You probably think about safety in a lot of situations, but is it really something you need to think about in your job search? It can be.
Generally, when you’re interviewing on campus through our On-Campus Interviewing Program (7-8 weeks during both fall and spring semesters), the interviews take place in locations controlled by the Career Services staff. However, interviews take place in many other ways, so consider these cautions about your interview location and situation:
Location: When an employer schedules a meeting or interview with you, if the location is not the employer’s office/business location, make sure it’s in a public place. The lobby of a hotel is fine, but meeting in an individual hotel room is not. Restaurants are an acceptable location (avoiding the bar), but if an employer asks you to meet in a parking lot or car, ask yourself why. That’s just not appropriate (or professional).
Private homes: Some employers work out of their homes. However, a private home is a questionable location for an interview unless other employees are working there too. The employer can arrange another location for the interview — like an appropriate restaurant or a meeting room in a library.
Identity: If you are at all unsure about an employer’s or interviewer’s identity or actual business affiliation, ask for a business card. Look at it carefully. A person may claim affiliation with a well-known organization, yet not actually work for that organization. The person might instead be a contractor or otherwise have a business relationship with the organization. Make sure you know — and ask if it’s unclear — the person’s true relationship to the organization with which s/he claims affiliation. You may research the individual on the organization web site in advance to make sure s/he is an employee/representative.
Alcohol: If an employer / interviewer is encouraging you to drink, ask yourself why. Does s/he want you to relax your inhibitions? An interview is not the place to do that. Professional standards set by NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, assert that alcohol has no place in employer recruiting of college students and graduates. Prospective employment meetings and interactions are situations in which everyone needs to be on her/his best professional behavior and best mental condition; no place for alcohol. If a drink is offered to you, it is perfectly appropriate, and the best choice, to politely decline. If you choose to accept a drink, accept only one, and make that one drink last throughout the meal or event.
If you’re a job-seeker attending a conference where you may meet potential employers, and alcohol is part of the enjoyment of the conference, you may nevertheless need to carefully monitor your own behavior and consumption to avoid making errors in judgment.
Why is all this an issue?
An employer or interviewer is in a role having more power than you have in your role as job candidate. An interviewer should never take advantage of you, make sexual advances, or suggest a relationship or activity that is unprofessional. There’s greater risk — and greater appearance of potential unprofessionalism on the part of the employer — when you meet alone in locations that are not public or are not strictly professional, such as hotel rooms and bars, or when alcohol becomes a factor.
Dealing with a request that makes you uncomfortable:
An employer should never put you in such a situation, and you should not hesitate to say, “I would not be comfortable meeting in that location.” You can blame it on your career center if you want: Just say, “My Career Services office recommends against meeting for interviews in that type of location.” If the employer pressures you or gets upset with you, consider whether you really want to work for that employer. It’s perfectly okay to say, “Thank you, but I’m not able to accept your offer of an interview.”
What if something uncomfortable happens to you:
If you ever find yourself in a difficult or confusing situation with an employer, and/or you believe an employer or interviewer behaved inappropriately, we strongly encourage you to discuss the situation with the Career Services director or with any Career Services advisor with whom you are familiar.