Don’t Drink and Interview


I’ll never forget the job interview I had many years ago with a PR agency head who was a regular at a New York club.  Seconds after sitting down for lunch, two martinis were delivered to the table–one for him and one for me.  Minutes later, a second was delivered.  Thankfully, the third arrived as he was notified of a phone call (pre-cell phones), so I poured most of it into my water glass as he was talking with a client.  While the interviewer didn’t seem phased, my head was spinning and I couldn’t recall much from the conversation.

What I learned from this experience is the importance of being prepared for a variety of interview situations and settings.  Today, interviews are conducted via phone, Skype, in-person, in group meetings, in restaurants, bars and Starbuck’s.  Therefore, it’s important to assess the interview environment and have a game-plan in mind. 

Klimpton Hotel Chief Operating Officer Niki Leondakis provides some insights into a hiring manager’s interview technique in today’s New York Times’ Corner Office column.  When asked how she hires, Leondakis says she attempts to have a variety of conversations — “phone, face-to-face in an office environment, and a meal.” 

Why a meal?  “I think people get a little more comfortable, and I can observe how they walk through a restaurant and whether they barrel through or let others go first,” Leondakis says.  “When the server comes to the table to take the order, do they respond by looking them in the eye, or do they talk to them without looking at them, as if they’re invisible?  It’s telling to me how someone treats the service staff.” 

Bottom line: Be prepared for every interview situation, don’t wing it.  Think through what you’ll order (my rule–nothing on a bun, messy or on a bone), drink iced tea or Diet Coke, not a martini.  (Wine is okay at dinner if the interviewer orders first, but limit yourself to one glass, even if your host orders a second or third.)  A prior post discusses the importance of dining etiquette and offers tips for lunch interviews.   

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