Summer Associates: Beware of the Merlot

August 13, 2010

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

In a study published on Monday, researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania found that an association with alcohol caused observers to “expect cognitive impairment” in a job seeker.  This research study was presented to the Academy of Management, an annual meeting of business and management researchers.

The study consisted of 610 managers who evaluated video recordings of an interview between actors playing a managers and a propsective hire.  All the scripts were the same but the actors ordered either a Coke or a Merlot.  Regardless of the choice of beverage for the manager, when the job seeker ordered Merlot he was perceived as less worthy of being hired and less “intelligent, scholarly and intellectual.”  You can imagine the study showed an extreme negative reaction when the manager ordered a Coke and the job seeker ordered a glass of wine. Tsk tsk tsk.

One thing to note, however, is that these were not attorneys.  The attorney culture is a little different, but this study is something to keep in mind.  My law school had an ettiquete seminar available for 1L’s.  They always stressed the importance of image at casual dinner or lunch interviews.  You want to be on your A-game and make the best impression.  With or without alcohol, that is your choice, but be mindfull of the possible impression you are making. 

All of this being said, I was  once chastised at a dinner interview by the hiring manager for not ordering a beer (or any other alcohol for that matter).  I’m not sure there is a clear answer one way or the other, but it’s something to think about.  What do you think? I’d love to hear any comments on this below. Also, feel free to check out our attorney jobs website at It has been awhile since I have been on the job market but it seems like a decent place to start.

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