What is the ‘beer test’?

Hiring IT professionals is typically a straight-forward process that begins with a job listing and ends with an interview and skills assessment. As long as you go by the book, you should be able to find great new hires for some open IT positions. But where's the fun in that?

If you want to bring on the best tech pros, you have to go beyond the standard. You have to use the "beer test."

"A beer test ensures a cultural fit."

Writing for Forbes, Brian Scudamore, the founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK, explained the beer test is a method that ensures a cultural fit, and in his opinion, his engaged group of employees "who work hard together and play even harder" have improved his business's ROI. In interviews with potential new hires, Scudamore asks himself whether he would enjoy having an adult beverage with that person. According to Scudamore, the beer test "cuts right to the chase" when it comes to cultural cohesion. But the beer test is much more than that.

There are many different approaches to performing the beer test on IT pros looking for employment. In some cases, you don't even need to have a beer, which is what Scudamore practices – he simply envisions what it would be like. Other times, and if the corporate culture at your office is right, the beer test can entail actually grabbing a cold one with a job candidate.

Which methods is for you?
In fact, you don't even need to have a brew – you can get cocktail. More seriously, you could replace an alcoholic beverage with a coffee at the place around the corner, or you could get lunch or dinner. The Muse contributor Terri Tierney Clark suggested performing a group beer test, which she called "social interviews": Instead of just you and the candidate, the potential new hire could go out for drinks with you and your co-workers. That way, you'll have a better idea of how interviewees interact socially and conform culturally.

There are so many methods for conducting the beer test because the underlying principle of the practice is what actually matters. The beer test is a personality test when performed perfectly. It isn't a simple assessment about whether you'd be able to communicate over a drink. After all, you'd probably be fine with having a beer with many people you wouldn't want to employ. The beer test is really a series of questions aimed at uncovering who job candidates are as an individual.

Beer, wine, cocktails or soda - it's not the drink that matters!Beer, wine, cocktails or soda – it's not the drink that matters!

What you should seek to learn
For example, Time contributor Sanjay Sanghoee identified some key queries that come about during a beer test. While Sanghoee's perspective is that of an interviewee, his insight into what you really should be asking is enlightening:

  • What do IT pros do outside of their jobs?: For IT hiring, answering this question provides you with a look into job candidates' passions. If you discover that potential new hires create video games for fun or build PCs, you know that you're talking to someone who loves what they do.
  • Are interviewees capable socially?: You will be working with new hires and they will be collaborating with others, so you need to ensure they can handle themselves in social situations.
  • Are job candidates who they say they are?: Sanghoee explained that in an interview, potential new hires are putting on their best faces and acting as professional as possible. But with a beer under their belts, true colors can start to show, and you can identify what those individuals are like when there isn't so much pressure on them.
  • What's in it for new hires?: Outside of an interview, people can be honest, as mentioned above. Use beer tests to determine why exactly job candidates want the position.

The beer test is a tried-and-true practice that can help you make better decisions on important hiring matters. There are many different ways to perform this method, making it suitable for hiring 20 people or one mission-critical individual. By using each beer test approach wisely, you'll have a new tool in your arsenal that makes finding great IT pros easier.

What is the ‘beer test’?
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