How often have you heard the phrase 'he's a good cultural fit' or 'she will fit well within the team' or 'I like her but just not sure she is us ' ? Quite often I imagine.... but what does any of this mean and why is it so important in the hiring process for organisations.
A study by the American Sociological Association indicates that Employers in interview are often very focused on hiring someone they would like to socialise with rather than finding the best person for the job. That's not to say that this is to the detriment of having the necessary skills but that employers are disposed to thinking on a similar level to which they make friendship/partner choices i.e. Do they have a similar level of education? Did they go to a similar school? Do they enjoy similar activities? Do you enjoy talking to each other? Admit it, we've all as interviewers,experienced or otherwise, been distracted by the candidate who supports the same football team or has a shared friendship base at the gym.
The study goes on to say that the level on which cultural fit is important will vary across professions, occupations, the level of social interaction and the amount of structure within the interview process. After all would you hire a brain surgeon based upon team fit...unlikely.
First off let's understand the background:-
So, What is Cultural Fit ?
Like people, businesses have a personality.
A Company's personality can be seen as the values and beliefs of the founders through to the collective force of employees, interactions between management and staff and the environment in which they conduct their business.
Cultural fit is the likelihood that someone will reflect and/or be able to adapt to the mission statement,core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that make up your organization. And a 2005 analysis revealed that employees who fit well with their organisation, coworkers, and supervisor had greater job satisfaction, were more likely to remain with their organisation, and showed superior job performance.
Many Employers have increasingly recognised the importance of hiring people who have the personality and business attributes that match the values, beliefs and attitudes of the organisation ie that there is a culture fit.
Sue Shellanbarger summed it up perfectly when asked how she viewed cultural fit:-
- Shared enthusiasm about a company's mission or purpose
- A common approach to working, together or individually
- A mutual understanding of how to make decisions and assess risk
- A common educational, cultural or career background
- A sense of comfort and familiarity with co-workers
- Shared enjoyment of such perks as ping pong and craft beer
Unfortunately, many think consciously and subconsciously, of the "not" list when interviewing and assessing cultural fit. This is referred to as confirmation bias, which is the tendency for interviewers to interpret new information as confirmation of their existing beliefs or biases.
These are example questions that will help you assess culture fit at interview:
• What type of culture do you thrive in? (Does the response reflect your organizational culture?)
• What values are you drawn to and what’s your ideal workplace?
• Why do you want to work here?
• How would you describe our culture based on what you’ve seen? Is this something that works for you?
• What best practices would you bring with you from another organization? Do you see yourself being able to implement these best practices in our environment?
• Tell me about a time when you worked with/for an organization where you felt you were not a strong culture fit. Why was it a bad fit?
You can assess the candidates’ work ethic and style by honing in on the following: whether they succeed in a virtual environment or with everyone in the same space; if they’re more comfortable with a hierarchical organisation or can they thrive with a flat structure; and if they tend to collaborate across teams or operate in a more siloed approach.
Also on a practical level why not expose candidates to what it would be like to work at your organization by giving them a tour of the office and an initial opportunity to see how employees at all levels interact with one another. Watch out for whether the candidate’s comfortable with this and gather initial feedback from staff. The candidate whose behaviour and values are consistent with your organization will naturally rise to the top.
In an age where the most common method for assessing interviewees is still the unstructured job interview where good chemistry and rapport that interviewers get from candidates comes to the forefront in the process despite trying to subjectively judge candidates. This 'unconscious bias' comes to the fore adding to the risk of potentially the wrong person being hired for the role as they favour the "they get me" or "they're just like me "option.
The cultural fit approach if allowed to continue could lead to a team similar in age, experience, gender, race, background and technical expertise which may be good for "team harmony" in one aspect but how does it allow for the culture to develop if the organisation is continually employing like minded people? It can certainly inhibit demographic and cognitive diversity in the organisation and prevent the Company from thriving. However, by hiring people with diverse experiences, ideas and backgrounds different to the perceived norm this can positively impact your Company Culture.
An example of a Company now looking to increase their diversity and move away from the culture fit model to create a more inclusive hiring process is Facebook. They banned the term “culture fit” when providing feedback on what interviewers liked/disliked about a candidate, requiring interviewers to provide specific feedback that supported their position. They reviewed their interview process to proactively identify unconscious bias and took steps to remove them from their process.
They restructured their interviews to focus on alignment with their five core values and developed a “managing unconscious bias” training program, which they’ve since made available to the public. While this training is not mandatory, almost 100% of senior leadership and over 75% of non-leadership employees have voluntarily completed the courses.