ve ever worked for. Not only do we have a “working happy hour” every Friday afternoon, it’s pretty standard for anyone who schedules a meeting for 3pm or later to bring beer (just as lunchtime meetings warrant food), and it’s not uncommon to have two beers during the meeting. None of us are alcoholics and, as someone with multiple alcoholic family members who knows what alcoholism looks like and how dangerous the real thing is, I would bristle at the suggestion that two beers over the course of a couple hours’ meeting makes me or any of my coworkers an alcoholic. Our managers hold us to a very high performance bar and reward us for hitting and often exceeding it. We get more done in one week than other orgs I’ve worked for could get done in a month or two, are regularly winning awards for our efficacy and leadership in our field, and employee morale and job satisfaction are through the roof partly because we have such a warm and sociable culture.

      1. Natalie

        “I don’t think it’s the best metric to judge someone an alcoholic just based on the frequency or volume of their drinking.”

        This is a very important point. My ex’s father was a pretty serious alcoholic (i.e. could not hold a job, children regularly found him passed out on the floor, etc) but never developed a very high tolerance to alcohol. He only needed 2 or 3 drinks to get to a place that most people wouldn’t reach until they were on 6 drinks or more.

    4. OP

      Hi Grace, thank you for your positive thoughts on my interview. The interview happened later in the afternoon and as far as I could see he had drunk a beer in the previous interview, but I dont for how long he was doing so. Nevertheless, think he is an alcoholic might be an over-reaction to the case. My question to Alison was more in terms of whether this is normal or should be considered unprofessional; however, it seems to be quite ok. Again, he wasn’t intoxicated to a point he couldn’t talk or express his ideas!

    5. AllisonD

      Oh Grace, you just can’t project your situation to this one. It is just too much of a leap.

      OP, don’t over-thing this. Focus on the content and context of the interview.

  3. Brandy

    Totally agree. This shouldn’t be a red flag. If nothing else, he’s squatting at the hotel bar for the evening/afternoon, he darn well better order something!!

    Re: the yawning, it could be anything. Maybe he’s been sitting on the same darn bar stool for 5 hours talking to boring people. maybe he flew in from another time zone.

    A lot of companies, ESPECIALLY larger ones, have HR policies to be followed. I was brought in for a role created for me…and HR literally “interviewed” me then offered me the role at the end. Just policy.

    1. S.L. Albert

      I’m glad you brought this up, Brandy; I was about to. Since they don’t have an office in your town, OP, and this interviewer was obviously traveling and seeing many people in one day, he was probably just physically tired. You can be physically tired (up early to catch plane, stressful travel in general, on you feet more that usual, meeting with many people (clients or candidates)) but still be intrigued by what’s being said.

      Also, your mileage my vary on this, but in my industry, it’s very common to have dinner or lunch as part of an interview, especially in a group with other candidates and multiple interviewers, and it’s very common for both candidates and interviewers to have a drink. As far as candidates are concerned, it’s not always a good idea (and many to most just have water or a pop – all four candidates at my dinner did), but the option is there. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re interviewing with the crazy frat party company of the Fortune 500 world.

      All this being said, yes, if this was morning or even early afternoon, or if he pressured to order alcohol, cause for alarm, but otherwise, just take it as it is.

      1. Oxford Comma

        Yeah, we do lunch and dinner as part of our interviews too and very often the search committee people will have a drink. If the interviewer was reeking of booze or this was happening at 9AM, I’d say it’s a problem, otherwise no biggie.

      2. AdAgencyChick

        This is exactly where my brain went — “the guy just traveled from out of state, he’s tired, not a drunk!” And the interview is in a bar, so he has a drink. As long as he’s not blotto, seems perfectly normal to me.

        1. Judari

          Exactly!

          You should also know this AdAgencyChick but in our industry of advertising having a beer is nothing lol. I’ve often had a beer with clients or my boss after a long project. Heck my last agency had beer on tap!

    2. Jessa

      Exactly. You can’t take up bar real estate without spending some money. At least without seriously ticking off the bartenders. It’s just not right. And a beer is pretty low alcohol content particularly if the interviewer had been eating. It just doesn’t raise a huge flag to me.

  4. RG

    Did he drink all of the second beer? I can kind of see this like ordering a coffee (or two), even if you don’t drink them, if you’re going to take up table space in a coffee shop. Depending on the circumstances, it could have been the interviewer’s way of “paying” for the use of the spot during the interview.

  5. LisaD

    Count me on the not-bothered list–and I’m a teetotaler. Beer is a for-the-taste beverage for many people, and if he’s squatting in the hotel bar for hours doing interviews, it’s only polite to order some drinks so he’s not just taking up space and time.

    1. Ann O'Nemity

      Agreed. I wouldn’t be bothered by an interviewer having a beer, even though I rarely drink myself.

  6. Jane

    I do think it’s a little odd. I agree that ordering something is nice to do because you are taking up space for several hours in someone’s bar. However, I would have felt uncomfortable ordering a beer while conducting an interview. I would have ordered a soda instead. I’m not sure exactly why it bothers me, but it does! I don’t think it means he’s an alcoholic though. I feel like that is very hard to tell from this one encounter.

    1. Gilbey

      Jane, I agree. Maybe not a big deal, but not exactly what I think is OK.

      It seems a lot of people on here are OK with the idea of drinking a beer during an interview. Like.. wow.. my interviewer and I had a beer during my interview. Isn’t that cool !!

      There are lots of excuses like… He is down to earth, he is showing me his real self, he is showing the culture… it is OK to drink.

      Anybody care about the substance of the interview or just the fact they can have a beer?

      I am not sure , if I was the “company” I would want to represent us like that. But that is just me……

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I don’t think anyone is saying that they’d think this was “cool.” They’re saying that they wouldn’t have a problem with it, that it’s a non-issue. Those are two very different things.

        1. Jessa

          Exactly. Personally I think the martini lunch (or beer interview) is kind of passe. But it’s certainly not a deal breaker unless we’re talking Mad Men Era style drinking or deliberately drinking vodka or something so it doesn’t show at work as much. A beer or two? Nah. The only reason I might look twice is that I cannot drink due to medication. Depending on HOW the person drank, I’d be wondering if there was a corporate culture of “stuff at bars,” which might be a later issue. (Some people just cannot understand that you can have a good time at a bar or party and not drink.)

          1. Anonymous

            I disagree. It isn’t “wrong” to drink at an interview, but I do think it is impolite and shows a certain lack of worldliness. Or more to the point, it shows that the interviewer considers his comfort to be much more important than the interviewee’s comfort.

            There are lots of reasons that this might make an interviewee, like the OP, uncomfortable. If the interviewer wants to drink, it would be kind to give the interviewee an option, like a choice between the hotel bar or a nearby coffee shop, for example.

            A job interview already has an inherent power balance. There’s no need to bring controversial social activities into it unless those controversial social activities are a direct part of the job. Be that drinking, politics, religion, etc. – please respect that your workers may very well have different social views than you whenever it won’t impact their direct job.

            I respect AAM’s opinion on the matter. However, I really think drinking is unnecessary and unhelpful in the vast majority of job interviews. I don’t fully understand why this type of unnecessary and unproductive behavior gets a pass, but quizzes about not-job-related questions, rambling, and lack of preparation are more firmly discouraged.

            Unless your job actually involves drinking on a regular basis, this shouldn’t be part of the interview. Your drink can wait.

            1. Anonymous

              I would agree if there were pressure on the OP to drink as well, but tree wasn’t.

              If even being around someone having a beer is controversial for someone then that’s something they should want to know, I’d think, for screening purposes.

              Some people are vegetarians, some don’t eat pork for religious reasons. Would you think it was as rude if their interviewer ate a ham sandwich over a lunch interview?

        2. OP

          Just to follow up on that Alison, I’m neither thinking (or saying) that the interviewer is alcoholic, I just wanted to understand from a professional point of view whether this is normal or should be considered an unprofessional behavior. As I can see it’s quite ok and I’m fine with that!

  7. Kelly O

    Totally agree. Taking the environment and circumstances in consideration, it’s perfectly acceptable (and also acceptable that you only drank water, too.) For me it doesn’t even matter if he drank the whole beer while you were there. You’ve no idea how long he’d been in there nursing the first one during interviews, and as RG pointed out, it might be an equivalent for coffee in Starbucks.

    I’d be more excited about the positive interview and the good impression you got from that.

  8. Jane

    I should add that I’ve taken candidates or summer associates out to lunch before and I never felt comfortable ordering alcohol, not even one drink. It may just be me though.

  9. Daisy

    I couldn’t be further away from being director of a Fortune 500 company. But if I ever got there, I’d really hope I could have a beer or two when interviewing in a hotel. Otherwise, what’s the point? :)

  10. Seal

    For some reason I just had a vision of Norm Peterson from Cheers pop into my head…as I recall he conducted a fair amount of business at the bar.

      1. Seal

        At one point he did interior decorating on the side and saw clients at the bar, including Frasier and Lilith.

        And they say knowledge of trivia is useless.

        1. Liz T

          There was also the episode where he turned out to be really good at firing people–he did several of those at the bar.

  11. Joey

    See I’m in the other camp. I have a hard time accepting a manager drinking alcohol during on the job during an interview unless there is a business reason for it like entertaining clients. I would be concerned that he drinks a lot or that the culture is overly alcohol friendly. I think it gives a bad impression. Just as there are few candidate data points there are also few manager data points.

    1. Josh S

      It very well could be a sign of the company’s culture, but I still don’t think it amounts to a ‘red flag’ unless the OP is particularly averse to alcohol (in general or in the professional setting). For me, knowing that a company might occasionally have an optional happy hour in the office on 5pm on a Friday would be a nice thing; others might reasonably differ in their opinion on the matter.

      The thing is–OP is going to be one of the first people in this office, and it sounds like a managerial position. She’ll have a strong influence in the eventual culture of this office/department. So even if ‘corporate’ is looser in its tolerance of on-the-job alcohol consumption, this branch needn’t be.

      And it could all be moot anyway, if the interviewer was just having a beer while in an informal setting. (Or “moo”, depending on how much you like Joey from Friends… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iObtPBh3NXs )

      1. Jane Doe

        I agree. It seems like there’s some difference of opinion here in what people consider an overly alcohol-friendly culture. To me, having a beer during an informal interview (or employees having a drink during lunch out) isn’t a big deal and doesn’t really mean anything. I’d probably take it as a sign that the company treats people like adults and doesn’t automatically assume that having a drink is unprofessional or leads to people drooling on their desks.

        Overly alcohol-friendly to me implies pressure to drink, Mad Men-style drinking, or tolerating sloppiness/unprofessionalism that is a result of drinking.

        1. Jane Doe

          Forgot to add – I’m not trying to say there’s a right or wrong view here, just that it’s interesting to see that some people see his drinking as indicative of something (either about the company or his personal habits) and others do not.

        2. Anonymous

          By “adults” you mean “adults just like me.” Just try that attitude in, say, Utah and see what happens.

          To be frank, it is a huge issue for a number of religions, including a handful of Christian sects. It is also an issue for people with certain medical problems. It is a huge issue for pregnant women that maybe really don’t want to reveal that they are currently pregnant while on a job interview.

          In short, it is potentially discriminatory to a whole heap of protected classes. Is it intended that way? Probably not (but I know at least one guy who does it for that reason). You shouldn’t drink during interviews for exactly the reason you shouldn’t ask the candidate extensive personal questions about their religion/race/etc. It’s not illegal, but it touches on exactly the same issues, and it certainly won’t provide you with job-related information.

          1. Natalie

            Unless the interviewer or the company are *requiring* people to drink, I fail to see how an alcohol-accepting culture discriminates against any protected class.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            No, it’s really not potentially discriminatory, no more than it would be to eat a ham sandwich over a lunch interview with someone who might be kosher or Muslim.

            Drinking is a completely normal activity during business meals for many, many people (and certainly even more so in many non-U.S. countries). This is a pretty puritanical attitude about drinking that doesn’t reflect mainstream behaviors/beliefs.

            1. Heather

              When I read this post, my first thought was that I’d love to hear your British readers’ comments on this one. Except I suspect they may not be able to type right now because they’re laughing too hard at the crazy Americans.

              1. UK HR Bod

                Actually, we’re probably (in most, although by no means all, organisations) somewhat more conservative in interviews ! Interviews tend to be relatively formal, documented etc because (and this the opportunity for US readers to laugh!) people have employment protections from before they are employed. Really. We have to be able to prove that no discrimination took place, as people can take us to tribunal for not giving them a job (they have to be in a protected class at least) so most organisations wouldn’t do it. Also, a lot of companies have policies against drinking at work as it could lead to liability – we tend to look at the US as a litigious society, but on employment stuff I think we probably have the edge (and that’s not a competition we want to be winning. However that tends to be during the working day – my organisation is definitely on the conservative / risk-averse side, but puts a couple of bottles on the table at work functions – more when it’s with external stakeholders!
                However, I doubt very much that anyone would bat an eyelid if it did happen – I wouldn’t. We tend to be fairly (too?) relaxed about drinking. It is a national sport after all! And despite everything I’ve said above, there are several industries where the culture is more relaxed. It would be interesting to hear from mainland European readers – I think the culture is significantly more relaxed in some countries.

            2. Jessa

              Exactly. Now, if the interviewer offered me a drink and I said, “no thank you,” or had water or pop and I got seriously side eyed, I’d maybe worry about the culture of that particular office, but I agree with Alison about the ham sandwich analogy.

              However, again, if I was so religious I was wearing a tichl or an hijab I might say “I’m sorry, but I really can’t eat at that wow delicious everything is pork barbecue place. But you’re welcome to do so anyway.” My diet is my issue. And if I cannot politely sit and let someone eat, I may be a pretty bad fit for their company, if they always eat “Oh wow barbecue place.” Halal and Kosher is my issue not theirs.

              And that’s something that if it comes out at an interview is important. Because I’m also interviewing them.

            1. Greg

              It’s actually a “moo point”. Like a cow’s opinion, it doesn’t matter (h/t Joey Tribbiani)

      2. OP

        Hi Josh, I’m an alcohol friendly person, but also have learnt since my early ages that drinking at work is not the best behavior. My father was for many years a bar manager in a very well known bar where most of his customers were high executives, lawyers and doctors. He never drunk at work, although he could do so. But I guess it’s a different situation that, nevertheless, have impacted my life. He used to say that drinking with customers could be dangerous because you could either lose the respect from them or become alcoholic. Anyway, as Alison said, if this director was at his office drinking alcohol it would be certainly quite more concerning, but at a hotel bar…

        1. Jessa

          Yes and your father would now have the law on his side. Many localities do not permit the bartenders to drink any more.

          Yes the Europeans are laughing so are my fellow Ozzies…but the liability laws in the US for over serving someone, etc. are very high, so a lot of places have decided that letting the bartenders drink impair THEIR ability to see if their customers are too drunk.

        2. Josh S

          Yup. Like I said, *I* don’t see it as a red flag–it goes to culture of the business. Other people may reasonably hold differing opinions.

          If you learned from your father that people who drink during working lunches are a red flag, it’s understandable that you would likewise hold that view. But it’s not a universal opinion, and so there’s no “right” answer to your question of ‘Is it a red flag?’

          You need to decide if it bothers you that someone at the company would drink in a bar. Or, even better, ask about the culture in a future interview (because you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you!) and see if the response mitigates your concerns.

          1. Jamie

            (because you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you!)

            This should be stitched on a sampler. I am a nervous person during interviews, but I became less so once I stopped focusing solely on whether or not they liked me and started doing my own assessments of whether I liked them.

            I gave my daughter similar advice when she started dating. Before you get all worked up about whether or not someone likes you make sure you even want what they bring to the table.

            I used to cross stitch – I may take it up again, quit my job, and open a workplace related sampler shop. Talk about a money maker.

            1. Emily K

              Yes! This is my big axe to grind with the “He’s just not that into you” advice–it puts greater importance on “Does he like you?” than “Do you like him and how he treats you?” Often the guys who are “just not that into you” are also behaving badly (being flaky), and you should not be that into someone who treats you poorly! (I worry that downplaying the importance of expecting a romantic partner to be attentive and kind while emphasizing the importance of the romantic partner liking you sets people up for abusive relationships where the person demonstrates interest in you but treats you poorly.)

            2. Josh S

              I’m pretty sure you’ve now claimed at least 6 or 7 different phrases that will be stitched on a sampler. Good luck with that. And start an etsy shop and let people know in the AAM LinkedIn page, cuz a lot of these comments have “I would totally buy one of those” after them…

              https://www.askamanager.org/2012/10/my-husband-emailed-my-manager-about-our-family-decision-for-me-to-resign.html#comment-114776

              https://www.askamanager.org/2013/04/ask-the-readers-what-to-do-if-youre-not-good-at-your-job.html#comment-188100

              https://www.askamanager.org/2013/01/my-coworker-calls-me-rude-when-im-simply-being-direct.html#comment-148884

              https://www.askamanager.org/2012/07/training-your-replacement-when-your-replacement-wont-listen.html#comment-79991

              https://www.askamanager.org/2012/07/can-my-employer-require-me-to-answer-my-cell-phone-on-vacation.html#comment-85086

              https://www.askamanager.org/2012/01/can-i-get-my-wifes-ex-boyfriend-company-to-send-me-the-emails-they-sent-each-other.html#comment-54257

              https://www.askamanager.org/2010/09/my-boss-acts-like-im-on-call-day-and.html#comment-7809

              https://www.askamanager.org/2013/03/short-answer-saturday-7-short-answers-to-7-short-questions-27.html#comment-164778

      3. V

        Here’s my question… what would be your relationship to this person? If they would be your direct boss, I would hesitate…

        It’s not so much about being unprofessional, but about being inconsiderate. If this person had asked, “Is it okay, if I order a beer,” and then ordered a beer, I wouldn’t think much of it. But the fact that your interviewer was already drinking, then ordered another one is a red flag to me… not with the company, but with this individual.

        Drinking can make people uncomfortable, even around people who typically drink (i.e. the OP). I drink, but I would not be comfortable with an interviewer who was drinking while interviewing me. The fact that this person ignored how it would make an interviewee feel is a huge turnoff.

        If you are hired and they have a distant relationship from you, I wouldn’t stress over it, but if they would be your manager, I would withdraw my application.

        1. Greg

          I think there’s some confusion (which I’ve noticed in other threads as well) about the term “red flag”. The term is generally used to refer to a warning or caution sign. If the interviewer had drunkenly propositioned you, or done a line of coke on the table, that wouldn’t have been a red flag, it would have been a stop sign crossed with a roadblock crossed with an air-raid siren, and you would have been best advised running in the other direction. A true red flag is something that *might* indicate you need to keep an eye on the situation or learn more about it. For example, if an interviewer said something about how she works so hard, she barely gets to see her kids, or that the position you’re interviewing for has high turnover. There might be more to the story, there might not be, but it’s significant enough that you shouldn’t just ignore it.

          I’m in the camp that doesn’t consider the OP’s story to even rise to the level of a red flag, though I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to treat it as such. But to advise her to withdraw from consideration, based on doubly incomplete information (ie, she doesn’t know the whole story with her interviewer, and we only know the details she’s provided us with) is the height of presumptuousness.

          1. V

            I think of a “red flag” as anything that would significantly hinder me from enjoying the position I am interviewing for.

            Anytime I interview for a position, I consider the rapport I built with everyone I met with, especially the person who would be my direct manager.

            I once withdrew my application because I asked the would be manager “Do you have any hesitations about me that I could try to address?” She freaked out, told me the question was ‘inappropriate’ and that I shouldn’t be asking her to compare me to other candidates.

            I never asked this interviewer to compare me to other candidates. She didn’t ask me to clarify what I meant, rather chose to criticize me without asking for more details.

            I had to explain that I was asking was if there was a certain type of skill or experience that she thought I was lacking that I could to try to address. I was not asking her to compare me to any other candidate.

            I took it as a red flag because it seems like she might be someone who jumps to conclusions and has trouble providing feedback/ constructive criticism.

            I withdrew my application because I knew this was not a woman I would want to work for. Perhaps it was an overreaction, but I was interviewing her as much as she was interviewing me.

  12. Sydney Bristow

    It wouldn’t be a red flag for me, but the OP seems incredibly concerned about it. I could be completely wrong, but I read it as the OP having an issue with drinking in general. If that is the case, then this might be insight into the company’s culture and would be worth trying to evaluate the fit a little more.

    1. jmkenrick

      I think this is well-put. If the OP is very concerned about drinking culture, maybe ask more about the company culture when he/she has the opportunity.

      I have to disagree with the readers who jumped straight to alcoholism, though. That seems like a leap.

      1. OP

        No, I don’t have any issues with drinking. I’m a beer lover by the way and, to be honest, I got one for myself once a left the interview! :) My concern is regards whether it’s a ok behavior or a dodgy attitude in the “corporate world”! Although I like beer, I never welcomed a new partner or interviewee with one and never was welcomed likewise, so I started to freak out if it could be considered a policy-breaker behavior and whether I w’d be fine working with that. But it’s good to hear that it’s ok and I’m fine with that!

  13. AmyNYC

    Don’t think too much about the yawning, it’s just a tick for some people.
    For example, I yawn when I’m nervous – that makes morning interviews all the more fun!

    1. Anonymous

      My body is perpetually tired (seriously, I need like 10+ hours of sleep to feel totally rested, which just isn’t possible on weeknights) so even if I’m paying attention and interested, sometimes I am constantly yawning – I feel so bad about it but I can’t help it!

    2. MovingRightAlong

      I’m the same way! I yawn for all sorts of weird reasons, like if my allergies are acting up. And there’s no way to politely hide them, either, they’re sometimes intense enough to hurt my jaw and always make my eyes water. Typing about it is actually making me yawn a bunch right now. Don’t read too much into it without some other indication that he’s bored (which it doesn’t sound like there was).

    3. AmyNYC

      Out of curiosity – do you mention the yawning?
      In general, I try to stifle them (and must make some WEIRD faces doing so) (now I’m thinking of the “Princess Diary” when Anne Hathaway tried to hide a yawn by eating soup) and I apologize to who I’m speaking to if I have a really big yawn in the middle of a conversation

      1. Jamie

        I don’t yawn often, but when I do it’s like hiccups (didn’t this used to be spelled hicoughs?) – I cannot stop.

        If someone else yawns I’m done – I’m totally susceptible to mob yawning.

        Worst is in a meeting, someone yawns and I spend the rest of the meeting trying to pretend I’m not. I end up bending down to tie my shoes or picking up dropped pens. A lot.

    4. jmkenrick

      I don’t yawn often, but my yawns are really loud, to the point where I know some people have thought they were put on.

      However, it’s completely unintentional.

  14. Anon for this

    I’m firmly in the “this is no big deal” camp. Getting drunk would be a no-no. Having a drink (or two, over the course of two interviews)? Wouldn’t phase me a bit. And I’m a non-drinker from a family of alcoholics.

  15. Rob (Bacon) Bird

    I worked for a company that allowed you to drink at lunch (off the property) as long as it didn’t interfere with your work when you came back. It was in policy!!!

  16. BCW

    I’m not trying to be judgmental of the poster, but I think your rush to judgment isn’t good. Even if you personally hate alcohol with good reason, the fact that someone else chooses to have a beer or 2 during a long day of meetings isn’t a big deal at all in the grand scheme of things. And really, if this person isn’t working for you, its not your concern what they do. If you choose not to work for them, thats your call. I just don’t get why to anyone this would be a “red flag”. I’m sure he got to his position by being good at his job. If that entails having a couple of beers, whats the problem.

    1. Joey

      What if the roles were reversed? What if the interviewee ordered a beer during an interview first. Would that reflect well on him? Or would you be concerned? how’s this different? I just think a lot of people see casual drinking on the job for non work related reasons as unprofessional.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule

        I think it would reflect poorly of the candidate’s manners. In that type of situation, the interviewer sets the tone. Interviewer not drinking, interviewee not drinking. Interviewer not eating, interviewee not eating.

      2. jmkenrick

        I think that’s different for the same reason that you shouldn’t wear jeans to an interview, even if the hiring manager is. It’s reflective of your ability to understand and abide by convention, and let the company set the comfort level and tone of the interview based on their culture and what they’re looking for.

        1. Jane Doe

          I agree. There’s a double standard that most people observe when they’re hiring or being hired. Most people wouldn’t consider it terribly rude (and wouldn’t discount a company entirely) because their interviewer was 10 minutes late due to traffic, but a lot of people would see that as indicative of poor planning/rudeness, etc. if the candidate did the same thing for the same reasons.

        2. HR Guy

          @jmkenrick

          I think your comment is spot on and I would like to add on if I may. There are two completely different sets of norms here. As an interviewee you’re looking to present yourself professionally to your potential employer. As an interviewer you should still strive to achieve that measure of professionalism, but I think you’re allowed (I would say obligated) to present yourself as a true reflection of your corporate culture. If your culture specifies suit and tie, do it. If they allow jeans with a button up and an occasional beer during business meetings, have at it. After all, aren’t we taught that interviewing is a two-way street? Why would the interviewer be expected to come off as anything other than a genuine representation of his/her company culture?

      3. BCW

        The thing this, by definition there is a power differential in an interview situation. You should be evaluating the person interviewing you, yes, however they are the ones with the power in this situation, which gives them the ability to set the norms for the interview.

    2. Runon

      I think that it might be a red flag to the OP if the OP wants to work in an environment where tea totaling is the norm or drinking in any work related situation is not expected. If the OP really wants to not be around alcohol at work then it should flag them. But I think that is a personal flag.

      I wouldn’t be bothered (nor would I be bothered if the interviewee ordered beer rather than water) and I don’t think that it says that the work culture is full of beer at all hours but it does likely say that the general culture isn’t adversarial to it. (Which some are.)

    3. OP

      Hi BWC, just to make it very clear, I’m not making any judgement here. I think I’d do if wouldn’t ask these questions to Alison and simply withdraw my application. I just wanted to understand from a professional point of view whether this is professional or not. Plus, I love beer and wouldn’t mind to be in this sort of environment to have a few glasses with my boss at the end of a busy day!

      1. BCW

        Ok, fair enough. I guess where my confusion came in is why you thought it may be unprofessional. Its like someone said, if you walked in to the interview in a suit, because thats what you are used to, and the person interviewing you is in shorts and flip flops, would that be a red flag? I just think its indicative of that culture. As someone said, if that isn’t a culture you choose to work in, thats fine, but just because they don’t meet your personal view of professional, doesn’t mean they aren’t

  17. Just a Reader

    See, the beer would make me want to work for him, probably. He’s a normal dude in a hotel bar. He offered the LW a drink. He was not drunk. He didn’t act inappropriately as a result of the alcohol and the interview went well. Not sure what the big deal is.

    Lots of wheeling and dealing gets done over drinks. I’m really not sure what the problem is.

  18. Anonicorn

    I wonder how much of the “having a beer at a bar” situation actually helped OP relax and have a great interview.

    1. fposte

      It might have helped the interviewer; it sounds like it made the OP more nervous rather than less.

  19. CAndy

    Think if the guy had a drinking problem he would perhaps not be comfortable to be seen drinking openely and moderately… he’d maybe be more likely to have a hipflask of Scotch and a packet of mints with him.

  20. Kimberlee, Esq.

    I completely agree that this is not a big deal if the OP is OK, in general, with a happy-hour culture or the idea that you can have a beer with lunch and not drive your car into the building on the way back into the office.

    I can see the point being made, that there COULD be candidates that, for whatever reason, would interpret a beer during an interview as completely unprofessional, and thus the interviewer shouldn’t do it. And if OP really does think that the interviewer is totally unprofessional, he shouldn’t accept an offer. However, he should do so with full knowledge that he would do so on the basis of his *personal* objection to the behavior, and not do so thinking that it’s totally abnormal for an interviewer to drink beer and that most people would see it as a red flag.

  21. Em

    To me, this says more about you than about the director. It’s not a red flag, but if it’s something that makes you extremely uncomfortable, you still may want to consider if the company is going to be a good fit for you. Are you going to always be uncomfortable if people are drinking at business functions? Will you judge colleagues for drinking, and make assumptions about them because you see them drink? If so, it may not be a good culture fit.

    1. OP

      I will not judge anyone and am not judging now! I just wanted to know whether this is a normal behavior at a major organization. I think it’s quite different when you know the culture and when you are there for the first time.

  22. Vicki

    > the director was going to fly all the way from a different state

    After reading this, I was wondering if the yawning might be due to jetlag and no getting outside today. Fly in from another state, get in the night before, spend all day sitting in a hotel lobby interviewing one person after another — I’d be yawning too.

  23. Steve G

    AAM thank you for your answer! I often don’t drink for days because the only time I have to drink is usually 10pm, then it interrupts my sleep. So when I finally get the chance to drink, I hate it when someone has to comment “how can you drink when doing xyz” and looks shocked (playing basketball, biking, reading). It really annoys me having to convince people I’m not an alcoholic just because they wouldn’t normally drink in those situations.

    1. Ariana

      People also have really arbitrary rules about what time in the day you can drink. I rarely drink for the same reason you do, and recently my partner’s band was playing relatively early in the day at a festival. At about half past noon, my partner’s bandmate offers to get everyone drinks, and I ask for a beer. He then makes a huge show of looking at his watch and saying “Oh, well I *guess* it’s the afternoon.” And this was in a pub, during an all-day music festival!

      1. Jamie

        No one would want to me interviewed by me if I’d had a Red Bull! Someone would be writing to Alison, “I had an interview today and everyone was great except for the really twitchy IT person…she was all shaky and weird and her eyes kept darting around. I’m concerned about the workplace culture that this is allowed as she clearly has a problem…” :)

          1. Jamie

            Okay – if you plan on being up with me for 18 straight hours playing WWF in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep…or blink!

  24. W.W.A.

    I totally understand that some industries, and some companies, have particular standards of professionalism, but such things are not set anywhere in stone. I sometimes thing people are very quick to jump on things like drinking beer during work-related functions, having visible tattoos or unusual hair styles, wearing jeans or tennis shoes, and the like as inherently unprofessional and perhaps even genuinely distressing.

      1. Rob (Bacon) Bird

        “I just interviewed with a company and their CEO, Tony Montana…….”

  25. Sarah G

    I agree with Just a Reader. To me, ordering a beer or two might seem like a positive sign that the interviewer is down-to-earth and unpretentious, just having a drink at a bar like any normal person in another situation would do.
    I’m wondering if the OP is on the younger side, with less experience and less exposure to the full range of what is considered acceptable. But if she is only comfortable in a very formal work environment, then she’d want to look closely at the workplace culture to determine whether this is a good match.
    Aside from that, this is not at all a red flag. As many others have mentioned, I would perceive it much differently if the interview was at the office.

  26. anon-2

    I don’t consider it a problem – unless the interviewing manager gets so drunk you have to drive him back to the office.

    Happened once on an interview. After driving him back, I never heard from them again.

    Just as well.

    1. E

      Just wanted to throw out there that while I thought the original question was an overreaction, OP’s follow-up comments have been pretty gracious and accepting of the advice given here. Maybe I’ve just read a lot of threads where the OP gets incredibly defensive, but I feel like the responses in the comments were pretty good.

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