Jeff Carouth

Web and mobile developer. Agile apprentice. Photography enthusiast.

Do YOU Pass the Beer Test?

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As a form of self-validation — I told you my decision was difficult, didn’t I? — I’ve spent some time reading some articles about how to find and hire the perfect candidate, top reasons for leaving your job, and reinforced some principles I’ve held based on conversations with other developers in the past. One of the “gut checklist” items from an article on the Atlassian blog is to decide if the new employee passes the beer test. Simply put this is a subjective analysis that indicates whether a person would be interesting enough to hold a conversation with outside of work.

Beer

While the original post was meant to help in the vetting process, I think it applies equally to applicants during the job search and interview process. Community is an aspect of the technological world that when neglected will have a devastating effect on the work environment. Thus it is imperative that a candidate takes time to observe the interaction among the community members and determines what, if any, his or her role will be in the community.

I must admit, however, that I cheated on my last beer test. (The test I was giving to the potential job, not the one I was taking.) As I mentioned, I learned about the position from a friend and colleague of mine and he already passed the beer test. The very fact that the team I was applying to become a member of passed his beer test was good enough for me.

That said, I’ve attempted to determine what qualities I look for in a beer test that I would give. First and foremost, I value interests that are diversified. In a group setting I’d like to have conversations with people that oppose my views as much as I’d like to have the proverbial choir to preach at. Having a broad spectrum of interests leads to a healthy pool of topics to choose from.

Along the same lines being able to articulate thoughts and opinions is among one of the most important qualities a beer buddy, if you will, can have. Without expression of ideas in a way that each party in the conversation can absorb growth will be stifled. There is not a quantifiable way to distinguish if a person can articulate thoughts in a decent manner because it is entirely dependent upon the individual. The important factor to consider is if the mutual articulation is well received and if your potential beer buddy or buddies can understand what you are trying to tell them.

These two qualities are the most important, in my opinion of course, factors that should be considered when administering a beer test.

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