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Interview Etiquette: To Drink or Not to Drink

I figured the cup of coffee would be safe at my feet, but the laws of physics proved me wrong. In the middle of the networking meeting my left foot sideswiped the paper cup. It toppled over, forming a brown puddle on the carpet. The carpet magically absorbed the mess, absolving me of lasting embarrassment. The experience, however, spawned a few thoughts about securing a safe spot for your cup of coffee during an interview. As I see it, these are your placement options:

1. On the floor where the cup is out of sight, and you can easily kick, jostle, or sideswipe it. You may have forgotten the cup is there, but neither you nor the interviewer will forget the interruption.

2. On the interviewer’s desk so you can reach for it as the she says, “Now that we’ve talked about your strengths let’s move on to your most bothersome weakness”. You misfire, and the cup falls sideways, turning her crisply written To Do List into a puddle of brown pulp.

3. On your lap; you shift positions: “Oops”! Everybody’s off topic!

Even if you succeed in keeping the cup upright, a sudden twitch as you sip and all eyes are on the brown streamlets running down your suit.

In short, if you want a clean, focused interview the cup of coffee may not be your “cup of tea”.