I got one of the standard emails from a recruiter saying I had been “referred” for a job at Twitter (they were apparently “very excited” about me). Now, I figure these things are about as real as the Reader’s Digest prize draw, and I’m not in the market for a job anyway, but curiosity got the better of me and I had a quick look at the jobs they were offering. I got a bit of a surprise:
Do you see it? In the same block as the requirements for technical skills, they request that you enjoy beer.
It’s pretty clear what’s going on here. It’s not really a job requirement, but they were brainstorming ways to make the company appear cool and sociable and whatever, and this seemed like a fun way to do it. It sets the company apart, because nobody else writes about drinking alcohol on their job description.
Unfortunately, there’s a very good reason for that. I hate to go all knee-jerk politically correct HR on you, but you just can’t do this kind of thing. At a stroke, you’ve ruled out muslims, recovered alcoholics, methodists, pregnant women, people who just don’t like to drink, and all sorts of other classes of people I’ve not thought of here. Sure, it’s only in the “pluses” section. Yes, nearly everybody in this category will understand that it’s just light-hearted fun, and that it won’t really be used to distinguish candidates. That doesn’t matter. You can’t afford to make people of any sort of minority feel unwelcome in your organisation.
Realistically, every company has a non-neutral culture, and for every culture there are going to be some people who feel they don’t fit into that. Completely neutralising this kind of culture is impossible and to a large extent undesirable—the best you can do is to maximise diversity while preserving the positive aspects of what makes your culture unique. But job advertisements are a special sort of communication: they are very public indeed, and they are often the first chance you get to communicate your message to prospective candidates who know nothing else about you. Inviting someone out for a drink after you’ve got to know them is a completely different proposition from broadcasting the desirability of drinking.