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Diversity and Inclusion

Why hiring for culture fit is misguided

You need to be aware of your biases throughout the hiring process, especially when making a final decision or taking a candidate out of the running. Be critical of your own thinking and test for real evidence. Ask yourself:

  • What’s the data that indicates your favored candidate is actually best for the job? Or another is unsuitable for the job?
  • Is it possible your unconscious assumptions about him or her influenced your lens in the process?

Challenge others on the interview panel to question their thinking, too.

Be particularly aware of your (and others’) assumptions of “the kind of people” who usually do this job. That’s loaded with bias favoring the status quo.

Beware of “cultural fit” thinking. The idea behind “fit” is that you want to hire people like you to build a harmonious team – usually people with a similar background and personality.

It’s at odds with building a truly diverse team, diverse not just in inherent demographics but also in subtler dimensions like personality, ways of thinking and communication styles. That’s not great if you want to reap the benefits of diversity.

As Celia de Anca writes in Harvard Business Review:

“Companies will be very diverse in appearance, but intrinsically homogeneous. They will be hiring the same profile of people even though they might have very different backgrounds. Thus the company will appear diverse — but we know that appearances can be deceiving.”

The solution? Instead of hiring for culture fit, hire for culture contribution. Analyze what’s missing from your culture, and go out of your way to recruit people who can bring that to the table.

📺 Watch this

Hear Adam Grant, author of the highly-acclaimed bestseller Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World talk about why hiring for cultural fit holds you back from being the most successful team you can be.

💡 Points that give us pause

🚩 Defensiveness is something that holds businesses back from eliminating biases. Be open about your biases, it’ll create a more open environment. (00:05 – 00:45)

🚩 By giving a chance to someone who is different in both thought and culture, you may find that you innovate more. Perhaps don’t solely hire individuals who think in the same way you do. Subvert cultural fit! (01:26 – 02:04)

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The bottom line?

Ban the phrase “culture fit” at your organization – you’ll end up hiring people like your existing team (or superficially different). Look instead for culture contribution – candidates who fill the talent and skills gaps in your current team.

More writing about the concept of cultural contribution and why hiring for “culture fit” is a bad idea

Why hiring for culture fit is misguided

In the past, have you personally tried to hire for cultural fit, or cultural contribution? Share your comments or whatever else you’d like to share here.

We’d love to hear from you!

Fiona Young (she/her)

Having previously led Learning and Development for 3,000 people at Europe’s leading venture builder, Blenheim Chalcot, Fiona knows a thing or two about how to build high performance culture. As Content Director at Hive Learning, Fiona pioneered the organisation's leading guided content programmes which are designed to turn learning into action. Most recently, Fiona led the inception, development and delivery of Inclusion Works by Hive Learning - the world’s first diversity and inclusion programme focused on turning unconscious bias into conscious action - created from over 1,000 leading sources.