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Is 'Culture Fit' A Legitimate Factor In Hiring Decisions?

When your organization is interviewing candidates for a position, does it consider whether the candidate will fit into your company culture? If so, have you created clear standards on what constitutes your culture and how a candidate can demonstrate the ability to align with it?

It's an important question because, without clear definitions, goals and standards, culture fit can become cover for the interviewer's preference or bias. That can result in less diversity in hiring decisions.

Most companies are looking for more diversity, not less. The benefits of diversity have been proven to enhance teams by providing a greater range of talent and experiences to draw upon. Yet your organization could be undermining your diversity goals if it doesn't make sure everyone understands what culture fit means and how to hire for it.

Why doesn't your company hire based on resumes alone?

Research has shown that workers who share values with their companies and fit into the culture experience greater job satisfaction, perform better and stick around longer. Culture fit can be a legitimate factor for consideration, as long as everyone is on board with what constitutes an appropriate fit.

The idea that job candidates should "fit in" is hardly new. It's the main reason why virtually no one hires based solely on a resume and a background check. Interviews are meant, in part, to identify people with great resumes who don't measure up to expectations. They're also meant to catch the truly outstanding candidate who exceeds the expectations set by their resume. But what does that mean, objectively?

Saying that someone would be a good fit for the culture shouldn't be code for "This person is like me." But for it to have an objective meaning, you have to be able to describe what your culture is and should be. This needn't be based on an expensive consulting process but could be the product of observation and aspiration.

Is your culture formal? Hierarchical? Ask questions that reveal whether the candidate has worked in such an environment before or knows how to navigate one.

Are you focusing on innovation? Ask the candidate about failures they have overcome.

Tech giant Google has formalized the structure of its interviews to allow for apples-to-apples comparisons between interviewers. Yet it still measures "Googleyness," meaning culture fit, in its candidates. The term refers to someone who is comfortable with ambiguity, collaborative and action-oriented. Could your company's leadership identify two or three personality traits that objectively help people to succeed in your culture?

Ultimately, before you use culture fit as a factor in hiring, take the time to clearly define the term and to share the definition with your interviewers.

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