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When I started 1-800-GOT-JUNK? almost 30 years ago, I didn’t recruit and hire for culture fit. Instead, I hired out of necessity, bringing in friends, acquaintances—anyone who could drive a truck—to meet growing demand for our services.

Unsurprisingly, this tactic didn’t result in an awesome workplace culture. No one was passionate about building a successful brand—my employees were just there to pick up a paycheque. Things quickly grew toxic, and it got so bad that I started avoiding the office altogether. I could think of only one way to fix the situation: Fire my entire team of 11 employees and start all over again.

That experience taught me the importance of culture, and helped me realize that business success is all about people. Time and again, two tests have helped us determine which candidates would fit into the unique culture of my companies. Here’s how I ensure I’m hiring the right people for my business.

The Beer Test

After firing my team, I made a decision: Going forward, I only wanted to work with people who shared my vision for building the business together, for the long-term.

Since skillsets and qualifications had proved poor indicators for success the first time around, I learned to trust my gut over what was listed on applicants’ resumes. As I interviewed more and more candidates, I found myself wondering, “Do I like this person? Do I find them interesting, and interested? Do they have a passion for something in life?”

These questions ultimately boiled down to one, which I still ask myself about potential hires today: “Would I enjoy grabbing a beer with this person after work?” Though it’s usually a hypothetical the Beer Test helps me figure out whether a candidate is compatible with the type of culture we’re trying to build.

The BBQ Test

It’s not enough to like a candidate yourself. You also need to see how that person clicks with the rest of your team.
I realized that the Beer Test needed an extra step after a bad hire a few years ago, an executive who I hoped could take 1-800-GOT-JUNK? to the next level. Our newly appointed CFO was experienced, intelligent, and very skilled, but didn’t get along with the team—at all. Some of our strongest employees were simply unable to work with this person, and quit. After an expensive and time-consuming process, the executive and the company parted ways.

Thinking over what had gone wrong, I realized that my failed hire had passed the Beer Test with flying colours. But while I got a great first impression, I had failed to consider this person’s compatibility with the rest of the team and our workplace culture as a whole.

That oversight led to the BBQ test: “Would this person fit in at a backyard barbecue with my corporate ‘family?’” Thrown into a social situation with other employees, you want to know that the candidate would be able to hold their own.

Just like the Beer Test, this question is hypothetical—there’s no need to actually start up the grill. Simply introducing a candidate to the rest of your team at the office is enough. If they seem to have no chemistry with most of the group, chances are they won’t work out in the long-term.

• • • • •

Corporate culture is not just a soft topic for business books. While it’s nice to have a workplace where people get along, hiring right directly impacts your bottom line. Need proof?

Zappos CEO Tony Hseish hires specifically for fit, even offers a $4,000 quitting bonus to weed out weak newbies. By focusing on culture and bringing in people who share their values, Zappos has flourished.

Not every company cares about the same cultural values. What we value at O2E Brands is likely quite different from what someone hiring for a commercial law firm is looking for. But even if you’re a competitive, suit-and-tie operation, you’ve still got to find people with common values to accomplish your mission.

So the next time you’re hiring, look past the candidate’s credentials. Put them through the Beer and BBQ Tests to figure out whether they’re the right fit for your dream team.

Brian Scudamore is the founder and CEO of O2E Brands, the banner company for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, You Move Me, and Shack Shine. I’m a strong believer in ongoing personal and professional development and I like to show others how to use goal-setting to take the lead in their own business. I’m passionate about people, and I’ve created a corporate culture where we are all building something bigger, together. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


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