The Risky Business Associated with Weighing ‘Culture Fit’

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When determining which candidates would succeed in a given work environment, more and more companies are prioritizing cultural fit. This basic notion stems from the idea that employees with similar goals, work ethic, and enthusiasm will create a thriving, successful workplace.

However, recent hiring practices have given this idea a new spin. Rather than focusing on a similarity of goals and attitudes, employers are hiring based on which candidates they would like to “hang out” with. The New York Times recently noted this shift, explaining that candidates are more likely to be hired if they share similar interests and backgrounds with the hiring manager.

While similar interests can be beneficial, this notion of culture fit can have its drawbacks as well.

First, these tendencies often result in the overlooking of very skilled candidates. Those who have the skills, motivation, and eagerness to succeed might be passed over due to a difference in hobbies or experiences. Shrinking the candidate pool due to arbitrary criteria may not always make the most business sense.

Furthermore, such criteria may reduce diversity in the workplace. Often, the interests and/or background of managers in the corporate world require a higher socioeconomic status. Interests in high-class dinners and expensive beverages are simply out of some individuals’ financial range.

So, what is an employer to do with this information? What may be most effective is streamlining the hiring process by pre-determining relevant characteristics. In other words, employers must provide hiring managers with a list of attributes that would qualify one as a “cultural fit.” The New York Times suggests providing a checklist for hiring managers to use during an interview, thereby causing them to pay greater attention to relevant information and not stray too far away from what matters most.

Hiring managers must also work to be aware of their particular biases. While someone might seem intriguing due to similar interests, a hiring manager must be able to identify such factors and set such neutral characteristics aside.

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