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I am currently looking for a job as a working student and I got a few invitations for interviews already. Now I am thinking about stuff that would be important for me to feel comfortable at work as I want to be clear about them with my potential employer right from the get go.

A particular issue that bugs my mind is that, I am a person who just doesn't enjoy participating in social events that a lot of companies like to arrange. That would be activities such as attending birthday parties, participating in sports events, dining or things like camping or hiking together with colleagues.

My question is, how should I bring this up, if at all, during a job interview?

Note: Just to be clear, I am not saying that I strictly do not ever want to hang out with work colleagues, I am just saying that my standard position is that I generally don't want to rather than the opposite. This is because for me work colleagues aren't usually people that I'd be willing to spend some of my freetime with. So only if there was to be someone particular that I, over time, have developed a good friendship with, I'd consider fostering this relationship by hanging out together now and then. But again, that is not my standard relationship with all my (prospective) colleagues.

Some more information that might be relevant:

  • Being a student I'm looking for a position as a working student (parttime)
  • I do not intend this to be a long term employment at this company
  • My position is in the field of software engineering
  • I am referring solely to events outside working hours

Since some have suggested How can I politely decline my boss's invitations to social events after-hours or on the weekend as an answer: My question differs from the suggested one in that I am asking if and how to bring this topic up to a prospective employer in the job interview. The suggested question, however, discusses the manner in which to decline invitations to such events from your boss.

11 Answers 11

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My question is, how should I bring this up, if at all, during a job interview?

You need not bring this topic up in the interview, as you mentioned you are looking for a software development position.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that I strictly do not ever want to hang out with work colleagues, [....] So only if there was to be someone particular that I, over time, have developed a good friendship with, I'd consider fostering this relationship by hanging out together now and then.

Why are you assuming that in the new workplace you will not have anyone with whom you will be able to develop a good friendship, so that you'll be comfortable to hang out or socialize with them after the office or during office events?

Keep an open mind. The office events are mostly voluntary and no one forces you to attend - you are free to join or opt out as you please.

Is it unwise to tell job interviewer that I won't be attending the company's regular social events?

Yes, at this point it it unwise, because you yourself don't know for sure how it is going to turn out in future.

  • If you find like-minded people around you, socialize.
  • If you don't like the company, stick to your work and avoid attending the events.

There are other important issues to be discussed during the interview, focus on them, and best of luck.

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    Re "Why are you assuming...", perhaps the OP has discovered that only a miniscule fraction of the general population are people s/he'd like to socialize with, and expects fellow employees to reflect that? FWIW, I worked for some years with coworkers whose idea of socializing was to go to sports bars, drink a lot of (cheap American) beer, and listen to country music. Not my idea of a good time. – jamesqf Jan 15 at 4:59
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    "Yes, at this point it it unwise, because you yourself don't know for sure how it is going to turn out in future." I think the reason it is unwise is because the only effect it can have is to make it less likely for an interviewer to hire the OP, not because OP might change their mind. i.e. even if OP was 100% certain they would never attend any events, it's still a bad idea to mention it at interview stage. – Guy G Jan 15 at 12:33
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    Looking ahead, it also can be a good strategy to go to the first such event - maybe first with your immediate team and first larger department or company event. This is a nice way to be friendly despite your own preferences. Then you can find yourself too busy for subsequent ones :) – Mike M Jan 15 at 17:29
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    @GuyG Even if you do get hired, you're going to be seen as "the weird guy" for the entire duration of your employment, right from day one. Not great. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 15 at 18:58
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    @jamesqf The OP presents themselves as "working student", and between the lines it seems they don't have much if any industry experience. It is irrelevant what their experience with general population is, and going to a new job with prejudices like that is a bad idea on its own. Even if they have the experience in the industry, workplaces are different at it is still a bad idea to not go in with open mind. – hyde Jan 17 at 9:34
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Not only should you not tell the interviewer, you should not be making up your mind at this stage.

Firstly don't assume that because you generally don't like to "hang out" with work people you won't want to in this case. Maybe the people at this job will be exactly the kind of people you like to hang out with. You don't know, so don't make decisions in advance.

Secondly you are missing one of the points of social interaction. It's not just about whether you enjoy it or not. Building good relationships with your teammates is important to productivity and success in work. Isolating yourself will make you less effective, and your team less effective. Such events are often called "team-building events", and that's not just empty rhetoric. These events make teams more productive. As for your preferences, work often involves doing things you don't like, I'm afraid.

You say this is a short term job, but you would be surprised how often contacts from a previous job become important when you are looking for the next. You don't want your colleagues to remember you as "that guy who refused to socialize with us" when they might be able to influence your next hire. And anyway, you are going to need some social skills in future jobs, and a short term job is a great place to practice them.

Finally, if this is more than just "I don't like to socialize", for example if you have actual social anxiety or some other issue that makes social interaction difficult, that is something you might think about telling an interviewer and something you should work on and maybe get help with.

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    Sadly enough even when you want and like to socialize but have no common topic amongst you and others (other than work-related) you simply feel uncomfortable. – Mukyuu Jan 15 at 2:24
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    @Mukyuu you can always find a topic if you try. The canteen (or wherever you all get lunch and snacks); the coffee machine and the type of beans they feed it with, ditto tea; the route to work; hobbies; holidays; families; home town... This is an important human skill, so grab this chance to practice. – RedSonja Jan 15 at 9:40
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    @Mukyuu part of socializing is finding common ground... that's a learned and practiced skill – WernerCD Jan 16 at 0:25
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    > These events make teams more productive. - could you please elaborate on this and add some proof? If I complete all my tasks as expected and can easily talk about work items to my colleagues, have work related influence, conflict management etc skills, that should be enough to be efficient and do the job. – Jay Random Jan 16 at 5:51
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    I personally feel team-building events should be on company time, not personal time. But then I'm unsocial and would rather spend it with family. On the other hand, I believe you will get further by going to these events, you might be more likely to be promoted, or more likely to get the projects you want. You should consider it as an investment. – Monstar Jan 16 at 9:35
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A particular issue that bugs my mind is that, I am a person who just doesn't enjoy participating in social events that a lot of companies like to arrange. That would be activities such as attending birthday parties, participating in sports events, dining or things like camping or hiking together with colleagues.

My question is, how should I bring this up, if at all, during a job interview?

That is not a topic that needs to be brought up during a part time job interview, unless any of those activities are an integral part of the position.

For example, if you were applying for a software development position, then none of those social events are relevant. On the other hand if you are applying for a party coordinator, then it needs to be discussed.

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Heavens no, don't tell them that! It will make you seem antisocial.

Like others I must challenge your decision not to attend. It seems to be based on a preconceived notion that parties will be a horrible experience. Your basis for that assumption is sound. However it has brought you to wrong conclusions.

And I'm a little concerned that you are so sure about those conclusions with very little workplace life experience to draw from. Ironically, your root trouble may be overconfidence (of a negative thing).

You can leave anytime you like

The #1 thing to remember is that A dreary social event is NOT a prison sentence. Jail is about doing the time, and when you think of it like that, you make the #1 social gaffe you can make: staying without a purpose. So you're sipping drinks and eating pretzels and having awkward conversations because it isn't 10:00 yet. That is actually wrong, and is a disservice to the person you're having a conversation with.

So, before you go, make a list of your purposes for going.

  • Make an appearance so the people who put together the party don't get snubbed
  • get seen by management being social
  • do 30 seconds of Active Listening to anyone you need something from (that part is jail)
  • enjoy free food and drinks
  • pitch the router upgrade to Kathryn
  • see if hot Morgan is in a relationship or available
  • introduce yourself to hot Morgan
  • see if James's recent social withdrawal is caused by a new girlfriend

Tick the boxes. AND THEN LEAVE.

That isn't a section heading, I'm just shouting. Note that you are leaving at the exact moment it stops being fun, unless you get "ambushed" on your way out the door, in which case remember how Kathryn also courteously listened to your 30-second bit, and do the same courtesy. "Ambushed" is a standard term for what happens when you're done at a party and someone catches you on the way out.

There's one other thing you might notice. About when you're leaving, so are many of the most social butterflies. In fact, they are doing this exact same thing. Except years of experience has made them forget it is a checklist; they just feel like the party is no longer fun. Thus, the butterflies are trained to avoid the classic blunder of the unsocial: Wearing out your welcome. Remember what I said about awkward conversations being a disservice to the other person?

The exception is the party hosts. They must stay because they are the hosts. Some close friends of the hosts will stay out of support for them.

And that makes perfect sense, doesn't it? People well-socially-connected to the party guests will both need and want to stay a lot longer than those who barely know anyone.

Think about it. Nobody ever said "hey, you only stayed 35 minutes". They say "hey, I didn't see you at the party". You've heard that one before, I'll bet. So, be seen. Tick it off. And out.

Also, parties will make more sense when you are partnered, because it gives you and your partner an excuse to go out, that doesn't set you back $45.

Once, I went to a party thrown by our newest acquisition, with beautiful downtown offices. Now our company wasn't uncool at all. But when the party moved to the "chill" floor with dens made out of tents in a very Romanian Gypsy / Summer of Love style, and the Burning Man vibe set in hard, and the "chill" got more Netflix-ish, it was time for us to go. Also, the funniest thing is the building was owned by a very stodgy government agency. I wonder if the air handlers were connected and people visiting that agency's offices for months later went "that smells like pot".

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  • I feel like this answer is very drawn out and doesn't really answer the OP's main question. – Rich Jan 17 at 13:26
  • +1 for the solution. While it doesn't directly answer the question (do NOT bring it up in an interview), it provides the depth and a list for people that might not have the social skills. It's obvious that the issue of being present in public is anxious for the OP, and as such this is an excellent answer for both now and future work. – J.Hirsch Jan 17 at 16:43
  • @Rich Surely because it's to convince, not state facts. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 17 at 19:36
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It depends on your goals.

If you are looking for just a job then yes, it is unwise to say so, as it can only harm you (at best it will be viewed as neutral, can't imagine this being positive, ever). It will eventually come out, but by then you are already an employee, and this is not something you will get fired over, but it may harm your promotions, reviews, etc. Consciously or not, it's just how it is.

If you are looking for a great company to stay and grow with for years, then it's best to be open and tackle this issue right now, and if that's a problem for that one company - keep looking for that perfect fit elsewhere. Somewhere where people are not expected to socialize with coworkers, besides the watercooler/in-office chatter.

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  • I disagree. The odds that this would become an issue after getting a job are, in my experience, very low. The odds that bringing this up during an interview would cause you to lose out on a good job are significantly higher – Kevin Jan 15 at 20:55
  • I would not bring it up, but your second point about this not being a good fit for the job candidate may be spot-on. Worth considering. – Michael W. Jan 15 at 21:03
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I'm not big on work socialising either, but I wouldn't bring this up in the interview as there's no way to frame it positively.

I will note, from experience working part time and being a student myself - those things make it very easy to get out of social events outside of work hours. For example:

  • If you don't live close to the job, and a social event is on a day you don't work, just say something like "I don't work that day, so I'll have to pass"
  • Use your studies as an excuse in some instances - you "can't spare the time" because of a "major assessment coming up" or similar.
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My question is, how should I bring this up, if at all, during a job interview?

Broach the topic when they ask you if you have any questions at the end of the interview.

You're right to be asking and thinking deeply about this, it's incredibly important for cultural fit on both sides. Find out their social culture and position on it:

Oh, yeah, we arrange events every other week, everyone goes, we're very keen on that and see it as an important part of the culture. If you enjoy that sort of thing you'll love it here!

Vs

Erm, sure, I suppose we go for lunch together occasionally. There's the office summer party of course. But I wouldn't say we're overly social here!

Don't necessarily commit to your position up front. You don't actually know yet, honestly - your enjoyment of these things often depends on how you fit in with that particular group of people. But listen, go away and think about it, and the a-priori likelihood of it being a culture you'd enjoy based on that important factor.

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It is worse than unwise.

You should not prejudge, no matter how sure you are, a situation. And, even if you are 100% certain that you would never consider a company social event, there is no reason to disclose it to the company at an interview.

If, during the interview, you determine that the social events are somehow vital to achieving success at the company, you may decide not to accept an offer, you may refuse subsequent stages of interviews, or you may decide that the company meets your objectives other than achieving "success" at the company.

For instance, if the interviewer said, "every company party is an opportunity for our employees to demonstrate the social skill we look for in candidates for promotion," you might decide that promotion isn't important to you. You might also decide that the company management is refreshingly transparent.

The interview is not a good time to give employers a reason to reject you. Interviewing candidates is, for many companies, a process of finding reasons to reject rather than reasons to hire. The offer goes not to the best candidate, but to the last candidate standing after other have been rejected.

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I wanted to add one more tidbit for you: Sometimes companies do these activities to help out 'newbies' and have them socialize. A company knows there is stagnation on new hires with little inroads or connections, and perhaps they're in a totally new and foreign place. So this fills a few niches and hopefully makes for a better employee. I ran several of those events for interns and new hires. Takes about 2 years to get someone really settled in.

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Don't mention it. The interviewers are looking for people who arent just skilled but also the type that would fit in with the team and they would want to hang out with on a daily basis. That way they weed out the arrogant dicks, creeps and those that are plain annoying.

I wouldn't even worry about the events as those arent typically that common, so why risk a job for some event that occurs maybe once or twice a year? At my company, once a year there is the team-building day where we have an outing and go biking, and the christmas lunch (1 hour) the week before christmas. They do help, as cheesy as it sounds, projects run more efficiently when people feel more comfortable communicating with each other.

Software engineers tend to be dorky and socially awkward anyway, so you'll fit right in. They're probably more likely to discuss the latest "rick and morty" episode than hold small talk. Good luck.

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The problem with these events is that everyone thinks they're the only one who secretly wants to leave. The truth is everyone wants to leave, even the ones who appear to be really enjoying it. It's just that no one can say it outloud. This isn't a wild party like in the Die Hard movie or whatever where everyone is drinking, and some dude is coming to steal the company's bonds from a vault.

I'm assuming here that the event is outside of working hours. During working hours, just stay until it is the normal time to go. If you normally leave at 4, leave about 30 minutes earlier and mention traffic.

The secret here is to act very excited before the event. Explain you are defintely going, and whatnot. Act excited. Then go to it and stay no more than what you have to (1 hour max) and make up a reason to leave. Afterwards, act very happy and excited and "can't wait for the next one." Then next time make up a reason why you can't come. Then bam, done. No more parties or invites. That's the way I did it and no more Christmas parties or mid year things outside of working hours.

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    If you normally leave at 4, leave about 30 minutes earlier and mention traffic. -- If the traffic is the same as it would be every day for you, why would you need to leave 30 minutes earlier? I'm sure that would get you in trouble or fired in some companies if it is during working hours. – さりげない告白 Jan 15 at 1:17
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    This seems to be answering the question "how to avoid social event ?" while the initial question is "how to bring this up in the job interview ?" – zakinster Jan 15 at 15:59
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    Although you have some good advice, I am in agreement with @zakinster that this is not an answer to the OQ. But you can edit your answer so that it is. – Mike Waters Jan 16 at 20:40
  • "The truth is everyone wants to leave" this is a strong statement, which I know to be patently false. – hyde Jan 17 at 9:41

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