Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Employment Status?

A recently published study presented to The Academy of Management, an annual meeting of business and management researchers, has indicated that American bosses perceive job applicants who drink alcohol as less intelligent and less employable than those who don’t. Known as the “imbibing idiot bias,” one can only wonder about that old warning, in vino veritas.

Six related experiments formed the bulk of this study that was carried out by researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania, notably Scott Rick, a professor of marketing at the University of Michigan and Maurice Schweitzer. They discovered that observers “expected cognitive impairment” in a job seeker if he or she was known to imbibe alcohol. But it went even further than that. In the words of Scott Rick:

“Merely holding an alcoholic beverage may reduce the perceived intelligence of the person.”

Video evaluation was one of the research tools used to determine the results for the study. One experiment involved 610 middle managers from American companies who were asked to assess a recorded interview of a pair of actors having dinner, one the manager and the other a prospective employee. In each instance, the script never varied but in some cases the manager ordered a “coke” and in others, the “house Merlot,” and the job seeker also ordered one or the other. Even if the manager ordered wine, if the applicant followed suit, he or she was considered less “intelligent, scholarly and intellectual.”

It is very interesting to note that the applicants who selected wine after the manager had ordered a coke were “especially punished” and received the lowest ratings of all candidates.

Researcher Rick developed some insight of his own after completing this study for he realized that some of his own interviews in the recent past took place in social settings where both he and his interviewer ordered drinks. In his own words:

“I chose alcohol often and there were a lot of interviews with jobs that I didn’t get… “Now I wonder about that choice.”

Is there a moral to this story?

Perhaps social drinking should only occur in the presence of friends, family and those who are not interested in your job performance? A sobering thought to say the least.

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