Culture fit is a cliché that matters to most job seekers. They look for an environment that makes them feel more at home and aligns with their values. Recruiters and hiring managers often look for the best candidates that also fit the organization’s culture. The belief is that culture fit will help the new employee collaborate more efficiently with existing coworkers and managers. But is there a darker side to culture fit?
Is Hiring for Cultural Fit Good or Bad—or Both?
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) says there is a darker side to the idea of cultural fit. They suggest the problem is that hiring for a fit within the existing culture is in no way measurable or objective. This allows unconscious biases to potentially creep into otherwise rigorous processes. Recruiters and hiring teams say, “Well, I just know the right fit when I find it.” While we aren’t saying that there is an element of instinct or “gut feel” to the hiring process, this in no way is a subjective process. When an interviewer can’t explain why they didn’t like a candidate, but instead says, “We just didn’t click,” that could be a red flag from a diversity and inclusion perspective.
Researchers at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University agree, for the most part. They suggest that the idea of hiring for cultural fit isn’t bad in and of itself. However, their research suggests that hiring teams are doing it wrong. They say, “Instead of looking for people who share the company’s values, hiring managers look for people who share their own background and interests. And if the people doing the hiring are predominantly male, or white, or wealthy, then they perpetuate that lack of diversity in their organization.”
Organizations that do a good job of hiring for cultural fit map what the culture actually is to specific abilities and skills in their workforce. That way the interview process leverages a measurable scorecard. That makes hiring for cultural fit a less subjective process.
Hiring for cultural fit does help companies and candidates find a better long-term match. But there is clearly a right way and a wrong way to conduct this process so that unconscious bias never becomes an issue in your hiring.
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