Afraid Of Hiring A Toxic Employee? Give Them The Beer & BBQ Test

My company has $250M in revenue. What most people don’t know is I had to start from scratch seven years into the business because I hired toxic employees. The Beer & BBQ test was my solution.

A casual beverage with COO Erik Church. Photo by Katie Diane Photography.

We spend an average of 90,000 hours of our lives at work. This means that you probably spend more time with your team than you do with your own family. Despite this, most entrepreneurs and leaders neglect to focus on personality or cultural fit when they’re hiring.

I made that mistake myself when I was starting out as an entrepreneur, and the results weren’t pretty. Morale suffered. Productivity plunged. I was avoiding going into the office because it had turned into a negative environment filled with people who just weren’t my type.

It got so bad that seven years into the business, I literally took my eleven employees into a room and fired them all. Then I had to start from scratch and, over time, I turned things around by prioritizing compatibility during the hiring process.

Now we put an emphasis on hiring people who have the right skills and who truly click with one another — who work hard together and play even harder. Attention to cultural fit has not only made 1–800-GOT-JUNK? and my other companies better places to work, it’s helped us grow. Today, our revenue is over $250 million.

Here are two incredibly simple (and delicious) hacks I’ve developed to ensure that new hires mesh with our awesome company culture.

Hack #1: The Beer Test

As I started to rebuild my team, I realized that the recruiting process should be focused less on ticking off a checklist and more about trusting my gut. Once potential candidates were in the door, I started thinking,

“Do I like this person? Do I find them interesting, and interested? Do they have a passion for something in life?”

From this, I developed what I call the Beer Test, narrowing those questions down to one: “Would I enjoy grabbing a beer with this person?” It’s hypothetical (most of the time), but it’s incredibly powerful.

If the answer is yes, it’s likely the start of a great working relationship. Sure, it’s simple, but it cuts right to the chase, and it’s been invaluable in helping me put together a team at O2E Brands that I love working with every day.

Photo by Katie Diane Photography.

Hack #2: The BBQ Test

As helpful as the Beer Test is, there’s one major problem: it only measures my gut sense. It doesn’t take into account how a candidate clicks with the rest of the organization, and it took one especially bad hire to make me see this blind spot and its potential consequences.

A few years ago, I hired a new CFO, in the hopes of taking 1–800-GOT-JUNK? to the next level. Although this executive was highly skilled and incredibly smart, this person just wasn’t a people person, and that became a real problem. People in different departments were reluctant to work with this new CFO, and we started losing some strong team members who had become unhappy with the work environment. Despite this executive’s awesome pedigree, we had to part ways.

But how did this individual wind up on the team in the first place? Well, to be honest, the executive had passed the Beer Test with flying colors. The executive also interviewed well and we even bonded when we discovered we had the same favorite movie.

From that oversight, I came up with another critical hiring hack: the BBQ Test.

The BBQ Test is all about the group dynamic. It’s a matter of asking,

“Would this person fit in at a backyard barbecue with my corporate ‘family’?”

If you threw the candidate into a group social situation with other employees, would she be able to hold her own, or find someone to connect with? A Beer Test is singular (do I like this person?), while the BBQ Test asks, “Does he or she fit into our community?”

There’s no need to actually fire up the grill: simply introducing a candidate to the rest of the team in-office works just fine. But if they don’t get the stamp of approval from most of the group — if there’s no connection from the start — chances are they just aren’t right for the company, no matter what their resume says.

Study Shows That Having A Close Buddy At Work Increases Engagement And Productivity

A culturally-aligned team, with members that get along and genuinely enjoy each other’s company, is a more engaged team — and a more productive one. One of the most important questions asked in the Gallup Q12, a measurement tool for workplace performance, is “Do you have a best friend at work?” The stats prove that having a business best friend, a buddy you connect with in and out of the office, is a primary factor in employee engagement.

And when employees are engaged, they’re more productive: the Workplace Research Foundation says that highly engaged employees are 38% more likely to have above-average productivity.

So the next time you’re hiring, look past just the candidate’s credentials, and also put them through my Beer and BBQ Tests. These simple hacks have helped me assemble a dream team and will help you quickly assess the cultural fit of your candidates.

I’m the founder and CEO of O2E (Ordinary to Exceptional) Brands. I’m passionate about helping others grow small to medium businesses and corporate culture. Tweet me @brianscudamore