The Abuse of Cultural Fit in HR Can Hurt Your Business

by Michael Haberman on May 16, 2017 · 0 comments


In today’s business environment recruiters need to choose new employees on the basis of cultural fit.

Today’s post is a guest post written by Nate Vickery, a business technology expert and a futurist mostly engaged in finding and implementation of the latest technology trends into SMB and startups management and marketing processes. Nate is also the editor-in-chief at business oriented blog- Bizzmarkblog.com. He has written this very interesting post about cultural fit.

No matter how hard we try to view every job candidate the same, people still differ in personality and character. They also have different interests. For example, some people do extreme sports, while others would rather spend their free time in front of a gaming console. Both choices are ok, and candidates’ interests and character don’t influence the agility and dedication they show for work.

Since modern-day corporate employees spend most of their time in and around the company office, recruiters need to choose new employees on the basis of cultural fit. The most basic definition of the cultural fit was crafted by the expert of organizational psychology, Adrian Furhamm, in his “The Psychology of Behavior at Work”:

A fit is where there is congruence between the norms and values of the organization and those of the person.” P.116

In this textbook, he also provided an example that describes that more introvert candidates fit better in the cubical environment, while extrovert types provide much better work results while working in open space offices.

Recruiting for cultural fit can also present a problem for the HR department, or the whole company for that matter. Mike Haberman, an influencer on IBM’s New Way to Work panel and cofounder of Omega HR Solutions described in his “Hiring for Fit May Cause Legal Problems” article how relying on subjective assessments when hiring for cultural fit can be viewed as discriminatory. These are some of the instances when deliberate or unintentional abuses of hiring for cultural fit can hurt your business:

Overemphasizing the cultural aspects

If you overemphasize the cultural aspects of your company and stick with them during the whole hiring process, perspective candidates that don’t fit in your cultural pattern might feel discriminated. That’s why the cultural fit should be just an addition to job-related criteria. On job interviews, recruiters can’t go too far when discussing things that are unrelated to the job itself. Candidate’s interests shouldn’t be the decisive factor in the employer’s decision. This rule needs to be applied on the entire communication between the candidate and company representatives, and it needs to start from the job ad. Recruitment materials shouldn’t discourage candidates with adequate education and work experience from applying, just because they don’t fit into company culture perfectly.

Underselling the job opportunity

Many modern tech firms offer various incentives to their employees. Some of these incentives can be mentioned in recruitment materials, but they shouldn’t overshadow the work itself. For example, software companies often provide catering for their staff and organize wild team building events. Recruiters can mention these benefits in the job ad, but only after they’ve made sure that the projects employees will work on and their career advancement opportunities are thoroughly explained. Although out of the ordinary benefits and incentives make a job more enjoyable and fun, recruiters should always focus on attracting candidates who value their work most.

Exact cultural fit vs. True cultural fit

Friendships between employees can go a long way. Still, the main goal of the recruiting process is not to find a good friend, but a capable and dedicated employee. An exact cultural fit is a person who (based on their interests and character) can easily become your best friend. Recruiters who focus on finding ‘the candidate’ are usually left empty handed (hope this doesn’t sound too weird). That’s why they should focus on finding a true cultural fit. This is a person who shares the same basic principles and has similar (not identical) interests and character as other employees. By searching for a true cultural fit, you will create a productive group that can get along and get the job done. This way, you are also eliminating candidates who can become troublesome down the road, and that’s what recruiting for cultural fit is all about. If you completely ignore cultural fit, on the other hand, you might get sued by the troublesome employees, and you’ll have to contact a personal injury lawyer or some other attorney to settle the job-related disputes.

When searching for cultural fit, you shouldn’t be too idealistic. Start by defining your company’s culture and try to make a list of characteristics, principles, and interests that all of your employees share. If you eliminate your candidates on the basis of criteria that can’t be applied to your current employees, you are risking to be accused of discrimination. These accusations can cause huge legal and organizational problems. The worst part of this is that discriminatory accusations create a bad rep. In the age of LinkedIn, it’s very hard to get rid of a bad reputation, which can easily obstruct your future hiring and motivate top candidates to search for a job elsewhere.


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