Hiring for culture fit, or add?

When we talk about cultural fit, mostly we are talking about whether someone ‘fits’ into the organisation or not, and how well they will be able to do their job within the environment of the organisation.

But one of the challenges, says Patty McCord, former Netflix Chief Officer of Talent, is that too many people define culture fit in a social sense, as in, whether they would like to spend time with the person socially and they would fit in that context, ‘hiring people they would like to have a beer with’. And this is an incorrect way of thinking about it. This definition of culture fit may be significantly flawed. A mantra of “we will all be friends” can lead to detrimental hiring practices, such as only hiring people you feel comfortable spending time around.

Hiring for fit, if that means hiring for sameness, is not a recipe for success. We know that there is plenty of research linking diverse teams to less groupthink, more innovative solutions and overall more profitability. Rather than focus on culture fit, says Ruchika Tulshyan, author and inclusion specialist, we should think about culture add.

When teams prioritize hiring a candidate who would be a culture add rather than a culture fit, they’re more likely to benefit from out-of-the-box thinking and better outcomes.

So in place of assessing how much you “like” a candidate, try to shift to how well could they do their jobs, and how this individual can shine in a way that makes the team or organisation thrive too. A great reframe might be:

How will you add to the culture of our team?

Hiring only for ‘cultural fit’ potentially means missing out on great talent, it may also increase the risk of passing on an unintended bias to products. Shireen Jaffa encourages us to reflect on what makes a person successful in our organisation, or unsuccessful, and the typical working and management styles, before we start interviewing.

Assessing for culture fit can unintentionally encourage managers to pick candidates that look like everyone else. But looking for culture add helps managers to determine how a candidate’s individuality and differences can make a company better and stronger. That’s the first step in making a great hire.

Hiring for the future

Consider also that any successful organisation will grow and change. So you will want to look for people who can adapt as the business landscape shifts. That means looking for knowledge, curiosity, adaptability, and potential, rather than just hiring ‘for fit’ today.

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