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Hiring for Culture Fit – Good or Bad?

August 14, 2020

By Sheila Hoover, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Culture fit in a company is just as important, if not more important, as skills fit.  We can train on the skills, as long as the basics are there.  We cannot change how a new employee fits into our culture.

But has hiring for culture fit contributed to discrimination in the workplace? 

Research shows that employee motivation and job performance are heightened when you align their style, values, and interests into their work environment.  This is why many organizations have shifted from hiring for skills to hiring for culture fit.  They have a desire to welcome like-minded employees into their organizations which should foster a cohesive work environment.

But what is the definition of culture fit?  This is the key to ensuring successful hires within your organization.  Shireen Jaffer at Fast Company says, “Culture fit is really about one thing and one thing only: how well the individual will do their job within your specific organization.  And your organization is much more than just happy hours and social gatherings.”

In order to hire with company culture in mind, four critical components should be defined and shared with your hiring team.

1. Company Environment

Is your office quiet and structured or filled with conversation and employees coming and going all day?  If you hire an employee who is more comfortable in a quiet environment, however your office is loud, that employee may feel distracted and struggle with performing their job.

2. Work Style

How the team interacts with each other and shares feedback is critical.  If your organization welcomes sharing ideas and giving credit and/or criticism to the group, then that is the energy your company thrives in.  If you hire an employee who is not comfortable in that environment, they may feel triggered, defensive, and become toxic to the work style you cultivate.

3. Company Values

Hiring managers have to find ways in the interview process to uncover whether or not the candidate truly aligns with the company values. Otherwise, this new hire may bring an opposing set of values (again, no matter how talented they are) that negatively impact the entire team.

4. Management Style

What this really comes down to is manager/new hire fit—which is almost always based on management style.  When interviewing candidates, this means understanding what type of management they work best under, what sort of hierarchy they expect, how they prefer to give and receive feedback, and even how often they are expected to report to their manager.

Once these components are defined for your organization, the following problematic consequences as stated by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic at should also be considered.

1. Culture Fit is Bad for Diversity

Hiring for culture fit can seriously handicap your ability to build a diverse team and organization.  When organizations hire leaders who fit right in, they should not expect much change, innovation, or progress. No leader is hired to “keep things as they are,” but this is exactly what you get when you hire replicas of your current leaders.

2. Culture Fit is Bad for Inclusion

Although organizations still struggle with diversity, a bigger challenge is building an inclusive culture.  The key to making diversity work is to create a culture where conscious inclusion is the norm — so that women, minorities, and underrepresented groups are not just “tolerated” but also valued and celebrated for their unique contributions.

3. Culture Fit Breeds Incompetence

It takes competence to spot and stop incompetence. When those who are in charge are unable or unwilling to change things, they will hire and promote people like themselves.  This makes hiring for culture fit an amplifier, making good cultures better and bad cultures worse.

4. Culture Fit Demands Culture Awareness that is Lacking

Hiring for culture fit requires a good understanding of your own culture, which many organizations lack. Organizations all seem to value diversity, innovation, social corporate responsibility, and executing for results. But ask employees to describe their company culture and you will see a very different picture.  Culture is best measured in terms of the experiences most people have when they work there.   

In summary, hiring for culture fit is an age-old debate.  As talent acquisition professionals, we have the responsibility to educate our hiring managers on how to balance skills and culture fit to ensure we are hiring the best person for our organizations success.

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