For Job-Seekers, It Pays to at Least Pretend to be a Teetotaler

Business etiquette books typically advise job seekers to take their cues from their interviewers, but a new study suggests that dictum doesn't apply when alcohol's involved.

According to a study released today by the University of Michigan, job candidates seen holding a frosty beer mug or glass of wine during dinner interviews were consistently rated as less intelligent and less hireable, a phenomenon researchers have termed "the imbibing idiot bias."

There is some good news for lushes: In experiments with 1,700 people, researchers found drinking applicants weren't perceived to be any less likeable, honest or genuine than teetotalers. Yet researcher Scott Rick says serious job seekers probably shouldn't spend much time with the wine list: "Our results suggest that people attempting to manage impressions of intelligence should exercise caution when deciding whether or not to consume alcohol," a release quotes the highly diplomatic Rick as saying.

Rick's follow-up suggestion that bad decisions about alcohol could also doom "aspiring politicians" seems to have been swiped from the common sense department. What's more tantalizing -- and unexpected -- is the finding that employers downgrade their assessment of a prospective employee's smarts even if the employer ordered a drink first.

While 28 percent of job applicants order drinks without first establishing whether their interviewer is drinking (which does sound like an imbibing idiot sort of thing to do), nearly three-quarters of job applicants follow the boss' booze lead. Rick would no doubt counsel those perceived-dumb and thirsty job candidates to enjoy their pints, since they're unlikely to be followed by celebratory flutes of Champagne.

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