Sober reminder that drinks don’t mean job is in the bag
Imagine you have gone through several interviews for a job with a new company. At the end of the last interview, which has gone as well as possible, one of the interview panel says, “How about we get a few people from the team together and have a few drinks so you can get to know everyone?”
Do you see it as confirmation you have the job and an opportunity to let off steam with a beverage or 10? Or do you feel stressed at the prospect of meeting new people and worry you will blow your chances?
It’s not unusual for employers to ask potential recruits out for a drink as the final step in recruitment. How they behave in a social setting can make or break their chances, says recruitment firm Robert Walters managing director James Nicholson.
The biggest mistake job applicants make when asked out for a drink is assuming it’s a sign they have the job.
“It’s still part of an interview process and there is no formal offer there,” Nicholson says.
Meet-and-greets are typically used for people applying for sales positions or roles that require the person to deal with several stakeholders within the company.
“If someone is going to be part of a big and important team they will be looking to see how they interact with that team, their communication skills, and maybe how they react to a little informal pressure,” he says.
While some people would think a chat over a drink is much easier than fielding questions from a panel of interviewers, others won’t.
“Some people view an informal drink with three or four people they have not met before as a fairly pressured situation. Often they are the people who struggle with it and that’s what you are trying to ascertain,” Nicholson says.
“You are taking people out of their comfort zone and you are asking them to make a bit of intelligent small talk to engage people.”
Nicholson says he has seen people stumble and fall at the final hurdle.
“We will make decisions based on some of those [mistakes],” he says. “You are 80 or 90 per cent through your recruitment process, so you are obviously thought of highly.
“But people can misjudge the situation and we are looking for people to be able to read the situation around them.”
It is a fine line between relaxing, showing some personality or becoming too familiar.
“I have been at one where two or three drinks in, someone has asked about the sexuality of a member of the team they are out for a drink with,” he says.
“It was ludicrous. You immediately spot that the person is going to be a liability in front of clients who they don’t know.”
Employers also don’t like hearing the potential employer gossip.
“Gossiping about their current employer and turning it into a negative or vitriolic attack on where they currently are [employed] because they think they almost have the job — I don’t think that is something people perceive particularly well,” he says.
Etiquette expert June Dally-Watkins says people who find social drinks nerve-racking should be wary of drinking too much.
“Because that person is nervous they might think the only way they can relax is by having another drink and that would be the big mistake,” Dally-Watkins says.
Eye contact is simple way of bonding.
“Have a nice firm handshake and don’t forget to smile because that relaxes a person and makes you look warm and friendly,” Dally-Watkins says.
“Just be the person you are because that is what the prospective employer is looking for.”
—– Teetotal confession —–
Being asked to go for a drink to finalise the recruitment process is all well and good, but what if you don’t drink?
Robert Walters, managing director James Nicholson, says non-drinkers shouldn’t worry about letting their potential employer know.
“No one I know would take exception to that,” Nicholson says.
If concerned, you can always play the designated driver card.
“You could always say, `I hope you don’t mind, I only have a few hours because I have to pick someone up’, or whatever the case may be,” he says.
Light drinkers shouldn’t be concerned.
“If the goal is to get slaughtered, you have to question the value of it.”