The risk of “culture fit”
Imagine this: You’re hiring for a new role and you’ve found a really promising candidate. They did well in their interviews and they have the skill set necessary to do the job, but you find yourself asking the following questions: Is this someone who you’d want to grab a drink with after work? Will they get along with the rest of the team on a personal level? Will they fit in?
While these types questions may seem harmless at first glance, hiring for “culture fit” in this way can be risky.
Let’s explore why this line of thinking can be problematic and how a small tweak to your thought process can open you up to a more diverse pool of candidates.
What do we mean by “culture fit”?
For starters, what exactly do we mean when we say “culture fit”?
According to the Harvard Business Review, “cultural fit is the likelihood that someone will reflect and be able to adapt to the core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that make up your organization.”
Seems pretty harmless, right? Now let’s think a bit deeper about a company’s culture. “Culture” describes the personality of a company; it’s missions, values, goals, and the overall work environment. It’s not something that is tangible or concrete and therefore is quite difficult to define, measure, and analyze. With “culture” being so poorly defined within companies, it’s incredibly hard to say what makes someone a good cultural fit.
This issue is illustrated in a 2013 study which found that 82 percent of respondents believe that measuring culture fit is an important part of the recruitment process. However, only 54 percent said that their organization had a clearly defined culture. So how does a company incorporate a clear process for hiring for culture fit when their culture isn’t clearly defined or measured? Therein lies the problem.
Why is “culture fit” problematic?
This raises some serious questions: Have we simply been using the term “culture fit” as an excuse to hire people that are like us? Does the quest for “culture fits” introduce unconscious bias into our hiring processes? Are we missing out on people with unique perspectives, approaches, and experiences?
Moving towards “culture add”
This is where the idea of “culture add” comes in. Instead of creating a culture of same-ness, “culture add” is about adding diversity. Not just ethnic or gender diversity, but a diversity of ideas, viewpoints, and skillsets. Rather than evaluating how an individual might fit in, culture add leads us to question: “what cultural contribution can this candidate make?”
When we begin to ask, “what new things can they bring to our team” or “what perspectives are we lacking?” we open the door to different insights and approaches. This helps us expand our perspectives, invites constructive criticism, and ultimately results in better decision-making.
If you’re still hiring for culture fit, consider how you define “culture” and “fit”. Perhaps it’s time to explore the idea of “add” instead? In the end, your hiring strategy should attract candidates that challenge your team and expose your organization to new ideas and a diverse set of experiences.