So you’re engaged in your job search and after a successful couple rounds of interviews, you’re asked to join the team for a happy hour. What does it mean and what should you do?
First of all, while it doesn’t necessarily mean the decision has been made, it’s generally a good sign that you’re being asked to the informal meet-and-greet session. It gives you a chance to see the culture of the team and demonstrate your own, and it almost certainly means you’re a finalist for the role.
But what the heck should you do? It’s definitely not a regular work happy hour.
For starters, assume that other happy hour invitations have gone out to another couple of candidates, so you’re very much still in interview mode. This is just a less formal interview, in an attempt to get to know more about you as a potential colleague. This means that you still need to be on your best behavior, but with beer.
On that front, also be sure you’re carefully monitoring your consumption. Even though it’s an option, this isn’t the time to be sucking down the French 75s. Stick with something lower in alcohol (or get a nice mocktail instead) so your judgment remains unimpaired, even if everyone else has gotten a Manhattan. This will allow you to stay mindful of being charming, professional, courteous, and extremely kind to everyone you encounter, including the bartender.
That said, it is still a happy hour, and you can absolutely be more relaxed than in the formal interviews. They aren’t trying to trick you with casual-seeming questions, so feel free to interact in a friendlier, more social way. You’ll obviously still want to mind yourself and not be too forthright, but relax a bit and get to know your potential coworkers.
If there are snacks or if other people order food, feel free to do so as well, but it’s best not to do that unless someone else has started the ball rolling. That said, if you suddenly realize you haven’t eaten recently and that glass of wine is going right to your head, feel free to order a small bite, and be sure to have lots of water.
And relax into the confidence that, at the least, you’re in contention for this role! Well done, you.