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Caveat Emptor: how a decision at Starbucks may cause you to flop at your next interview.

You may be asking yourself, “Why would a decision at Starbucks cause me to have a bad interview?”  You may even list a few possible answers such as:

  • One too many shots of espresso may cause me to be jittery and too intense.
  • If I order a double mocha frappuccino, maybe the health conscious hiring manager will think about the number calories in that drink.
  • Or maybe it’s because the potential to spill coffee on my nice white shirt is not worth the risk…although I’d disagree on that one, only because I do love my legalized stimulants.

Well, what could it be?  If you guessed that the critical Starbucks decision hinged on whether or not you chose a hot or an iced beverage, then you’d be correct, and here’s why.  Professor John Bargh from Yale has been playing with a subject known as “priming”, which basically manipulates a person on a subconscious level to make the decision he wants that person to make.  Recently he conducted a study where he had a test subject ride up an elevator with one of his students.   During that time the student would hand the participant either an iced cup of coffee or a hot cup of coffee.  Once they reached the top, the test subject was asked if they would hire the student as a project manager.  If the test subject held the iced coffee, the answer was a resounding NO!

Most people who held the iced coffee justified their “no” vote by saying the student was cold, impersonal, distant, less social, and even more selfish; however, when they were primed with the warm cup of coffee  they were more inclined to say that they would hire him, and they justified their decision saying he was more sociable, dependable, and supportive.  WOW!!

So folks, summer is upon us and I”m sure you’d like that iced beverage before the interview; however, you may want to take it hot this time.  As well, if a cup of coffee can have such a profound impact on an interviewer, what do you think his/her primed mind will be like if he’s lost an account, been yelled at by a customer or supervisor, had a bad flight into town, received poor service at a restaurant, etc.?


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