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Managers, the Beer Test Is the Wrong Way to Hire

Topics: Work Culture

The white whale of hiring new team members is finding the perfect “culture” fit. Managers depend on their employers for some parts of the equation, including offices with the right layout, an attractive salary, and the right perks. Hopefully, they have more control over the people part of the puzzle, gathering the right personalities to produce the best work possible. And yet, a common refrain is that the majority of workers – in fact, 70 percent of them – aren’t happy at work, and in turn, are not engaged. So what is it that managers are getting wrong with their teams?

beer test 

(Photo Credit: Patryk Dziejma/

The problem, Kiran Dhillon suggests at Namely, might be the so-called “Beer Test.” 

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“The beer test is when instead of evaluating candidates based on their ability to do a job and align with your work environment, you ask yourself, ‘Would I want to get a beer with this person?'” she explains. “The trouble with the beer test, even if you don’t outwardly ask yourself the very question, is that you might be subconsciously making recruiting decisions based on whether you’d want to be friends with a person. The tendency to be drawn to people who are similar to yourself, and therefore want to hire them, is natural — but it’s important to be aware of when it happens and adjust your behaviors.”

What happens when you hire potential friends instead of essential colleagues? You don’t necessarily wind up with an employee who will really love the work. What’s more is that when you’re only asking the question of whether or not your personalities will mesh, you’re putting the onus to engage on your employee.

At Harvard Business Review, Jim Harter and Amy Adkins discuss a Gallup poll that showed only about a third of employees were engaged at work. Harter is Gallup’s Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and Well-Being, while Adkins writes for on the global workplace. The goal of their analysis? To find out what managers could be doing to better engage with workers.

Their suggestions offer much better alternatives to choosing the candidates you’d hang out with after work.

Seek Out Communicators

The first behavior highlighted as important for employees was communication. That means that for employees to be engaged at work, managers need to be effective communicators. And likewise, your team members need to be people who strive be to good communicators themselves.

Question to Ask: If you’re looking for a question that can comprehensively and succinctly assess a candidate’s communication skills, try this one from Hubspot: “What’s surprised you about the interview process so far?” It gives them an opportunity to engage with what you’ve talked about so far, and express raw thoughts from an immediate reaction.

Look for Goal-Driven People

These employees create a win-win team environment that goes beyond the simple idea of a “culture” fit, and leads to a group of engaged people who are eager about the task ahead.

Question to Ask: When you’re interviewing potential goal-oriented candidates, ask them another question that Hubspot recommends: “Tell me about a time you set difficult goals. What did you do to achieve them? Walk me through the process and purpose.”

Someone can pass the Beer Test, but still not be the type of person who is actively seeking out communication and working toward goals on their own. But if you can find employees who are driven and able to communicate with others, you may find folks who are excited and engaged with their work. 

Tell Us What You Think

What’s your trick for building the perfect team? Do you feel like employees should just suck it up and be happy? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or by joining the conversation on Twitter!

Peter Swanson
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