Hiring For Cultural Fit or Misfits?

The British Prime Minister’s advisor Dominic Cummings may want to hire weirdos and misfits for No.10 which may not be working out so well judging on recent news.

We know that diversity and inclusion is a mainstream business issue that speaks to a firm’s culture and conduct, so how about hiring to fit your culture? It may not be a good idea if it means building bias and discrimination in to the hiring process.

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Cultural fit is based on the compatibility between an employee’s personality, work style, values and attitudes, and organizational culture.

Cultural criteria

A Society for Human Resource Management study found that poor cultural fit due to staff turnover can cost an organization between 50% and 60% of the person’s annual salary. The problem is that if you want to hire for fit, you have to have a pretty good handle on your culture in the first place and all too often what senior management proclaims as organizational ‘culture’ is not what employees experience at the sharp end.

Without a real understanding of culture, you risk problems
when recruiting where fit is defined as “is the candidate like the people we
have already hired?” the dangers of that are all too obvious. Even if you have
a defined culture that resonates with your employees which they buy in to, you
still have to assess potential recruits for cultural fit.

That assessment needs to be measurable, rooted on strengths and if your processes are well managed should lead to diversity in recruitment. The process has to employ solid, measurable criteria in order to void the likelihood of hiring based on the mold of previously successful candidates in the role or based on the likability factor. Psychometric testing and behavioral interview questions are a good starting point.

Take a rain check

Checking references, really checking, actually talking to
previous employers not just relying on the paper trail will also help. The best
method would be a work trial and that’s easier to do when most people work on
short-term contracts but circumstances change and people change so no route is

Hiring for cultural fit doesn’t necessarily tick the boxes in terms of inclusion and diversity. Hire too many people just like you and creativity and innovation go out of the window. That said, it’s only natural to hire for likeability but it becomes a real problem as the organization starts to grow. We’ve seen it happen where a core group of senior managers shares a love of, say, football, great for them. By the time you have a larger team though those employees who don’t share that love may come to feel they’re not part of the mainstream or to feel that progression goes to those who know what to say about football.

You don’t need people who fit in exactly with what you
already have because you need people who can challenge, who can think
differently, who can take a risk and call out established ways of thinking and
behaving. So don’t rely on a common background, in-group and clique references
or shared understanding. Expand your perspective and think outside the box by
looking at what others bring to the party.

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