“Now, before we begin, can I offer you a tea, coffee or water?”
Interviews are nerve-wracking at the best of times, and positively, sweat-pouring-down-your-face awful at the worst. Although there’s a lot of information out there about the various do’s and don’t of interview etiquette (do: dress appropriately and do your research. Don’t: chew gum or immediately ask about job perks), one particular detail is often bypassed by experts and, as a result, many people flounder unnecessarily when presented with it.
Yes, I’m talking about the do-I-or-don’t-I situation of accepting a beverage during the interview.
For such a simple question, it’s one that wields a surprising level of ambivalence and doubt when it coincides with an interview scenario. This is a trick, you might think. They’re trying to suss if I have an inflated sense of self-importance. Well no sir, not me. I’m not falling for it! And thus, you reject the offer. Even if you don’t suspect it to be a trick, you may still not want to “put them out” by accepting their low-grade coffee, or indeed you might not want to miss a minute of possible airtime while they go to boil the kettle.
Whatever the reason, allow us to make this as clear as possible: Always. Take. The. Drink.
Sociology says so
There are several sociological dynamics at work here. For one, accepting the drink means that the power levels at play are somewhat evened, as the person in the higher position (the interviewer) gets to show a willingness to help the person in the subordinate position (the interviewee).
What’s more, our “Ahhh go on, go on go on” culture means we feel more comfortable with a person when they accept our attempt at kindness and generosity. This essentially means that by accepting the drink (even if you might not want it), what you’re really doing is making the other person feel at ease, more than anything else. This “Mrs Doyle Theory” holds that when you reply with a meek “no thanks, don’t worry, I’m fine!”, what you’re inadvertently doing is rejecting their attempt at kindness and ultimately stilting the realm of social niceties.*
*Note: the name of this theory may be subject to fabrication
By accepting the offer, you’re showing yourself to be a woman who knows what she wants. Whether that be a life filled with success and prosperity (or simply one filled with adequate hydration) by taking that glass/mug/bottle, the indication is that you value yourself and as a result, you set the precedent that you are worth valuing.
Being nervous for an interview is completely normal, and these nerves can often cause your throat to dry up and your voice to go a bit wonky. This is where a drink can have major practical benefits, alongside the aforementioned sociological ones, as it quickly tackles all dry mouth woes.
Having a drink in front of you also provides a good distraction and diversion during certain unsavoury situations. Awkward silences and curveball questions can all benefit from the five seconds of grace that a sip of a drink provides, just be sure to avoid any slurping or fidgeting - both can be very off-putting.
Take advantage of those last precious moments alone while the kettle boils and use it to wipe away the sweat from your brow, re-adjust your outfit, gather your thoughts and generally calm down a bit before the proceedings begin. You’d be surprised by the difference that using this time wisely can have on your overall interview performance
Sip for success
In short, when presented with the question “Can I get you a drink?” during an interview, the correct answer is always YES.
By accepting the offer, you’ll show that you’re confident, that you’re worth valuing, and it’ll immediately bump up your likeability from the get-go. That, plus actually consuming the beverage will lend you time in the face of a difficult question, and it’ll tackle any throat tickles along the way too.
Just be sure not to slurp. Nobody wants to hire a slurper.