A new study by the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania has found that you might want to say no the next time you’re offered a drink at dinner. The study, with the ingenious title of “The Imbibing Idiot Bias: Consuming Alcohol Can Be Hazardous to Your (Perceived) Intelligence” found that while interview subjects viewed ordering wine as the qualified candidate’s drink of choice, employers preferred a soft drink(er).

My first question upon reading the study was – what kind of a company offers you an interview with dinner and drinks? And are they hiring?

The application that applies most specifically to the defense industry at large and the Washington, D.C. area, in particular, is to be careful what you order at your next networking event or happy hour – because drinking does affect the way you’re perceived.

“Across five studies, we find that in the absence of any evidence of reduced cognitive performance, people who hold an alcoholic beverage are perceived to be less intelligent than those who do not, a mistake we term the imbibing idiot bias,” noted the study.

The issue is likely one of association. If an interview or event is supposed to be all about business, and all a potential employer sees is you taking all-too-frequent sips from a wine glass, that’s a problem. As we frequently discuss, an interview is an opportunity to let your personality shine, but a critical part of making a good first impression is demonstrating that you’re there to impress – from doing your homework to dressing the part.

The line becomes even more murky when it comes to the all-too-frequent industry happy hours that occur – if you’re looking for work or career network connections at one of those events, this study would suggest you should reconsider that glass of Chardonnay and opt for a ginger ale. But even in these cases I think there’s room for judgment. If everyone around you is partaking in happy hour, you should feel comfortable doing the same. But alcohol should never appear to be your focus – even if you’re at a happy hour. If you’re there to network, and make a good impression, the first thing someone notices about you shouldn’t be the drink in your hand – or the slur in your speech, or stumble in your step.

If you attend an interview dinner or networking event, be sure professional connections, not food or drinks, are the focus. If that’s clear, then go ahead and step up to the bar or buffet table – just don’t forget your business cards. You never know who you’ll meet in line.

What do you think – to drink, or not to drink? Any specific examples of events where drinking went wrong – or helped you land the job?

Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves cybersecurity, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email editor@clearancejobs.com.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.