I recently went to a job interview for a senior software developer position with a small start up. The manager and several employees (it was a panel interview) entered into the room with beers, and they all drank alcohol for the duration of the interview.

I was personally offended by their behavior, but said nothing during the interview about it.

Their ability to ask intelligent questions and engage in meaningful conversation deteriorated as the interview progressed.

Is it acceptable for interviewers to bring alcohol to an interview?

How can I end the interview quicker?


I'm with you, Matthew - this would be a red flag for me as well. As long as you handle the situation tactfully and respectfully, it's always OK to end an interview quickly. In this case, it's best not to mention the alcohol. You could say, for example, "Thanks for your consideration, but I don't think this is going to be a good fit for me. I don't want to waste your time, so it's probably best if we cut the interview short."

The interviewers probably won't ask for details, but if they do, just politely say that the position isn't what you're looking for, and leave it at that. You don't owe them any other explanation.

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    Also sounds like a great opportunity to use "no cultural fit".
    – Erik
    Nov 6 '17 at 19:49
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    I wouldn’t personally be offended. That said, I would know that it was not the place for me.
    – Roger
    Nov 6 '17 at 22:51
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    I wonder if it may be a good idea to mention the alcohol. One shouldn't burn bridges but sometimes there are behaviours that are completely unacceptable and telling them it was disrespectful to drink during the interview is acceptable, especially as they seemed to be getting drunk.
    – camden_kid
    Nov 7 '17 at 9:53
  • Why is it not acceptable to mention the alcohol? I think I would have said "I am sorry but you are getting drunk and this is just a waste of both our time". How is that inappropriate in this situation? I don't get it.
    – tst
    Nov 30 '17 at 3:15

If something like this happens again in the future (and I hope it doesn't). How can I best handle this, and how can I just get out of the interview quicker?

Assuming you are truly that offended...

You stand up.

You say something like "Sorry. I can see this isn't the place for me. Thank you for your time."

Then you walk out and don't return.

In the past, I've cut interviews short this way when it was clear that I wouldn't accept a job offer (but for different reasons). I don't want to waste others' time and I don't want my time wasted.

Is it acceptable to bring alcohol to an interview?

It makes no sense for you to bring alcohol to an interview. Similarly, it makes no sense for an interviewer to bring alcohol.

  • Agreed. This is actually a good thing. In most cases, you waste a lot of time on things that don't pan out. If you can identify a poor fit early in the process then you can reclaim that time.
    – emory
    Nov 7 '17 at 1:51
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    I've done this before. "Sorry, I don't think I'm the right person for this job, and I don't think this is the right job for me. Thank you for your time, but I won't take up any more of it. Have a good afternoon." Nov 7 '17 at 4:09
  • Why would the OP not be "truly that offended"? They state flat out that "I was personally offended". Taking the OP at their word requires no assumptions. Or are you trying to argue that it's actually acceptable/appropriate/professional to have some beers whilst discussing senior-level development concepts?
    – aroth
    Nov 7 '17 at 5:05
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    I've been in an interview where it was clear within 10 minutes that it wasn't a good fit; I wish I'd taken this approach instead of "well, I came all this way, I don't want to waste the drive." The drive was wasted either way.
    – alroc
    Nov 7 '17 at 12:30
  • lol... seriously. That was funny. I was referring to "them" bring the alcohol, but I'm absolutely sure they would have hired me if I brought my own. They might have found me more thoughtful.
    – user7360
    Nov 7 '17 at 15:10

There is a reason advertising firms have wet bars. Alcohol can promote creativity. You do not say what day of the week it is. This could be any Friday afternoon in any number of shops.

It is a problem for me if the interviewee might consider themselves oppressed or intimidated because of their faith. On a large project working around the clock, Pub time can be very productive and good for team morale. That's going to be hard if everyone else is up for it and you are not. Cultural fit. There are social norms involved, and rules. People are not inebriated, they are "tired and emotional".

But it might be offensive to people outside of that culture. It is as good as saying, we are not hiring any LDS, Muslim, Wowsers etc. today. That is a problem.

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    Alcohol can promote creativity This is nonsense. It promotes people being unprofessional. If they can't be creative sober what use are they ? And being drunk at an interview is outrageous - would they have hired a candidate who was taking alcohol to "calm their nerves" all through the interview ? I wouldn't. It's a ludicrous double standard.
    – StephenG
    Nov 7 '17 at 4:29
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    "Alcohol can promote creativity" - So can LSD (and probably many other things). Doesn't mean that it's a standard, appropriate, or professional way to get creative, however. Or that the impairing side-effects can be ignored. Though I do miss the sort of movies and music that people would create when LSD usage was at its peak. And the OP was there for a senior dev position, not an advertising job. Still requires creativity, yes. But also deep focus and clear thinking. Nobody wants a drunken codebase.
    – aroth
    Nov 7 '17 at 5:09
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    Interviewing is not a creative endeavour, and bringing alcohol into it is unprofessional, nothing more.
    – Erik
    Nov 7 '17 at 6:25
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    It seems to me that your post is an answer to another question (like "is it a problem to use alcohol in a company?"). The original question is "how can I handle this, and cut the interview short?", which you don't address at all.
    – dim
    Nov 7 '17 at 9:51
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    @aroth, taking drugs as an aid to creativity has been an industry standard in music and poetry for hundreds of years
    – Separatrix
    Nov 7 '17 at 11:28