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Why the “Beer Test” is the worst way to hire

Written by: Richelle Matthews, COO
June 2, 2020

Besides the skills and experience “fit” is often a key, but intangible criteria for any hire. What does fit mean to you? If it means the “I’d like to have a beer with this person after work”, then you need to read on.

Right now, with Covid19, I am pretty sure we would love to go for a drink with anyone!… if we only could.

Besides the fact that we are all social distancing and we can’t even put this test into action, there are a number of other reasons why you should reconsider the beer test.

  1. “Like me” bias: It is human nature to look for someone who enjoys the same interests and activities as you and laughs at the same jokes. This leads to a homogenous team with a lack of diversity. Some companies like to justify this as “cultural fit” however, it allows for hiring managers to justify hiring a less skilled candidate in favour of one that is more similar to him/herself. The belief that harmonious teams are more productive, is just a belief. Research from Harvard Business Review shows the opposite is actually true. The most diverse teams are more productive and are more content.
  2. Limited Innovation: Innovation comes from different ways of solving the same problem. By examining a problem through multiple, diverse lenses, you will get multiple solutions instead of one. This will also lead your team to think more critically, ask questions and learn from each other. According to Harvard Business Review, diverse teams financially performed 10% higher than non-diverse teams.
  3. Cultural and gender biases: as a woman, I would prefer not to go out for “a beer” with my colleagues for a number of reasons — not the least of which is I don’t drink beer. Family obligations as a working mom make it difficult to “grab a drink after work”. Focusing on who you would like to “hang out with” socially or who is willing to drink with you skews hiring managers in favour of people who fit their social, cultural and gender norms. This disregards how different cultures and groups prefer to socialize and form friendships in a workplace setting. When I was working in Vietnam, as a networking activity my local colleagues took me for “hair washing” and manicures. Hey, maybe that should be the new “beer” test!
  4. Doesn’t address the skills gap: At GTA when we are hiring, we look at what our current skills gap is and how the individual will address that gap within our team. We try to address the questions “what skills are missing on our team?” and “what new skills will this person bring to the team?”. A team full of creatives will never get anything done, and a team full of process-oriented people will miss opportunities for innovation. Building a strong team requires looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the teams and how that new hire can bring new strengths to the organization.
  5. Overlooks technical skills: Let’s say your pipes are leaking in your home. Do you ask your buddy John that you drink with at the pub every Thursday night to fix it or do you look for a plumber? John might be fun for a round of drinks but if your house in the risk of water damage you are probably going to look for someone who can address the problem quickly and effectively. Hiring technical talent is no different. If you are hiring a developer, you want someone with strong technical knowledge who can solve the problems and implement the solutions your company needs in a timely and cost-effective manner. We have observed in tech hiring that not testing technical skills and relying on resumes and interviews alone are companies’ biggest pitfalls.

At GTA we are diverse by default. Our team has over ten languages spoken and everyone has lived in at least one other country. With such a diverse team, there is never a shortage of opinions or ideas. We think that when hiring the most important questions to ask are: “What can I learn from this person?”, “What new skills do they add to the team?” and “How can I verify those skills?”.

Written by: Tiona Corcoran, VP International Recruitment and Immigration at Global Talent Accelerator.