At Lever, we believe building and maintaining a great company culture starts with who you hire. But hiring for culture is really hard, especially in a competitive talent marketplace. By the time a company decides they want to fill a role, it’s easy to understand the temptation to overlook culture fit and simply hire the first person with the right set of hard skills.
It’s critical to resist that temptation—although that's easier said than done. By hiring real culture fits, the savings you’ll enjoy in employee engagement and retention will pay dividends down the line.
Whether you just can’t find a culture match, or aren’t consciously trying to at all, you’re probably doing the same thing wrong: using the beer test.
The Beer Test (aka The Wrong Way to Check for Fit)
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?”
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.
A telling indicator that you are making decisions based on the beer test is if you find yourself relying on ill-defined gut feelings and saying things like, “She seems smart, but I’m not sure if she’d fit in here. I can’t put my finger on why.”
Why It’s Problematic
If your company hires in this way, you might be rejecting candidates who could do wonders for the company because they don’t fit the typical mold. What’s more, you’ll likely limit the diversity of your team, which—aside from being ethically dubious—can actually hurt your bottom line.
Many studies show that companies with a diverse employee base perform better, and generate more revenue than ones lacking diversity. A recent study of 22,000 companies in 91 countries revealed a 15 percent rise in profitability for companies that increased women managers from zero to 30 percent.
A recent podcast with guest Leslie Miley, Silicon Valley veteran and ex-Twitter engineer, discusses how diversity is beneficial because it elevates a group’s ability to solve problems and think strategically. “If you don’t have people of diverse background building your product, you’re going to get a very narrowly focused product,” says Miley.
Bottom line: hiring for culture fit instead of the beer test can result in the best additions to your team and foster diversity company-wide. It’s a smart business strategy and can be easy.
Hiring for culture fit will and should look different from company to company because no two cultures are identical. At Lever, we use our blog, ‘Inside Lever,’ to market our culture to perspective candidates. Employees regularly contribute, and their posts on what it’s like to work at the company help us attract candidates who readily identify with our culture and values. An article by an account executive at Lever, “Why We Need More Women in Tech Sales,” has been extremely resonant with some female salespeople. By getting our culture out there, we attract people who will thrive in a workplace with our values.
If you’re starting from scratch (i.e. you pay little to no attention to hiring for culture fit right now), structuring your interview process is an effective place to begin. Most people don’t want to make hiring decisions based on an incorrect understanding of culture fit, but when they’re thrown into an interview with little information on the candidate or how to evaluate them, the beer test is a default way to make decisions. Instead—as the recruiter or hiring manager—give interviewers training and structure so they understand the qualities they’re looking for in a candidate, and how to evaluate for those qualities. For more about how we use these and other hiring strategies to find the best culture fit, check out our post here.
When HR understands how to collect consistent, more objective information across candidates, they’re in a much better position to evaluate candidates based on their merits and true culture fit at the company.