is it a red flag when your interviewer drinks a beer during your interview?

A reader writes:

I’d like to ask about your thoughts on something quite strange that happened to me.

I applied for a job in a Fortune 500 company and I was thrilled to hear that I passed the first phone interview and was called for a one-to-one meeting with my prospective new director. This company is opening a new office in my region and the director was going to fly all the way from a different state to interview a bunch of candidates pre-qualified by the HR team. Because the company doesn’t yet have a physical office in my town, the interview was scheduled to happen at a luxurious hotel.

When I got to the hotel, the director was still in an interview with another candidate and had me wait for an extra 5 minutes, which I don’t see a big deal; this can happen to anyone. After a friendly welcome, he led me to a table at the hotel bar (which wasn’t a bad idea because it was quieter over there than on the hotel hall, but I was expecting to go to a conference room or something like that) and told me to take a seat. At this moment, I saw on the table an empty beer glass and wondered whether he was interviewing someone while drinking beer. Then, to my surprise, while sitting at the table, he ordered another glass of beer for himself and asked what I what I’d like to drink. I ordered a glass of water.

The interview itself was great. It was a two-way conversation where for the first time ever I felt like a consultant rather than a candidate (as you say to strive for in your book). However, there were some moments when he yawned badly, so I’m not sure whether he was bored with my speech or if the alcohol was affecting his consciousness. But I certainly didn’t see much professionalism in him because of the beer, and I wonder to what extent that could affect my job if I were hired. However, if he is a top director at a major organization, there must be reasons for that. Plus, I want that position and don’t want to take this “beer case” too much in consideration, which is hard to do.

At the end of the meeting, he said that I was a good fit, but that he had to finalize some more interviews before making a decision. He also mentioned that if I go to the next stage, I would be interviewed again by HR because it’s the company’s policy, which is quite weird (I presume) considering that they already interviewed me, and also I should be interviewed by some of his managers from other regions who would be on my level within the organization.

The thing is that I don’t know whether I should take the beer drinking as a red flag (well, certainly it’s yellow) or simply let it go.

So, what do you think? Have you ever come across to something like that? What would you do? Shall I drop my application? Regarding the next round, do HR departments really interview candidates twice?

It sounds like this is going to surprise you, but I don’t think you should be especially concerned about the beer drinking. Some people do interviews over lunch and have a glass of wine or beer with the meal. This is no different. He didn’t seem intoxicated, and plenty of people could drink two beers without any noticeable effect, particularly if they were spaced out as these two sound like they were.

And in fact, it sounds like you had an interview that you considered one of your best, so it doesn’t sound like the beer negatively impacted anything. The open yawning is a little uncouth, but I wouldn’t assume his willingness to baldly yawn was was related to the beer, since you didn’t see any indications of intoxication.

I do think it would have been weird if you’d been interviewing in his office and he had a beer on his desk … but this interview was in a hotel bar, and plenty of people wouldn’t blink at having a beer while conducting business in that particular situation.

As for being interviewed another time by HR, that’s inefficient but not unheard of. Some companies will have HR do an initial screening, followed by an interview with the hiring manager, followed by a meeting with HR to talk about HR-ish things like benefits and salary expectations. It might signal that they’re a little bureaucratic, but I don’t think you need to worry that any of this means you’d be entering into a den of crazy hiring practices and drunken blow-outs.

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