Is Hiring for Fit Really the Best Tactic?

Posted by SRA Admin on Dec 11 2015


The idea of hiring for cultural fit has become somewhat of a touchstone across a range of industries, gaining a particular foothold in startup and technology culture. But while company culture is certainly an important consideration in the executive hiring process, hiring for fit in and of itself may not be the best path.

What Does it Mean to "Hire for Fit"?

Hiring for fit means, in addition to looking for candidates with the necessary skills to fill an opening, hiring managers and recruiters are looking for candidates that will fit the culture of the company. What exactly any individual organization means by corporate culture can vary. The idea is that someone who shares the traits of established employees will be able to accomplish more, work within their team, and ultimately be a better employee, even if they do not check every resume box. In one recent study out of UC Berkeley, the idea of culture fit is tagged with the synonym "commitment." Someone who fits in will be committed to the success of the company in the long term.

The Controversy of Hiring for Fit

When it comes to executive hiring, or even hiring for lower level positions, there is an evolving controversy around the idea of hiring for fit. That may be surprising since it seems quite logical to hire new employees that will work well with your established team. However, there are a few pitfalls of hiring for fit that are worth exploring.

Actions vs. Beliefs

In a recent post for Inc., venture capitalist Lisa Calhoun points out the differences between belief and action. That is, hiring someone who holds the same beliefs as a company -- about work, dedication, products, etc. -- is different from someone who engages in the same actions as the company's current employees. Beliefs, after all, are synonymous with values and hiring new employees that hold to and help to expand upon a company's core values is certainly important.

The Value of Diversity

The idea of beliefs vs. action also opens the door to another important issue: diversity. Hiring for fit can be a dangerous proposition when it comes to ensuring a diverse workforce. Not only can this lead to discrimination claims, but a lack of diversity can be severely limiting in a company that values innovation. When cultural fit becomes the key hiring metric, companies become inclined to fall prey to "groupthink," making it difficult if not impossible to think outside of the box and develop new ideas.

Recruiters and Cultural Fit

It is essential that executive hiring recruiters are intimately familiar with a company's overall culture when they are helping to find candidates for a position. Expert recruiters, however, will know how to find candidates that fit within a company's culture but also have the necessary skills and personality to contribute to its core values and innovate rather than blending in perfectly with existing employees and ideas. Indeed, bringing in an recruiter for executive hiring can be extremely helpful in breaking out of the routine of cultural fit, since recruiters have a fresh perspective from outside the office.

Topics: hiring, corporate culture

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