April 15, 2013

Topic: Human Resources

Would you pass the 'beer test'?

I missed my last blog, as my mom recently passed away. One thing I will share with you is that my mom was truly the nicest person I ever met. That was obviously a wonderful thing for me throughout my life, and I hope at least a little of the niceness rubbed off on me. I think it helped me prosper work-wise, specifically at my current company. That’s because our company’s personality is one of being “nice.” That may sound biased, but being nice is not always the best corporate personality to have.

Nice works for companies like First Business because we’re in the service sector where personal relationships are critical for success. However, being nice would not be the best personality for Apple. Instead, being innovative would be more advantageous. At places like Walmart or Menards, it would be something like being frugal or efficient.

As you think about what your corporate personality should be, keep in mind there’s a potential downside for every personality’s strength. For example, being nice sounds wonderful, but if you are too nice, there can be issues with accountability. This is the analogous issue at a corporate level that I discussed in my last blog, “Strength or weakness?

So how do you apply these concepts at your organization? An important step is to make sure those who are involved in hiring understand your company’s personality and focus on hiring people whose personalities fit. At our company, we have something I call the “beer test.” When we interview someone and I’m not sure about the fit, I ask, “Is this somebody you’d want to have a beer with after work?” I remember one time asking the hiring supervisor the “beer test” question about someone she wanted to hire. Her answer, after a long pause, was, “No, not really.” I then asked, “Then why would you want to work with them eight-plus hours a day?”

We’re not the only company that has a filter like this. If you’ve ever flown Southwest Airlines, you probably know that the company values sense of humor. I heard a funny story about Southwest requesting that pilot applicants change into shorts for their interviews. The ones who wouldn’t were deemed not a good fit and not hired!

Both the employer’s and the employee’s interests are best served if their personalities are similar. So I recommend job applicants consider this as well. Applicants should try to discern the personality of the prospective employer and make sure the personalities are a fit. An employee is much more likely to prosper in his or her career at a company if there is a match.

So I shared with you the “beer test,” and also the “shorts test.” What’s your business’s personality, and do you have a test you use to screen candidates for fit?


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