Hiring for Cultural Fit—What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

By Catherine Lang-Cline

We hire for a cultural fit.

Really, we do. And many, many companies do too. Companies do this because it works, but it isn’t perfect. Creating too deep of a mold for a cultural fit can make it so new hires begin to look, act, and think alike.

Let’s start with defining cultural fit. A few years ago the business community determined that every cool business needed a ping-pong table, beer on tap, and a bunch of bean-bag chairs. They were the first steps to building a culture, a place where people with the same interests would want to hang out and work. These turned more into frills as a real culture is built on people that are passionate about what they do. People that work hard when nobody's watching. People that love a job more than their paycheck. (Oh yes, they do exist!)

When people hire for culture and do it in a way that all the employees end up looking the same and thinking the same. They have not allowed room for diversity or special skills. So let’s talk about how to get the best people.

The best way to do this is to dig deeper during the interview process. Great, they love craft beer but if your company is innovative, can they get just as excited about that? Is your customer service something that they admire? Will they be able to work alone or as a group depending on how you currently work? How do they handle conflict?

You are going to want to hear things in the interview that you can relate to, that other people on the team can relate to. Your company has a team of hard workers and your first candidate has a story about how all through their life they have had to pull themselves up. Someone that almost looks identical, is equal in skills, has a story about how lucky they have been, and with their personality, can accomplish anything. Who is the best fit? That really depends on what is a fit for your company.

Does the candidate find job titles important? Do you? How do you feel about egos, communication styles, accountability? All of your questions need to revolve around everything that you value, everything that is important to you, anything that would be defined as a fit for your processes and your team.

If you have the entire team passionate about what you do and have a common approach to getting the work done, rather than all being from the same alma mater, you have a recipe for success.