my interviewer was drinking a beer while sitting in a beanbag chair

A reader writes:

I have been on the job hunt for a while and have had numerous phone/in-person interviews for administrative assistant positions. I seem to struggle a little bit with my general overall presence during an interview (which has gotten better thanks to your tips!) but I am still having a hard time gauging how I should behave in an interview.

By that I mean — today, at the small indie gaming company I interviewed with, the interviewer cracked open a beer and hung out on a bean bag chair during the entire interview. None of that is an issue for me, but it threw me through a loop because it made me feel like I had to be a bro gamer whose only goal in life was to play video games for a living and not a professional looking for a well-paying, high-responsibility job. I have noticed this is actually fairly common with modern young companies I’ve interviewed with that have a lax atmosphere, and it really makes me wonder if I’m to “uptight” for these companies or if I am just being paranoid.

Should I maintain the upmost professionalism during an interview, that I’ve been taught to have my entire life, even it makes me look like a stiff or should I conform to these lax office atmospheres and be “chill” during the interview? I want to show them I care about the job I’m applying for and that I am qualified professional, but I don’t want to look like a boring person that can’t have fun.

It depends on what you mean by the “utmost professionalism.”

Some job candidates interpret “professionalism” as meaning “I must be very formal and not show warmth or personality.”

That’s not professional; that’s just stiff.

It’s good to show warmth and (some) personality in an interview, and you’ll actually interview better if you do, because good interviewers want to get a sense of what you’re like to work with day-to-day. They don’t care that much what your interview persona is; they care about who’s going to be showing up once they hire you. And on your end, you should care about making sure this is a workplace where the person you’ll show up as will be comfortable. So if you’re naturally bubbly and they’re very buttoned-up and sedate, that might not be a super comfortable fit for you — and it’s better to find that out now. Similarly, if your natural personal is very stiff, don’t try to fake gregariousness for the interview — because you’re unlikely to be able to fake that every day once you’re hired, and you want to find out now if who you are, or at least who you’re willing to be at work, won’t work for this job. (More on this here.)

So, bringing it back to your beer-drinking, beanbag-lounging interviewer: How to respond to that depends on what kind of culture you’re looking for and who you are. Would you be happy in a company where people interview candidates in beanbag chairs while drinking beer? Some people would love that! Other people wouldn’t. If you know that’s not for you, that’s fine, and you don’t need to mirror his informality just because he’s the interviewer. But if you’re open to it, or not sure and want more info/time to consider, you want to adapt accordingly. That doesn’t mean that you should pop a beer yourself or go sledding down the hallway or whatever, but it does mean it’s okay to be a bit less formal than you would if he were sitting across from you at a conference room table in a suit. (Of course, you want to pay attention to all the cues — someone could still do a rigorous, thorough interview from a beanbag, so make sure you’re not extrapolating too much much from chairs and beverages. Informal manner doesn’t necessarily mean less rigor or lower standards … just different standards. And other times it does mean lower standards! The point is just to watch for more data and not assume.)

The reality though is that “if your interviewer is informal, be a bit less formal yourself” can tough to calibrate. Your interviewer was deviating from a normal interview framework in a way that makes it harder for candidates to know what to do. Is he looking for someone comfortable enough to pop open a beer along with him? (Which might lead us to: Are you looking for a boss who would be looking for that?) Or what if you let down your guard, figure you can speak more freely than you normally might in an interview, and then get rejected for something you say because of that? There’s no way to know. It puts candidates in a tough position because you don’t know what the rules are.

Your interviewer might say that’s fine with him, because it helps him screen for people who are “the right fit.” But in this context, that typically means “people who are like me” … which is of course how these companies often end up with awfully homogenous staffs.

So if I were advising him, I’d say to reconsider how he interviews. But my advice on your side of things is: Know what you want in a workplace culture, know who you’ll show up as once you’re hired, and show that in every interview. Give yourself a little room to adjust your level of formality based on the cues you’re getting, but generally stay in the basic range you’d be happy to stay in once you’re working there (or maybe half a notch up from that as a nod to the inherent formality of interviewing).

{ 252 comments… read them below }

  1. Sal*

    Here’s how I’d adjust: When he offers you a beer, instead of saying, “No thank you, I don’t drink during work-related activities” or even “No thank you,” I would say, “No, I’m good.” Just adjust the diction a little.

    I have gotten animated and cursed in an interview before (in context, it made sense–I was recounting a frustrating experience with opposing counsel), and because of the specific job, it was okay (indigent criminal defense–a gallows-humor crew).

    Anyway I guess you could drop an f-bomb?

    1. Lance*

      I’m curious (and this might just be the lack of social ability speaking): what would be the difference between ‘no thanks’ and ‘no, I’m good’? To me, they both say the exact same thing, but again, that might be my lack of social ability and tendency to take things at their face speaking.

      1. L. S. Cooper*

        It’s just slightly more colloquial, and therefore less formal, which plays into the casual atmosphere and mirrors the level of casualness while still being polite and keeping your distance. It also pulls in a positive, which softens the denial of the offered drink. Subtle wording, sure, but some people will pick up on it.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Yeah. I’d probably say “oh thanks, but I’m good!” With a smile.

          “…Informal manner doesn’t necessarily mean less rigor or lower standards.”

          This is massively important IMO. Here we are pretty casual in the office. Think jeans and flip flops (speaking of which I wish the weather would make up its mind…!), but dealing with clients I/we take it up a couple/few notches because not everyone understands that one can be competent and professional while still rocking a RUSH t-shirt.

          Likewise when I’m interviewing, I want to see interviewees who understand “dress for the interview.” Yeah, I’m pretty old school like that and have some biases about how people present themselves.

          Sure if I hire you show up the first day in capris and a Hawaiian shirt, that’s cool but please interview a little more formally to communicate that you understand that sandals are not always going to be an ok thing to wear. I don’t want to have to teach that.

          Of course it’s a guarantee I’m not going to 1) sit on a bean bag (as if!) or 2) open a beer, so there’s that…

          1. Gumby*

            One of the most surreal memories I have is doing an interview with the FBI (IIRC) for a friend’s security clearance shortly after we graduated from college. In the only meeting room we had available at work. Which was furnished with bean bag chairs. Nothing like having two suit-clad people flash their badges and being all serious while you go “Might I offer you a seat… in these primary-colored bean bag chairs…”

            Internet companies. What can you do? (It was before the dot com bust.)

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        “No thank you” can be said in a chilly manner to indicate disapproval (though that’s not the only way to intone it). “No, I’m good” is both more casual and more chill–maybe you don’t want to get into your own beanbag but you don’t care if other people do. Maybe you had a beer at lunch and so don’t need another now.

        “No, I’m good” carries less potential to be read as judgmental of the thing the other person is doing that you aren’t going to be doing.

        1. MintLavendar*

          This is a perfect explanation. And ultimately, it’s not even whether people will consciously “pick up on” the difference, most of the time; different intonations will elicit different unconscious responses. One “feels” friendlier than the other almost universally (given an English-speaking context and culture, it’s not that someone will specifically pick apart your words.

      3. Competent Commenter*

        “I’m good” implies “Hey, I’d be happy to have a beer, but right now, eh, I don’t need one. Not judging you, beer offerer! We’re totally cool.”

      4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I don’t agree about the “No, I’m good” because to me that’s something you would say to a friend and it’s a little too informal. I think Alison’s advice is spot on. You need to remain professional, but at the same time read the room and show some personality. Personally having someone interview me in a bean bag chair while drinking a beer would turn me off from working there. I do like to be social and enjoy my work environment, but I’m also there to do a job. If I’m sitting in a bean bag chair with a beer in my hand, I’m relaxing at home, not at work. #getoffmylawn

        1. Scion*

          Sal’s point was exactly that – that “I’m good” is less formal (although not nearly as informal as beanbag chair/drinking beer), and that you could intentionally select the less formal way of declining to match the interviewer’s informality.

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            Yes I understand that. Just saying I don’t think it’s appropriate, regardless of the environment in a job interview situation.

      5. Ella*

        I think “No, but thank you!” said cheerfully would also be a good twist on the standard “no thank you.” The main point is you probably don’t want to be chugging a beer during an interview, but you also don’t want your interviewer to feel like you’re judging them. Small language tweaks can help show your refusal isn’t a blanket judgement, just a personal choice.

        Unless of course you *are* judging them and want to make that clear, in which case pick whatever tone feels best to you ;) Personally, while I prefer casual workplaces and have no qualms working in an office where people drink occasionally, someone cracking a beer *during* my interview would feel really off putting to me.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Exactly – the fact that they’re doing it in the interview is weird and off putting. Since the drinking thing appears to be part of that company’s culture, that could certainly be conveyed with words, not actions. So I’d assume they’re doing it to provoke a reaction, which is obnoxious.

          Pretty sure my tone in this situation would clearly indicate “No of course I’m not going to drink since I’m about to interview for a job and as you’re the one interviewing me, this doesn’t seem like an appropriate time for you either.”

      6. Lucette Kensack*

        I actually think there’s not much difference between “No thanks” and “No, I’m good.” But “No, thank you” would sound rather formal in this context.

      7. Richard Hershberger*

        Look up “denotation” and “connotation.” They denote the same thing, but the connotations are different.

        1. Lance*

          To be fair, I know what denotation and connotation are; my question, ultimately, was why the connotations were different, which others have weighed in on.

      8. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I think Sal offered both to indicate it’s best to choose the option that is most comfortable, most natural for you to say, not that either of these is a must use statement.

    2. Holly*

      I am really confused – no where in this post does it say OP was offered a beer! Unless I am missing something?

      1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        I was confused by this too. And I while I would be off-put by the interviewer lounging in a bean bag and drinking a beer, I’d be doubly off-put if he didn’t even offer me one!

      2. The New Wanderer*

        Oh you’re right, it doesn’t! I had to go back to re-read it but it does only say that the interviewer cracked open a beer. I think we (who assumed it was offered) assumed one was offered because who doesn’t offer in that situation?

  2. Lance*

    By extension to this: especially in the case of the OP’s interview, what sorts of questions could they potentially ask to gauge the actual work atmosphere? Because sitting with a beer in a beanbag chair while interviewing is one thing, but that won’t necessarily translate to the work environment (of course, it’s fairly certain to in some ways, but how many can easily depend). I’d imagine there’d be a fair number of those companies that are as lax about work as they seem to be about interview environments, but I’m sure there are also plenty that get the job done well while still being a bit more laid-back.

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      I think you’d want to ask the same sort of questions that you normally would — but perhaps dig in a little more, or do more reflection on their answers than you otherwise would, since the culture is likely deviating from the norm.

      So: “How do teams here tend to work — is it more individual or collaborative?” “How is success measured, on an individual level and overall?” “What are the biggest challenges the team has been struggling with lately?” “When you think about the strengths of your team, and the places where it could be stronger, what experience or skills do you most need from the person coming into this role?” (Note that these aren’t necessarily directly asking about the culture of the team — because folks often can’t describe a team’s culture very effectively — but how they talk about their answers can reveal a lot.)

    2. Jessen*

      From my various readings I’d also want to ask extra questions about work-life balance. I’ve heard too many horror stories where things like beanbags and beer were used to compensate for ridiculous hours.

      1. That Californian*

        Yes, I came here to say this! I would be asking about how they relate to deadlines and managing workflow, and also about what (if any) systems they have in place to protect work-life balance. In my experience, ostentatiously chill employers either struggle to get things done, or they trap their workers in a super-chill-brah gilded cage and expect them to work 24/7.

    3. ArtK*

      I’d use the beer-and-beanbag situation as a great starting point to find out what the company is like. “This is certainly an informal setup for an interview. What’s the rest of the work environment like?” or something similar. It’s so out of the ordinary that I think an interviewee should remark on it.

  3. AnonAcademic*

    My partner interviewed at a Large Infamous Social Media Company. The interview was in a glass conference room visible to the entire open plan office. There were two chairs available, a bean bag chair and a tall pub chair (he took the pub chair). He said he knew immediately the job was not going to be a good fit (it also turned out the job was basically being the cleanup crew for the previous guy’s mistakes).

    1. Competent Commenter*

      Oh what a JERK move. Sheesh. I’d like to say that I’d have enough self-respect to just say no thanks and walk out, but social pressure to comply and be polite can be overwhelming.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      That is the worst kind of interview “test” because it’s pointless. I mean, there’s no way a person in a beanbag chair (near to the floor) and a person on a bar stool (almost standing height) can have a reasonable conversation with each other so there’s no way to win. I’d like to think I would act like the room wasn’t set up at all for an interview and ask for a regular chair in that situation, but who knows.

      1. CurrentlyBill*

        I don’t think i’d ask for a chair; I might just go out and grab one from someone’s desk. Two can play stupid dominance games. Of course I wouldn’t get the job, but oh, well.

        1. AnonAcademic*

          Most of the desks were standing desks! The whole thing really was like a parody version of Silicon Valley interview blunders.

    3. Not Gonna Say*

      Can you imagine the discrimination complaints? How many disabled/elderly people (myself included) would find it extremely difficult to sit in a beanbag chair, much less get out of one at the end of the interview?

      1. Meg*

        I’m having a flash to an early episode of the Mindy Project where she’s visiting her neighbor’s high school…they end up in the student lounge area and there’s only beanbag chairs. After she makes a random kid move because “I’m an adult, get up” there’s a hilarious scene where Mindy Kaling is trying to sit down in, get comfortable in, and then get up from the beanbag chair. And she’s able bodied and in her 30’s….

        1. Jessen*

          I’m 31 and threw out my teenage beanbag chair a few months ago. Because seriously, my back. Also because I’m in my 30’s and would like a real chair.

      2. LaSalleUGirl*

        Agreed. My joint issues mean that I can’t sit in either the beanbag or the pub chair. I guess I’d just stand.

      3. ADA*

        Presumably there would still be some obligation for a disabled person to ask for a normal chair, and be denied, before you could bring up the ADA or similar laws.

      4. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

        Certainly not me. I would be furious at the expectation of youth and able-bodied flexibilty.

      5. Elitist Semicolon*

        I wouldn’t want to have to climb up into a pub chair, either. I’m 5′ and essentially would look like a toddler clambering into a high chair. Not really the image I want to convey in an interview.

    4. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

      I would probably have to leave – I can’t sit in either of those. The beanbag is too low, I wouldn’t be able to stand up without assistance, and the bar stool is too high, I would risk falling off.

      It sounds like that interview was trying to filter out older or disabled people by the “choice” of seating offered. Nasty, subtle, but still discrimination.

    5. Delta Delta*

      Perfect time to stand and use the old “I’ve been sitting all day” line.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Right? That’s what I was just thinking. It would be fascinating to properly compare the responses to multiple drinks at lunch before driving back to the office vs one drink at the airport in the evening vs beer in the job interview.

  4. Tigger*

    Wow, if I had an interview like that I would be thrown for a loop too.

    Also Alison- Is it alcohol is work situations week? If so I really like this theme since it is a murky area in the business world!

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Agreed! As a non-drinker I appreciate it when alcohol in the workplace is talked about here.

      1. Tigger*

        I don’t mean to be nosey and feel free to ignore but I have a friend who is newly non-drinker and she isn’t quite sure what to do at work alcohol situations. Do you have any go-to strategies?

        1. Lance*

          Other people in the past have suggested just being casual about it. Just order something non-alcoholic, if it comes to it, and breezily decline invites to drink actual alcohol if they come. No need to make a big deal about it (and indeed, it’s better not to); she’s just doing something that is, to many, perfectly normal.

          1. Tigger*

            Awesome. That is in line with the advice I gave (when in doubt order a cranberry with sprite and no one will ask questions). Thanks!

            1. Zombeyonce*

              I own my teetotaling and love of sweets and always order a Shirley Temple when at bars. Somehow it disarms even the worst of the peer pressure-ers and they immediately forget to chide me for not drinking so they can mock my childish order.

              It doesn’t bother me at all, I just tell them how much I love that drink. Which I do.

              1. Ariaflame*

                In Australia the drink to get is a lemon, lime and bitters. Effectively angastora bitters, lime cordial and sprite or equivalent. Technically the bitters has alcohol but barely detectable in the full drink. It’s what I usually order if others are drinking alcohol.

                1. Media Monkey*

                  in scotland there is an excellent variation of this with vodka added. it is called a long vodka and it is delicious.

              2. Works in IT*

                So far, none of the places my coworkers have proposed as casual occasional meeting place after work have refused my request for hot tea. No one can argue with a sad look and a “you mean I can’t have tea?”

                Those don’t happen frequently though, especially since the one that was scheduled for April 27th last year that literally no one went to because we all agreed that discussing the movie that came out that day next Monday was a better team bonding event than MISSING THE MUCH LOOKED FORWARD TO RELEASE NIGHT!

          2. Clorinda*

            A cheerful “no thanks” goes a long way. It’s very effective if you can say it with a glass of something else in your hand.

        2. anon for today*

          Bring a soda or seltzer if it’s a group thing. I have never once had anyone question why I’m not drinking beer or wine. Most people honestly don’t care. If they do question it say, “Not feeling like alcohol at the moment!” in a casual, friendly tone and that usually suffices.

          Don’t get immediately defensive or launch into why she’s not drinking because that’s going to cause more comments than casually brushing it off or drinking a glass of soda instead.

        3. Lady ALF*

          I’m not the OP but I am also a newly non-drinker. I gave it up because I was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago and committing to not drinking was an easy thing for me to give up for the sake of my kidneys and my general health.

          I still go to office parties where there is drinking like the Christmas Party. My go to drink now is Club soda with a lime wedge. My alcoholic drink was Gin & Club Soda with a lime wedge. So I don’t get many side eyes or questions about why I’m not drinking.

          If someone does start pushing the alcohol at me or, like at a recent supper, kept suggesting/telling me how good y drink is or asking if I ever tried x drink. I reply with “oh, I dont’ drink anymore” or “I can’t drink because of my diabetes” or if they are pushing sugary drinks (margarita, pina colda) I just wince, groan and say “Oh my diabetes” But as you can see, I have no problems talking about my health issues. We are a close knit office and while I felt shame at first about my diagnosis, now I’m to the point that crap it happened, just get on with life.

          If your friend isn’t cool about discussing why they don’t drink, then I’d suggest the old standbys, “No thank you, I’m driving.” “No thank you” “I’m good with soda, thanks” “oh, you took it upon yourself to order me a drink I didn’t ask for? Thanks so much but I’m not drinking tonight”

          But I’ve always found, whether at work or high school parties, if you have a drink in your hand, people generally don’t notice if it is alcoholic or not. and if they do, No thank you is a complete sentence.

        4. Tinybutfierce*

          Seconding Lance below, acting like it’s not a big deal has been the best way I’ve found to deal with it! Just a simple “oh, I don’t drink” said casually usually does the trick. If anyone ever presses for more details, you can just follow up with whatever feels right/most applicable, based on how open you feel like being, etc: I don’t for personal/religious/medical reasons, I just don’t like it, I’d rather not go into it but I just don’t, etc etc. I’ve found most people take their cues from you, so if you talk about it casually like it’s not a big deal, then it’s not a big deal!
          If she’s at an event where it’s being served, having a non-boozy drink in hand goes a long ways towards someone trying to give you one or ask why you’re without.

          1. Ellen*

            I’ve been invited to more parties because I dont drink! Built in designated driver, right here. Plus, I can dance, play games, have fun without one, and have demonstrated that I can and will.

          2. Anonymouse*

            My go-to response if they press after I say “I don’t drink” is “I get violent when I have alcohol”.

        5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I drink only when I feel like it, which isn’t all that often. I have never had anyone comment on whatever I’m drinking, unless it looks interesting. If I’m drinking a bright drink, they’ll ask and if the answer is “It’s raspberry lemonade sparkler” then they go “Ooooooh yummy” [half the time they just assume it has booze in it but that’s on them].

          If you don’t work with a bunch of weirdo peer pressure kind of people, it really isn’t something people care about other than a casual discussion of “This cider/beer/cocktail/lemonade/iced tea is delicious” or perhaps a “Argh, don’t order this, it’s gross, guys.”

        6. MissMonsoon*

          I don’t drink because I think alcoholism has it’s own branch on my family tree. People laugh and occasionally call me cute when I order a Shirley Temple. (Why don’t bars have Dr. Pepper?)

          1. T. Boone Pickens*

            It’s funny you ask that because I was asking this same thing with one of my buddies who happens to be a liquor rep. I guess Dr. Pepper isn’t tied to Coke or Pepsi, it’s part of the Dr. Pepper/Snapple group so I guess it varies by state on who stocks it for bars. Some states it’s your Coke rep, some states it’s your Pepsi rep, some states it’s neither. Truly an odd situation.

        7. Clisby*

          Same as if someone brings in a big box of glazed doughnuts (eeeewwww). No thanks.

          1. TardyTardis*

            That’s when I start talking Weight Watchers points, and they stop bugging me,

        8. Oh So Anon*

          Something not to do, at least in most settings/industries, is make a big deal about opting out of internal networking events with a bar because you don’t drink.

          For example, at my workplace, we end a lot of our offsite cross-departmental events with a “social hour” where you get a couple of drink tickets. We’re all responsible adults, so while people appreciate a free drink or two they probably aren’t going to the social hour event to get drunk, and absolutely no one cares what anyone else is drinking. Just get some seltzer water at the bar and try to enjoy some less formal conversation.

          I’d adjust this advice for someone who has Reasons they need to avoid settings with alcohol (recovery, religion). If none of those apply, then focusing on the presence of alcohol can make someone look like they don’t quite get the point.

        9. Anon4This*

          I am coming up on my 10 year sober-versary. It stills feels awkward when facing alcohol in work situations. Mostly I just go along with all the drinking jokes, and avoid activities that would actually involve drinking (like a night out at a bar). If it’s not a specifically ‘we gonna get wasted’ event like just a lunch or holiday dinner I just order soda or something and usually no one notices. Also, it’s more important to protect sobriety than be 100% honest about it, so it’s okay to fudge and blame antibiotics, diet, driving or anything else on not being able to drink right then (for an alcoholic, probably this doesn’t apply to people who abstain for other reasons)

          1. Zombeyonce*

            I get migraines from alcohol so I gave it up years ago, and people immediately apologize for offering it to me when I tell them (generally in a “thank god that doesn’t happen to me” way). I highly recommend that excuse to anyone looking for one. Quick, easy, and impossible to refute

        10. RUKiddingMe*

          I day “I don’t drink” as if it’s a perfectly natural (and it is) thing. No one ever challenges me on it. Maybe because the way I say it is with an expectation that the other person is capable of understanding that choice? IDK…but it’s always been not a problem when I say that.

        11. CrazyPlantLady*

          I rarely get questioned about why I’m not drinking alcohol since I’ll typically have a non-alcoholic drink in my hand. On the rare occasion someone gets pushy with me about it, I just say it interacts with a medication I’m on and change the subject. I’m not on any medication that interacts with alcohol, but it’s an easy out.

          Once, when in a foreign country in a rural village where I knew I wouldn’t be returning any time soon, they were pressing me really hard to take shots of local moonshine at 9am. To get them to stop, I finally said “I’m pregnant and don’t want to hurt the baby”. My colleagues looked at me with shock, but I explained later that I was not pregnant and just didn’t want to do shots of moonshine at 9am while working.

        12. SS Express*

          I’m not a non-drinker, but a tip I’ve read, and one that I do use when I’m not drinking on a particular occasion, is to have a slightly complicated go-to drink (or drinks) and order really intentionally. If you say “oh no I don’t want any beer, I’ll just have a glass of water” it’s easier for people to notice that you aren’t drinking and to wonder why/think you’re missing out and encourage you to drink/otherwise be weird about it. If you say “no thanks, I’ll get a cranberry juice and soda with a slice of lime – tall glass please” it feels like you’re purposely choosing that because you prefer it.

          Obviously don’t choose something that would be inconvenient to make, just something that communicates “I’m participating by drinking the thing I like to drink” instead of “I’m not participating in the same way as everyone else”.

      1. Princess prissypants*

        what is it with people and work bathrooms? How hard is it to a) what happens in the bathroom stays in the bathroom b) don’t make a mess c) clean up after yourself?

        1. Ralph Wiggum*

          Bathroom and kitchen use are both examples of classic Tragedy of the Commons scenarios.

      2. Keyboard Cowboy*

        Everyone currently in the bathroom who wants a bathroom question week, identify yourself. Who’s in here?!!

          1. Fieldpoppy*

            I must confess I would enjoy a bathroom week, but with my hand sort of over my eyes

          2. Red Sky*

            Ha! Shark week is what we call monthly period time in my house so it takes on a whole new connotation when paired with bathroom week!

      3. Mockingjay*

        I still haven’t recovered from the podcast you did with Ask a Clean Person. *shudders*

      4. gaa*

        And I still think you should recruit some longtime members that understand this website as Moderators.

      5. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

        I’d s(#)it still for that!

        We could beat on topics like “able bodied people using the disabled stall as a changing room”, and other weird and offbeat subjects.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Actually, I would rather that when people change clothes that they use *some* stall rather than out in the middle.

  5. Competent Commenter*

    Back in the early days of the first tech wave, I had a meeting with a guy who was developing websites and looking to partner with other freelancers on client projects. I was a freelance writer and designer and this seemed like it could work really well.

    But he conducted the meeting outside in the park area near his office, while actively playing with a hacky sack, and wanted me to play too. He said the only rule in hacky sack is that you never apologize (for missing, dropping, etc.). I played along to be polite, but immediately knew I’d never want to partner with him. I don’t need that. It wasn’t professional or polite or a reasonable way to conduct a thoughtful meeting where you’re trying to ask questions and make notes. It made me feel ridiculous, especially since I’m not very coordinated and never played games like soccer, and was wearing business casual attire. As a smallish female person who was older than him, I felt like I was being hazed or at least being subjected to a trial to see how cool I was.

    I had absolutely no interest in working with him after that, nor would I have referred clients or other potential partners to him. I left behind the “try to be cool” thing when I finished high school. I wasn’t going to buy into it with some jackass I didn’t even know.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      This is exactly what I was thinking when I read the letter. Well, not this, but just someone who is so extreme that he goes off the spectrum. Conversely, you could interview with people who instruct you to answer yes, sir and yes, ma’am. That would be just as intensely weird as, hey, I’m gonna kick it on my beanbag chair and you tell me a little about yourself.
      These are not normal. Remove it from factors you use to gauge normalcy. Keep it for, “oh my god, do I have a story to top that” when one of your friends says, “I saw a guy feeding a squirrel today. On the subway.”

    2. MissDisplaced*

      In a way, wasn’t this a good thing though?
      I mean, talk about transparency! Based on the hacky sack, you pretty much could see exactly what he’d be like and what his business philosophy was.

      Granted, it sucked if you needed the job though.
      But I wish all bosses showed their true selves like that. Never apologize! Lol!

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Totally agree, MissDisplaced. I had many clients and a few project partners over the years I was self-employed and very few were outright jerks, but it would have been great if the jerks had been as obvious as this guy so I could have avoided them!

    3. Chope*

      being subjected to a trial to see how cool I was.

      You were. You flunked.
      You were also subjecting him to a trial to see how conventional he was. He flunked.
      You both made the right decision not to partner with each other. The process worked.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Hmm. I do think you have a point. We definitely ruled each other out, and that’s fine. But about whether my complaint about his behavior was that it wasn’t conventional…I don’t think so. If he’d wanted to sit in the park to meet, or someplace else not a standard work setting (except say, a strip club), that would be fine. It was the fact that we were supposed to be having a business conversation to share information—I believe he initiated the meeting—and he was obviously focusing on the hacky sack as much as he was on what I was saying. I think that kind of divided attention is usually considered rude, whether or not you’re conventional. And I couldn’t take notes, look at the websites he’d developed, show him my work, etc., so it wasn’t a very useful business meeting and not a good use of either of our time.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          What if he had sat down and pretended to give you his undivided attention… when he obviously wanted to chat while kicking a hacky sack around. But say he did sit down for a normal interview and he seemed nice, and you took the job, only to find out later he was a jerk who kicked a hacky sack around all the time.

          I know, I know! He wasted your time. But better an hour wasted than a year! And you got a great quirky interviewing story to tell out of it.

          1. Competent Commenter*

            Agreed. I never lost any sleep over it. It was just one potential client meeting among many. But today’s letter reminded me of it.

  6. voyager1*

    Aww bro you should have asked for a mountain dew and a bag of doritos and you could walk out knowing you NAILED that interview.

    Geese a beer and beanbag… Was it at least a good beer… wait don’t answer that!

    Sorry I don’t have anything really helpful to add other then I hope you land a great job somewhere.

    1. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

      OMG! My lunch in high school was Mr Pibb and a bag of Doritos.

      Which is the kind of thing that “beer & beanbag” stunt reminds me of – high school.

  7. NYC Redhead*

    Part of me thinks this might be a psychological trick to see how interviewees respond to spontaneity or the unexpected. If I were being interviewed, I would be counting how many times they actually drank the beer.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I went to power move as well. Oh look. I spelled dick wrong. Because he was establishing that he can do anything, how do you react? Are you shocked, annoyed, do you roll with it? Are you the person he can call at 3 in the morning with his million dollar idea and jump on coordinating a meeting with the players? I know how I’ll find out. I’ll ask if you can cite a time when you were asked to do something last minute and with limited resources and how you handled it. I’ll shock you!

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Could be. Or it could really be exactly how they are and how the company is.
      Might be a dream job for some!

      1. Pam*

        Yeah, that manager who took all of his staff but one (the older female)out drinking and kept doubling down on how it was her fault that she didn’t fit in

      2. MintLavendar*

        Agree! I think power moves are far less common than a lot of people think. Whereas most of the places I’ve worked have been fine, at some level, with the occasional afternoon beer. There’s nothing inherently unprofessional about drinking a single low-proof alcoholic beverage during the day, which is all OP actually knows about the culture of the place (outside of answers to questions in the interview, etc).

        People are allowed to extrapolite all they like, but to pretend it’s an objective statement of their likely culture and not just an expression of their own personal biases (the ‘I’m not judging anyone, but it’s unprofessional to have a beer during an interview’ take lol) is just not correct and has the impact of reinforcing a lot of norms of professionalism that aren’t indications of anything.

    3. Bratmon*

      I think you’re overthinking it. Especially for a small indie gaming company, the interviewer is almost certainly just trying to signal that this is a very casual company, and maybe filter out people who aren’t okay with other people drinking at work.

      In that industry, companies trying to look super laid-back is way more common than deliberately stressful interviews.

  8. Roscoe*

    I think it really comes down to “Know your audience”. My last job was pretty relaxed. We interviewed on couches, they had t-shirts on (I wore a suit), that type of thing. It made me feel more at ease and less like I had to perform in the interview. And it ended up being a great place to work. I have also realized a long time ago that I don’t fit in with overly formal workplaces. So for me, I was able to not worry as much about exactly how I answered each question and that type of thing

  9. Aaron*

    I’ll be honest (full disclosure: I’m a 30 year old, male, very progressive millennial manager here): I’d be ecstatic if this happened in an interview. And I’m not really a beer drinker! I’ve worked for one company in particular like this before (we used to have a kegerator out in a ‘back yard’ complete with picnic tables, a stream/pond, and a garden — many days people would have a single beer, while working, around 3-4 PM), and that kind of relaxed office vibe is right up my alley. We had the most intelligent team I’ve worked with, and everyone worked hard, cared deeply about their work, and was super productive.

    But, I can totally see how this culture wouldn’t be for everyone.

    1. L. S. Cooper*

      Right? I’m job hunting and I kinda want to know what this company is and if they have any openings for a web developer…

    2. EddieSherbert*

      My job has a similar environment. When I was interviewed, I was told ahead of time to dress casually ahead of time, was interviewed by a guy in a hoodie sweatshirt, and there were a few people with beers around the office (it was a Friday).

      I honestly really appreciated the heads up notice that the interview would be casual; I was a bit suspicious (is this a trick?!) but I didn’t feel blind-sided when it actually was casual!

      1. Ella*

        To be honest, while everything you mentioned here would definitely be a positive for me, someone actively cracking a beer while interviewing me would be pretty off putting. I appreciate a casual atmosphere, and being warned in advance to dress casually is both considerate and shows they’re fairly self aware. But to me there’s a big difference between seeing a few people around the office having a beer on a Friday (which is an atmosphere I’d appreciate) and someone actively cracking open a cold one while interviewing me. The latter would make me worry they weren’t able to tell when it’s appropriate to relax a bit at work and when it’s time to take things seriously.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I would agree with that as well! Downing a beer on a bean bag during my interview would probably be equivalent level of annoying to me as going into someone’s office to interview and they’re eating a messy lunch (when it wasn’t a planned lunch interview). Just… something that would be off-putting and feels vaguely disrespectful to me.

        2. MintLavendar*

          This just seems like a bizarre distinction for me. You associate “beer” with “relaxing” but it’s clear that this is a company where people have a beer while they work sometimes. The vast majority of people aren’t going to notice any level of impairment at all with one beer; functionally, it’s no different than drinking a glass of water during an interview, *other than* popular conceptions of professionalism. But if it’s not actually an indication of performance or impact (ie, I do the exact same work at the exact same level of quality whether I’m drinking a beer or drinking a Diet Coke) then why should we perpetuate a judgement that “this is unprofessional, because it just is”?

    3. Was there a trade off?*

      But, how were the hours at this company? I’ve heard of some companies giving all these perks (ping pong table! video games! free beer!) but the hours were killer.

      1. pretzelgirl*

        I had a series of phone interviews at well known loan company. It was for a customer service/sales position. They had a million perks. The down side being you worked 60 hour weeks. They were very upfront about it. I am not that kind of person. So I declined moving forward.

      2. Tau*

        Also where my mind went straight away. When interviewing, I keep a careful eye out for both excessive formality and potentially dangerous levels of start-up culture, because I may like a casual environment but I do not have time for the “oh we are so cool and chill and fun to work for that you never want to stop working, right??” nonsense.

      3. KayEss*

        Absolutely this. A big red flag for me is anywhere that offers daily meals as an ongoing perk. That just means they’re expecting you to be at work during meal hours.

        1. 1234*

          Is that daily MEALS or daily LUNCH? I have a family member who’s job offers them free lunch every day they’re in the office. They do not get free breakfast and dinner.

          1. KayEss*

            Some high-end tech places (like I want to say Google does this) offer breakfast and dinner as well. IIRC Google has a whole compound where pretty much everything you’d ever need is on-site, which to some people says convenience but to me just screams “we expect you to spend so much time at work that running basic errands will be impossible.”

            1. Ella*

              Exactly. From what I’ve read/heard, it’s very much expected that if you get dinner there, you also continue to work past dinner time.

              1. AlekseyFy*

                It really isn’t, at least among the technical staff. I conclude most every work day by getting dinner.

            2. Devdas Bhagat*

              That would actually be rather convenient for those of us who work later hours and find that stores are closed by the time we leave work. I would rather have my weekends for things I find interesting rather than being forced to do essential things like shopping for food.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m a mid-30’s woman and wouldn’t flinch at the setup. There would suddenly be cider available after awhile though because I’m not a beer fan. If they want to fight me, I’ll settle for a case of MD20/20. Come for me and Mark Cuban and I will fiiiiiiiiiiiight yoooooou, maaaaaaaaaaan.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        The bean bag and beer wouldn’t faze me alone… BUT, I would be alert for other indicators of craziness that go along w/startups. Plus, I’m a nerd but not a gamer, so I’d be hesitant. Could be fun or nightmare, but I’d worry I’d become office mom.

        I think they showed the way it is though, and what constitutes professional for them, so yeah, obviously not OP’s scene and that’s ok. Better they didn’t hide what they were.

    5. Bortus*

      I would be one of those people that would be HORRIFIED at this type of culture. I go to work to WORK. Not bro around. I don’t drink much (and pretty much never drink beer) and certainly not while on the job. Yeah so Im uptight – whatever. This would be a clear sign to me if I were interviewing that this was NOT the right place for me.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        If you don’t like it, that’s a great way to self select out or mutually agree upon it not being a good fit, whichever. But seriously, most “bros” aren’t bad people and aren’t doing things to make you uncomfortable. They’re just being themselves. They don’t necessarily view you as “uptight” or any other negative way, they just know that you’re different people who operate differently.

        I know we’ve all been hurt by some kind of stereotype in the past but I really wish we’d understand that is a dangerous mindset to enter into and stop the us vs them kind of thing.

        I go to work to work too. Drinking a beer at work isn’t the same as getting wasted. Drinking steadily throughout the workday isn’t the norm anywhere and that’s an issue if it were happening. A beer during a meeting is just like cracking a soda or juice. I’ll bounce off the walls if I have enough caffeine.

        1. KayEss*

          The thing that is at the heart of a workplace being “bro-y,” particularly in tech and double particularly in video games, is that an informal culture going all the way to the top means formal complaints are likely to be brushed off or swept under the table. Is Mr. Beer-in-a-Beanbag going to back you up with HR if someone is harassing you? What if behavior that’s common in the office makes you uncomfortable, is he going to take you seriously or is the problem that you’re just too uptight to see that the COO sneaking up and humping you or smacking your genitals (actual major game industry company example) is all in good fun? An individual bro can be fine, but a bro culture is frequently innately hostile to non-bros (and even to bros who aren’t comfortable with certain escalations).

          1. Washi*

            Yeah, no one is saying they would never work with men who had played lacrosse in college. Bro culture is different, and in my experience, can be extra harmful because a lot of the times these guys see themselves as hip and progressive and are loathe to admit that they’ve created an exclusive culture.

          2. Ra94*

            But then formal cultures can have plenty of problems with harassment, and sometimes a tendency towards formality/hierarchy can also make it intimidating to report and hard to believe. I think bro culture comes with a particular set of workplace issues, which you describe well, but it’s not like other styles of workplace are by default based in equality and respect.

            1. MintLavendar*

              This. There’s definitely some correlation between “bro culture” and deep cultural problems, but I would say it’s not even causation. Beer and bean bag chairs don’t make people sexually harass their co-workers, and they don’t make the COO a person who won’t take those complaints seriously. In the MeToo era we’ve seen plenty of places with very rigid and traditional hierarchies with the exact same problems.

              I would never take a casual culture as a signal that people get harassed or discriminated against or that complaints about those things aren’t taken seriously. Those are problems of *organizations*.

    6. Jessie the First (or second)*

      But a guy plopping in a beanbag chair and having a beer during an interview isn’t a sign that the actual work environment would be what you describe (“relaxed office vibe” with light drinking sometimes).

      It could be a sign of a relaxed vibe, but it could instead be a sign of an awful dude bro culture, or a sign of terrible hours that they feebly try to make up for by having random gimmicky office perks.

      It’s a move that is so obviously, blatantly, out of the norm that to do it and, like, not mention it or discuss it feels more like it’s one of the latter two, because of *course* the interviewee is going to do a double take, and many will then wonder how much they can relax and let their guard down, and if you aren’t a jerk don’t you want your interviewees to not needlessly stress? I feel like a healthy-but-chill office would involve an interviewer saying something – acknowledge that it’s unusual, talk about the environment there.

    7. NW Mossy*

      I’d be completely shocked to see it, but that’s because of the industry I’m in. When the main job is to handle millions of dollars of other people’s money, that tends to come with an expectation that people aren’t super-casual.

      Even if I wasn’t in this line, though, I think I’d still have a bias for a more professional environment because I manage people. I cannot picture myself having to put someone on a PIP, ask them to work on controlling their flatulence, or discuss a serious personal crisis of theirs from a bean bag. These conversations are hard enough with the structure of a table between us and real chairs!

      1. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

        I admit, if I had to “work on controlling (my) flatulence” I would probably lose my job. Some things are beyond my control… ;)

  10. TC*

    I interviewed somewhere and accepted the beer. Granted, I knew one of the two interviewers and knew the kind of workplace it was (marketing agency).

    1. Media Monkey*

      ditto. actually it was my first proper job and the interviewer suggested going to the pub. i hesitated when she asked what i wanted and then decided to go with my ususal choice. i am sure i got the job as it was the same drink as the interviewer!

  11. L. S. Cooper*

    It seems to me that tech companies have a reputation for their relaxed bro culture, gaming companies even moreso, and an indie tech company probably tosses in that underdog/startup culture into the mix. In my (admittedly slightly limited) experience with startups… yeah, this is common. The casual culture and the drinking are part of the perks they advertise to get developers. If that’s not your culture, it might not be the right field.

    (Also, Alison, the link is broken– it has an extra “>” at the end of the URL.)

  12. Cobol*

    I know this doesn’t add much, but I love Alison’s answer for this.

    OP, I do think it’s worth looking at your own definitions. There are best practices for interviewing, but professional is a category of many different things, not a definition.

  13. Ginger Sheep*

    One issue that hasn’t been raised : this type of interview might make a whole lot of female candidates awfully uncomfortable, because it is almost impossible to sit down in a bean bag in a straight interview skirt without exposing parts you weren’t planning to expose to your interviewer.

    1. techPerson*

      I am used to set-ups where there’s a beanbag and then multiple other non-beanbag chairs in the same little room. Often there’s only the *one* beanbag in one of these set-ups.
      Based on the letter, I didn’t assume that the interviewer had to sit in a beanbag as well.
      But if they did, it would also be terrible from a disability perspective. It’s not uncommon for people to be unable to safely and comfortable sit down in and get up from bean bags.

      1. techPerson*

        *Interviewee, I meant, instead of interviewer. My kingdom for an edit button…

      2. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        Agreed, but I might be uncomfortable with my interviewer at that awkward looking-up-at-you angle if I’m wearing a skirt and sitting in a regular chair while he’s on a bean bag. I just think bean bags are for brainstorming, not for interviews.

  14. Ahead Fish*

    When I was first starting out, I went on an interview for a small startup where I had to ride on a bicycle to the local brewery. I don’t mind drinking, but I don’t drink a lot and don’t weigh a lot, so I’m kind of a lightweight. But because I was young and stupid, I felt like I had no option but to have a beer with this guy at the brewery — it felt weird to decline a drink at a venue specifically for beer. I definitely could feel the effects of the alcohol. Not sure if the interviewer could tell. Then we rode back to the office. I did not get that job, and I’m okay with that, just happy to have a funny story :p.

    1. sacados*

      That’s so strange. Brewery aside, I personally would be pretty turned off by an interview that asked me to ride a bike, too. (Mostly because I’d be spending the entire time going “don’t crash, don’t crash …” as I desperately tried to remember how many dozens of years it had been since the last time I actually rode a bike.)

  15. 1234*

    I know of some companies where they have a fully stocked bar in their office that people could help themselves to. Of course, some of these companies had clients in the alcohol business.

    OldJob had many an in-office happy hour/celebration/team bonding event where alcohol was involved. While I’m not a big drinker, I do socially drink so it wasn’t a big deal to me. However, nobody was cracking a beer while conducting an interview but in my interview the phrase “work hard play hard” was used.

  16. Keyboard Cowboy*

    Considering it was at a game company… I’d probably want to grab as many perks and free beers as I could before my title shipped and I got laid off, too.

    1. Keyboard Cowboy*

      In seriousness, what Alison said about homogeneity is absolutely true. It’s probably a pretty safe bet that an interviewer who cracks a beer indicates a bro culture. It’s unfortunately pretty common in tech and not a lot of companies – especially young, small tech companies – are fully aware of how exclusive it is.

      An interesting side note – I was recently diagnosed with ADHD and started treatment (I’m a young programmer, 27, female – super cool to find out that I had a condition for the past ~15 years instead of just being chronically lazy and morally defunct). ADHD is super common in tech, I think moreso than many other fields for some reason not fully discovered. The most common treatment is with prescription stimulants (Ritalin or Adderall) – which are unsafe to take with alcohol. So you’d think that the tech industry would be extra sensitive to the higher percentage of their employees who can’t drink while working….

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Oh man…if only they all followed the advice that you’re not supposed to mix the medication with drinking. Everyone on ADHD medication I know drink and it makes me clinch a bit knowing it’s not supposed to be happening but it’s a “MYOB” situation there. So I have a feeling that there’s a lot of that going on if you have a higher percentage of medicated employees.

        1. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

          I suspect some people are taking the instruction “limit alcoholic beverages” (which is what my pharmacist told me) and mis-interpreting that to mean “don’t get drunk” or “drink less than you used to” rather than “one drink now and again is probably okay.” (I’m a light drinker anyhow, so for me the question is whether I can have one glass of something interesting at a party or need to abstain altogether.)

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Very true. A lot of the advice is “be careful with drinking with this medication” which to some of us means “no more drinking at all, too risky” and others say “Okay so my definition of moderation is a-okay”.

            1. Keyboard Cowboy*

              It seems like the main risk with the XR (Concerta) that I take is that it can turn it sort of into SR? And considering that I had a very bad time on 10mg of SR plus coffee, I’m very afraid of 18mg all at once because I had a beer at an offsite work lunch?

              I read the side effects online and got pretty scared. Probably overreacting but I’d rather be safe than sorry!

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                I don’t blame you in the slightest, I’m the same way. That’s why I flinch when people I know who are on meds start drinking. It’s never worth it for me.

    2. Nanc*

      This! My dad was laid off in the silicon valley in 1978 and took a job at Atari. In the 1970s it was still OK to smoke at the office and even on parts of the manufacturing floor. And at Atari most people in his area smoked “funny” cigarettes. He did stay long enough to get the free game console and a bunch of games (including a test version of Adventure) but he said he couldn’t not handle the contact high headaches (literal and figurative!).
      Kind of wish we had kept that original console!

  17. Steve*

    A few thoughts come to mind:

    Officially, you can’t be discriminated against because of your age, race or gender. Unofficially, they have this new buzzword: Cultural Fit. They can discriminate for ANY reason and say YOU ARE NOT A GOOD CULTURAL FIT.

    As far as drinking at work, I’ve got very mixed feelings. It seems like these “tach companies” give you a fridge full of beer to distract you from the poor benefits package….

    The closest I’ve been to the other side of this coin is when trying to put together a rock band. I would interview musicians at a bar before we even played music together. I was testing for a few things. Would they show up on time or at least text and let me know they would be late if having trouble finding parking? How would they act socially? Would they have one or two drinks and stay composed or would they order shot after shot? They would tell me a great deal about who they were without me even asking any questions.

    1. Anoncorporate*

      Yeah – my issue isn’t with informality, but the interviewers “quirky” interviewing style might indicate other unflattering things about their work culture.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah that’s the underbelly and dark way to look at it. The other option is to fully regulate businesses and demand they act like the government with strict hiring procedures. This means they have a check-list to hit all those qualifications and bypass any “fit” qualifiers. Then you end up with people who make the office absolutely miserable and you cannot fire them unless you document the heck out of it and put them on a PIP and flush them out that long route, so for a few years the office is full of bad-vibes and borderline hostility from someone who hates Jane for existing, etc.

      That sounds horrifying to me. I am not even eligible for most of those jobs because of all their strict requirements for education. So I’m punished and would be held in a low paying position, that would hold me back from my full potential because I was born to lower middle class laborers and had no access to higher education. Also I’m bad at school because it’s not structured for my learning. So then we just flush down the citizens who are now discriminated against because of other reasons, which often boil down to be issues with lower class individuals, thus holding down minorities yet again. It’s a no-win situation, ever. Because we’re dealing with humans and humans are notoriously judgemental and like their own comforts!

      The “perks” in lieu of benefits is a thing for a lot of small or new companies, usually it’s snacks and soda and maybe flex-time if you’re really lucky.

      1. 1234*

        The “perks” in lieu of benefits is a thing for a lot of small or new companies, usually it’s snacks and soda and maybe flex-time if you’re really lucky.

        I had a job interview that included a tour of the office, where they showed me their sparkling clean kitchen filled with snacks and a fully stocked fridge for employees to help themselves. The lady interviewing me made sure to tell me about this “perk.”

        Reviews on Glassdoor indicated from multiple people that there was a lack of work/life balance at this company. Wonder if one correlated with the other?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Very likely!

          We have great benefits and a fully stocked drinks fridge and I have so much downtime during the week [shocker]. So yeah, it can be a sign if you’re seeing complaints but it’s not always a sign.

          1. EinJungerLudendorff*

            I would definitely be wary if they present it like a significant perk instead of a nice extra.
            To me that would be a sign that they don’t have their priorities in order, or that they’re trying to coax me with small favours in exchange for big demands.

        2. DataGirl*

          I interviewed at a place like this. They were very excited to show me their cereal bar; probably people were grateful to be fed at work because you’d need to live on cereal to get by on the horrible pay they offered.

      2. My boss is an idiot*

        This isn’t the only alternative to the work culture (potentially) described in the letter. Bro culture is just as exclusive, as it primarily benefits middle to upper class White Americans. I understand the frustrations around government hiring, which tries to automate things to the point of stupidity. In general, it would be nice if humans weren’t prejudiced/terrible, but that is in an ideal world.

  18. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    It’s all about adjusting to whatever environment you find yourself in. This will help in most life situations. If someone is more relaxed and offers you a beer, you go with that flow. If someone shows up stiff, you sit up a little straighter and “lay along” so to speak. Otherwise go in at your most professional and learn to wing it a bit, it makes things so much easier in the long run than to just wonder if they’re going to be put-off with your demeanor.

    This of course only works if you’re happy shifting it up if you eventually get the job. Otherwise, act the way you want them to understand is your usual baseline so that there’s no crossed wires there. If you’re not going to be relaxed and comfortable in this sort of place, then you shouldn’t try to ‘fake it’ and get a job you’re going to be miserable in!

    I have worked in medical offices where all you do is show up and keep it professional to a fault, given the confidentiality and the sensitivity of the job duties and then there’s other laid back, nothing is ever going to be “that serious” production facility offices. It’s all about feeling good about how you’re presenting and knowing what face to show at any given time.

    This is where it’s important to remember this is a two way street and you’re scoping out the place if you want to be there either. If you’re not down to bro-down, then skate the interview through or even excuse yourself from it if it’s a hard-no.

  19. Asenath*

    I would know instantly that the job was a bad fit – I don’t drink, when I did drink, I hated beer, and I like comfortable chairs – I’d be worried that this was the type of place that had faddy seats at the desks, or balls to balance on or something.

    I doubt they’d offer me an interview though – me being female and old.

    1. cheluzal*

      You know you’d be hit with Nerf balls all day, too.
      I would never even interview at a company like this because of the potential.
      I don’t drink, never have, and would’ve walked out and not even started the interview.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I suppose sometimes you don’t know that going in. But “gaming company” HELLO!
        I’d feel like the office mom.

      2. Fey*

        Ah, jeez. The Nerf balls. I also got some actually collected from around the office and hand-delivered to my desk – by the CTO, no less! – because he knew how much I hated them. He was such a child. We were the same age (late 20s at the time)!

        It was cute for a minute, this sort of bro-y office environmen, but ultimately it’s not for me. Just want a quiet environment, no Nerf balls or ping pong or bloody bean bags. Then I want to go home.

  20. Lisa*

    Somewhat related to this post. When I first started my career out of college, I interviewed with a women who put her feet, her BARE FEET up on her desk while she was interviewing me. Not all the way up cross ankle style but more like the balls her feet and toes were peeking up over the lip of her desk, (and they were dirty) while she kind of hugged her knees. I finished the interview well enough and even though this seemed like an odd red flag to me I did accept the role when it was offered. She turned out to be one the greatest managers I have ever had in my career. She was absolutely brilliant at her job and the way she manged people. She set me on a path of success in my career to this day through her mentoring, dedication and general attitude in those years I worked for her. She was a unicorn who somehow was able to perfectly balance being incredibly laid back while still being a top notch manager who got all the things done and done well. Thinking back to that interview I almost balked over the whole feet thing but i’m glad I didn’t, taking that role was the best thing I could have done for my career.

    1. Not Gonna Say*

      Ooh, I had one like that too! Hippie chick, who sat cross-legged in the chair after kicking off her shoes. Best! Manager! Ever!

      1. Lisa*

        While I will not go as far as saying she was a hippie, this was NYC and she was a transplant from the west coast who called everyone “dude”, draw whatever conclusions you

    2. EinJungerLudendorff*

      It’s great that it all worked out, but shoving smelly undressed body parts on the table with someone you just met isn’t a good sign for almost anywhere, and IMO you were right consider that a yellow flag at the very least :)

  21. Lobsterman*

    I used to be a high-functioning alcoholic, so I know what that looks like.

    Cracking a beer while giving an interview is what that looks like.

    Not the end of the world, but definitely a data point.

    1. Forkeater*

      Yeah this. I’m not at alcoholic but in my forties found my drinking had crept up quite a bit and frankly it was extremely difficult to wrestle it back down. I no longer brush off day or daily drinking as no big deal.

    2. Roscoe*

      Man, seriously. Now the dude is an alcoholic because he had a beer in the afternoon? That is just the type of office it is. I wish we could stop judging people because they do something that you don’t deem morally appropriate

      1. SometimesALurker*

        “I have had X experience, and the thing you’re describing looks like that. It’s a data point.”
        I don’t see moralizing in that at all, and I’m confused as to why you do.

    3. DHal*

      I used to be a high-functioning alcoholic, so I know what that looks like.
      Cracking a beer while giving an interview is what that looks like

      Statistical sampling does not appear to be Lobersterman’s forte.

      1. Asenath*

        Lobsterman never claimed to be doing statistical sampling – said “a data point”, which is the exact opposite.

  22. KayEss*

    Part of this is definitely exacerbated by it being a video game company: take every question about “how formal/casual do I dress for this interview” people ask about tech or nonprofits or startups and multiply it by a thousand for the games industry. They are ABSOLUTELY hiring for culture fit (for good or ill) and candidates are so plentiful that they can and will count it against you if you aren’t magically predicting and hitting whatever narrow band of casual-ness is native to that specific office. They pretty consciously and deliberately want employees they can hang out and drink a beer with, which is why the industry is such a disaster of chill cishet white dudes.

    Overall, I’d say if you get a vibe in the interview that you wouldn’t enjoy working somewhere, you aren’t going to enjoy working there. The interview is where employers are on what they consider to be their most welcoming and friendly behavior—if it’s not friendly or welcoming to you, that is never going to change. (And if they’re deliberately acting outside the norm as some kind of test… do you want to work in a place where mind games like that are the norm?)

    1. Anoncorporate*

      My suspicion about this interviewer is they are testing the OP on purpose. You can seem chill and informal without popping out a beer and beanbag.

      1. Ann, you perfect sunflower*

        I just want to say I’m going to interpret “‘disaster’ of chill cishet white dudes” as the standard common noun going forward, same as a gaggle of geese or school of fish.

    2. Vonnie*

      They pretty consciously and deliberately want employees they can hang out and drink a beer with, which is why the industry is such a disaster of chill cishet white dudes.

      Why do you assume that Latinos and women (or both) are opposed to being able to drink a beer? You’re the one who is stereotyping. I’m a proud Latina and active in the Hispano chamber and I’d love this environment!!!

      1. KayEss*

        It’s not literally “do you drink beer y/n,” it’s shorthand for “are you my kind of person, who I’d choose to hang out with outside of work because you have similar tastes, interests, and behaviors to me.” The latter is a selection process that leads to homogeneous workplace cultures where, say, everyone loves golf so all workplace events are centered around golfing.

      2. My boss is an idiot*

        It’s not just about drinking beer. If this workplace fits the description commenters are suspecting them of, the workplace is also potentially sexist, racist, other -ists, rife with sexual harassment, and with a reward structure based on favoritism rather than skills or job performance. In other words, dysfunctional. Also, workplaces that center on drinking activities will effectively exclude otherwise competent employees who don’t drink, including those who belong to certain religions. (Of course, I could be wrong about all of this – maybe these people just like to have a good time. But the gaming industry does not have a good look.)

      3. Different Username This Time*

        Thank you for this. I’m a black woman. I’ve worked and thrived in organizations that have some of those “fun” elements of bro culture like craft beer at work and foosball tables. Heck, the organizations I’ve worked at with those cultures have also been reasonably diverse, with other women and/or PoC who enjoy cracking a tallboy at the job or challenging their boss to a game of air hockey.

        There are few things that irritate me more than when women and/or PoCs get used as examples of people who are necessarily alienated by informal work environments. Not every visible minority has interests opposite of those coded as white/male/cishet and not every office with an informal culture devolves into a dumpster fire of -isms.

        (I also know how to play golf, but that’s neither here nor there.)

        1. Ella*

          It’s not that they’d only hire someone who likes beer, it’s that a hiring process that focuses heavily on “culture fit” or “finding someone I want to be friends with” opens itself up to a *lot* of internalized discrimination. No matter how much you personally like beer, if a 20-something white guy in the tech industry who historically has had a very homogenous friend group of primarily other 20-something white guys bases his hiring decisions on culture fit, chances are greatly increased that he’ll look at people different than him and, even if it’s subconscious, think “here’s someone who looks nothing like my friends, so probably won’t fit in with this company.”

      4. TechWorker*

        Even when it *is* about drinking beer there are disadvantages to being the only woman.. I hang out with my mostly male colleagues a lot and have to be super careful to drink slower than everyone else because I’m smaller/lighter and have a worse alcohol tolerance.

        That’s not the main thing though – it’s more that it’s really easy to end up thinking you’re just hiring people who are ‘a good fit’ when actually that translates to ‘are they basically identical to in appearance and experiences as the people who already work here’. That gives you a pretty monolithic culture. (My company is changing… but verrrrry slowly)

  23. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    To me the beer and the beanbag chair wouldn’t be deal-breakers. However, since I am female and kind of old, they might signal things about that workplace that I might not like. For example, too male, too young, too many hours?

  24. Anoncorporate*

    Ugh. I’m not a formal person whatsoever, but the beer and bean bag thing reads “bro culture” to me – I would be tempted to stay far away. But it does depend on context – if they seem like a good company and the interviewer seems sincere about the work they do I might consider.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It does… but I would assume that at most gaming development companies.
      Did OP know this was game dev going in? Not sure why they would apply for that type of job (small, funky, bro culture) if they know they prefer a more formal and professional environment. I always avoid jobs that say they are “boutique agency” because = crazy.

      1. Anoncorporate*

        I missed the part about it being a gaming company, but people who are new to the industry don’t always know the culture of it. If I had known that the consulting industry was full of cocky upper class white men (which for some reason I didn’t!) I would have studied something else!

    2. Veryanon*

      Yep, this. I’m 50 and a woman, so I’m guessing I totally would not fit int there. Ugh.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It depends on your mentality. I know 50 year old women who are fine with this kind of thing. Then again nothing rattles my mother, personally or professionally. So I probably got that form her.

        1. My boss is an idiot*

          I think the issue is more whether the *employer* would be okay with a 50-yr old woman. A lot of commenters are suspecting this company having an overall bro culture – not just being fun loving and kicking back with a beer.

  25. Lepidoptera*

    LW didn’t mentioned being offered a beer themselves, but I would be so incredibly annoyed with that. I would basically be forced to share medical information with a complete stranger before even being considered for hire, or else just decline the drink and be seen as uptight and thus not a “good fit”.

    1. ArtK*

      If someone takes a polite decline as being “uptight,” then that’s not someone you want to work with in any case. I don’t think that being offered alcohol is such a huge issue. You certainly don’t have to reveal medical information.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Most people take a ‘No thank you’ just fine when you decline a drink. As stated in the previous comment, if they don’t, they are over-the-top and you should just not want anything to do with them or their company.

      Even “bros” take “no thanks, man.” with stride, they aren’t going to pin you down and bust out the beer funnel, it’s not the movies, dude.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Seriously, I’m all for this kind of culture until the jerks come out to play within it. I would also decline a drink because I only drink when I feel like it and an interview is rarely the time I feel like it, it has nothing to do with health issues.

      The ONLY time I’ve been treated poorly was literally in high school and got a snarky “Oh did your mom teach you to say that?” from some knuckledragger. And I was all “LOL this frigging guy, I’ll throw his shoes in the fire pit the first chance I get.” Sadly the chance didn’t come up, we weren’t staying long. We were just picking up my friend’s brother. Everyone else was only offering to be polite not to pressure a person who didn’t want to/couldn’t.

      1. Roscoe*

        That seems like an overreaction. Sure, I don’t like someones words so I’ll destroy their property. Totally logical.

        1. The Unsnappenning*

          I don’t think that The Man, Becky Lynch was saying that they would literally have wrestled some jerk’s shoes off and thrown them in a fire pit. For one thing, that would have been a huge waste of time. They had to drive their friend’s brother home.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yeah, you sound like a fun person to party with…

          I’m sure you don’t hangout at backwoods fire-pit parties frequently if that’s your definition of overreaction.

          I also threw my brother’s Star Wars action figures in the river as a kid. Tit for tat.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Having an older brother and not outgrowing up until my teens, it was either fight back or get beat down myself. Kids/Young Adults are cruel and inclined to be physical, dude. They don’t “talk it out” well!

              I promise I don’t do this in my adulthood…okay I would probably threaten my brother but then I buy him a ton of collectors stuff since I started making money ;)

      2. The Unsnappenning*

        Agreed. I enjoy alcohol, but I wouldn’t take a beer during an interview. Most people would be fine with “not right now, thanks, but I’ll take a coffee/water/tea if there’s one going,”

        I too got the knuckledragger treatment a couple of times in my early twenties. I had a battered car, and I had two rules. 1) If I’m driving, I’m not drinking at all. 2) Encourage me, or one of my friends, to have a drink when we already said no? You’re walking home, buddy.

    4. Roscoe*

      I think you are kind of projecting here. Saying “no thanks!” is in now way forcing you to share medical information. It could be as simple as “I’m driving” or anything else

    5. Vonnie*

      “forced to share medical information”

      “No, thanks!” is being forced to share medical information because?

      Personally, I think people who feel obligated to overreact like this are the ones who are a bad fit.

    6. Asenath*

      If they have a bad opinion of me because I say “no, thank you” to the offer of a beer, they are a bad fit for me, and that’s nice to know. I can’t imagine sharing any private information in response to such an offer. It’s never been necessary before.

  26. The Unsnappenning*

    I think the key thing is – did he offer you a beer while he sat there chilling out in a beanbag chair, and what kind of seat were you offered? If your interviewer casually sipped beer, lounging in a beanbag, while you were forced to sit in a normal chair, drinking water or weak coffee, then hello! You’ve got yourself a jerk. In which case, chalk it up to experience, and forget about it.

    OTOH, if he offered you a beer too, and you had a casual seat available to you, it may be a case of just… not a great fit, culture-wise. I think there’s a happy medium between lax and stiff. From the tone of your post, OP, I get the impression that you’re probably more comfortable in more professional environments. If that is indeed the case, then I encourage you to take your recent interview as an experience.

    I would like to know what you wore to that interview? Did you dress fairly casually, or did you also feel that your clothes were out of place?

    Anyway, best of luck to you, OP.

  27. c56*

    Had an interview like this. Actually, had a series of interviews. Very last round was an informal one at a local office with my would-be supervisor. It was 3pm. They had beer on tap – they asked if I wanted anything to drink – “water, coffee, beer? It’s totally acceptable to have a beer.”
    If she had gotten herself a beer, I’d have joined her – but she wasn’t drinking anything.
    I went with water.
    I didn’t get the job. I wonder if I failed a test.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Most likely not a test. These are rarely ever a test. You’re interviewing among other candidates and you don’t know if the other person accepted anything or they took the beer or the coffee instead or had water as well. So yeah, I wouldn’t ever assume anything is a test.

      Though I’m fascinated by accepting beverages because I never have, even though I’m always fast to offer them [and don’t judge either way because I don’t care, it’s a personal weird quirk of my own who fully understands that].

      1. The Unsnappenning*

        I always just agree to a coffee if one is offered (helpful caffiene), or ask for a water if not. Plus I always have a water bottle in my bag. I have this weird fear of drying out during an interview! I’ve never had to use it, but it’s so comforting to know it’s there.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Part of my dislike for accepting a beverage is in a few parts.

          1. If they don’t have to-go disposable cups and hand me a regular mug, I feel like a horrible person since I never finish a cup of coffee in less than an entire day, I’m a very small sips person for coffee. My partner hates when I get us coffees from a to-go shop because he has to finish both of ours at some point or it goes to waste *sigh*

          2. If it’s a mug, I also have anxiety over where it goes and who has to wash it. If they have a dishwasher, it’s probably in the kitchen and I’m not usually going to see that…I feel like such a jerk leaving it there on the conference table or something for an admin to pick up?

          3. I may need to use the bathroom mid-interview depending on how things are timed. I do not drink/eat prior to an interview to keep my bodily functions in check [another quirky weird thing about me there].

          Mostly it triggers every anxiety I have about “what’s the polite/right thing to do after you accept” the offer!

      2. The Unsnappenning*

        I usually accept a coffee, because it seems the most usual, sensible drink. Plus, if it’s a case of someone bringing it to you as opposed to a machine making it, it gives you the opportunity to be polite and friendly to whomever is bringing it to you, and behaving like a normal person. So much calm.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Years ago, when General Electric was Big Thing and I was graduating from college, a friend of mine interviewed with them. Full day of interviews with various engineering teams, tour, etc. They took him to lunch at a swank restaurant. Server comes around for drink orders; they allowed him to go first. He picked iced tea.

      He got the job.

      We never knew if it was a test or if they were being polite. *shrugs*

      1. Rainy days*

        Probably polite. I always offer candidates tea because to me, offering someone a drink is part of making them feel welcome–and I want candidates to feel welcome when they come in, even if it doesn’t work out.

        No one ever takes me up on it, though.

      2. The Unsnappenning*

        If you think enough of a candidate to take them to a swank restaurant, I doubt their drink order is going to be a deal-breaker. Unless that lunch was heavily populated by interviewees – and even then….

  28. Veryanon*

    Yes – I mean, I enjoy a good beer now and then, but I wouldn’t want to work in an atmosphere where interviewers are comfortable drinking one *during an interview.* But I guess I’m old fashioned and hopelessly out of touch, just like my teenaged children keep telling me.

      1. Lis*

        I have interviewed at a brewery, can confirm, we both had beers. Part of the job would definitely have included drinking beer. The interviewer did say something like, “this is not a test, please tell me what beer you want.” I guess I COULD have turned it down without it counting against me, but part of my selling point was a familiarity with their products and beer in general, so it might have been a little weird. (I did not get the job, it went to someone with more industry experience, but I’m still professionally friendly with the guy I interviewed with and he sent me a great rejection email, if there is such a thing.)

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        In a brewery, you’d need to be able to at least taste it. So I can see them offering you a tasting flight so you can see what you think. It would depend on the position. As an accountant, it doens’t matter if I like the product. As a sales person or customer service rep, you probably should at least familiar with the flavor profiles.

        Same with a winery or distillery.

  29. Rainy days*

    I have to kind of appreciate this behavior, even though I would be jarred by it. I don’t think I would want to work a workplace that’s this informal, and it would probably be good for me to receive such a clear signal up front that I wouldn’t be a good fit. Save both time for both of us.

  30. The Unsnappenning*

    This is entirely my opinion, but I’d say “no, thank you” is more casual, whereas “no, I’m all set, thank you,” is more formal, when refusing an alcoholic drink from your interviewer.

  31. Drug & Alcohol Professional*

    As someone who works with people who are battling with addiction to drugs and alcohol, I find the interviewer with a beer in hand appalling! I have had so many clients who relapsed due to the presence of alcohol at their worksite. The consequences – seizures, delerium tremors, loss of financial security, relationship issues, and in some cases ICU stays – can be devastating, all of this triggered by an employer creating an alcohol-centric culture. Yes, there are people who are secure in long-term recovery and are able to set boundaries in situations like this. However, they risk encountering alienation in a setting like this where being a “bro with a beer” is the company culture, and it saddens me that an employer who interviews with a beer in hand may be losing out on some excellent candidates who are in recovery.

  32. Hot Chocolate*

    I once interviewed at a place where the guy who would have been my Team Leader kept… ah… ‘adjusting’ himself, swinging around on the office chair and generally lounging. This was a government position.

    I figured if he was that informal in an hour and a half long interview, I couldn’t work for him. I wouldn’t want him hovering nearby ‘adjusting’ all the time. Just the interview made me very uncomfortable.

  33. annab53*

    You have slapped your forehead and said you accidentally left your beanbag in the car.

  34. Ermintrude*

    I drink and take anti-depressants. I went to a party not long after I first started taking Lexapro and got smashed very suddenly. I’ve found though that pacing myself and being aware of how I feel helps keep things from going south, plus I am not a heavy drinker.
    In the LW’s situation, I’d be like ARE YOU SERIOUS!?

    1. Ermintrude*

      Nesting fail – this was supposed to be with a convo about taking medication and drinking alcohol.

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