Insights

Hiring for Cultural Fit: A Delicate Talent Management Balancing Act

Posted by Reed Flesher

Most talent management practitioners are well aware that hiring for a cultural fit is as important as bringing in candidates with the right experience and technical skills to do the job. After all, hiring people who jive with your organizational culture brings many benefits to the efficiency of your company and the overall employee experience. For some professionals, however, saying that a candidate is not a cultural fit can be interpreted as another form of discrimination. The challenge for recruiters and hiring managers, therefore, is how to be aware of and reap the benefits of cultural fit without practicing hiring bias.

Not feeling confident about your ability to walk that line? It may be time to update your hiring process to avoid the dark side of hiring for a cultural fit.

The Dark Side

Saying that you are looking for a cultural fit sounds innocent enough. Many hiring managers and decision-makers may have certain personality traits in mind based on the business’s values. However, these assumptions about what an ideal candidate will act like, sound like, or even look like can be fraught with a lot of unconscious bias, to which even the most self-aware person can be susceptible.

Left unaddressed, this bias can lurk right below the surface, and eventually lead to an office culture where every employee looks, thinks, and acts just like the one sitting next to him or her. The worst case outcome is a workforce that is homogeneous in terms of gender, race, age, and socioeconomic background. This can damage your reputation as an employer and discourage qualified talent from applying to open positions.

Moreover, the dark side of hiring for cultural fit can rob your organization of the sort of diverse talent that can breathe new life into your business with unique skills and perspectives. By letting implicit bias get the best of your hiring assessments, you would be hurting not only your candidates but also your bottom line.

Finding the Balance

Now that you are thinking about what can go wrong with seeking a cultural fit, consider how you can use this concept ethically. Recruiters and decision makers are not robots, and it is only natural that some candidates will make a better impression on you than others. This feeling may be a result of something you have in common with a candidate, such as a shared interest or background, but sometimes it can be because you genuinely see in the candidate the right values and beliefs to align with your culture.

Next time you are considering a potential hire, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you like this person because he or she reminds you of others on the team?
  • How do your hiring practices communicate your company’s goals and ethos?
  • How strictly are you focusing on skills and background in your assessment?
  • Are you conflating behavior with personality? Not every great candidate will be a great interviewer.
  • Are you practicing self-awareness in your hiring practices?
  • Have you gotten a second, third, or even fourth opinion about this person?

The Bottom Line

There is nothing wrong with considering cultural fit in your hiring practices, provided you exercise discretion and practice self-awareness to avoid the bias that leads to discrimination. The best way to ensure compliance and ethics is to partner with external experts to guide you along your talent management journey. Thrive TRM offers best-in-class talent management solutions to help you communicate with clients and build healthy talent pipelines. Contact us today to schedule a demo and see how we can help you nurture the right talent for your company.

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