Why You Should Stop Hiring for Culture Fit

If you are keen on following the trends, most likely you jumped on the bandwagon of the psychology-driven recruiters who embrace the “Cultural Fit Assessment” into their recruitment practice. The concept of culture fit somehow veered into buzzword territory without any substantial evidence whatsoever to back it up and much indicators against it, which is why one of the most argued topics in the talent acquisition space is hiring for culture fit.

As someone who has 20+ years in recruitment and who majored in culture, allow me to make the case against this practice, even though I have a great regard for culture. The fact that I have a 100% success rate and that the teams I recruited have topped the rank lists and won all the awards might give me some credibility but the facts alone will convince you, that is, if you read them with an open mind or while in a constructive mode of consciousness (objectivity, intelligence, rationality, wisdom, acceptance, willingness, respectfulness, considerateness, neutrality, trust, permissiveness, sensibleness, or thoughtfulness) rather than a destructive one (ungratefulness, rivalry, arrogance, skepticism, passivity, or criticality).

I am not the only one to discover the faultiness of this hiring malpractice, so if you can’t trust me because you don’t know me, make sure to inform yourself well enough so that you don’t make this mistake any longer:
Stop Hiring for Culture Fit – Harvard Business Review
Is Hiring For Culture Fit Perpetuating Bias? – Forbes
Stop Hiring for “Cultural Fit” – Kellogg Insight
5 Big Reasons Not to Hire for Culture Fit – Zappos and others show a better way to interview and hire awesome people
The Dangers of Hiring for Cultural Fit – WSJ (The Wall Street Journal)
Hiring for Culture Fit Doesn’t Work – Inc.
Hiring For Cultural Fit: More Harm Than Good – Built In
Why you should stop hiring for cultural fit – Applied
Why hiring for culture fit is misguided – Hive Learning

Also, in his bestseller Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell examines how cultural differences play a large part in perceived intelligence and rational decision making.

Like with anything else, also with this topic, there are two camps – pro and contra ones. Both camps have their valid arguments but no one has actual proof, like an actual scientific study on the consequences of hiring for culture fit. If you have one, please let us know down in the commentary box (provide us with the link to the study, please) and we will be happy to include it here but until then, consider any cultural fit assessment as nothing but a theory or assumption.

Since there is no replicable evidence that hiring for culture fit is a legitimate method, no dignified and competent recruiter should practice it until it is proven to be valid.

The types of recruiters who don’t bother to investigate the scientific evidence of their adapted selection practice are also the ones who don’t bother to measure or evaluate the success of their hires, whether their hires really fit with the corporate culture and whether those they rejected on that basis would really fail in their environment. Even worse, they are so haughty that they believe their own Cultural Fit Assessment is flawless as opposed to all the other ones that they admit being possibly biased. It is one thing to be wrong but a whole other level of fault not to be willing to admit or at least consider being wrong – this is a mark of a recruiter type that has no qualities to act as a gatekeeper for any decent company.

There is a general opinion and consensus that psychologists’ profession or psychology is the supreme authority when it comes to recognizing human cognitive and emotional abilities in the recruiting process. The high regard of it reflects in the fact that psychology majors are one of the most sought-after programs at colleges and universities. This notion and regard come from the fact that besides psychology, there is no other recognized scientific discipline that specializes in the human mind, abilities, and behavior.

As an alternative, sometimes recruiters ask for a Bachelor’s degree in Humanities (part of the liberal arts) – a multidisciplinary study of human society, history, philosophy, and culture (literature, art, drama, music, languages, religion, and morality) – because its graduates are primed to be good problem-solvers and communicators excelling in critical thinking, analysis (qualitative, interpretive and theoretical, not scientific), and creativity, but their formal education didn’t equip them with the knowledge or skills to justifiably recognize top talent or the culturally fit.

Then there are virtuologues, a new, yet relatively unknown breed of professionals, whose specialization goes beyond the mere human mind and behaviors into the broader domain of human consciousness, which is also the subject of psychology and philosophy but to a much lesser degree. Virtuologues specialize in specific modes of consciousness, especially the constructive ones, which are also called virtues, and in raising one’s own level of consciousness so as to raise one’s own level of well-being and success.

With the amount of trust in psychologists and reliance on them, you would think that they get everything right but they don’t, as a vast amount of studies and reports reveal:
Hundreds of Psychology Studies Are Wrong
• book Psychology Gone Wrong
Psychology’s Credibility Crisis
The Psychologist’s Fallacy
This Is What Is Wrong With the Core of Psychology.

This is not to demean anyone but to look the truth in the eyes. Let’s be honest, psychology tests and assessments have proven wrong on countless occasions. One such high-profile example is the famous IQ test, which is proven so wrong that hardly ever anyone considers it nowadays. But it was highly respected and used in the old days. How many other such psychological tests and assessments are currently in usage that have no proven value, do you know? You don’t want to know. Because if you knew, you would not rely on recruiters who majored in psychology to be the gatekeepers on who should join your team or not.

Reconsider using personality assessments (designed by psychologists) to screen job candidates because there is no proof of them being reliable. This is a more than $500-million-a-year industry, growing by about 10 percent annually in recent years. There are thousands of personality assessments available, and their quality varies. Some might even land an employer in legal trouble.

Compared to other hiring selection practices, personality assessments are among the least effective in predicting job performance, according to research by the University of Iowa, US. Test responses can change depending on mood and environment, as opposed to enduring personality traits. Also, in self-report personality assessments, job applicants can fake the answers – give the responses that they think the employer wants. Individuals should not be pigeonholed based on their personality assessment.

One example of faulty personality assessment is the assumption that one needs to hire an extrovert for a sales position. That inclination is wrong because I know plenty of people who are quiet and introverted but successful in sales. They would tell you that the best tool for a salesman is his ears—listening, not talking, but most psychologists won’t hear it.

Another such narrow-minded test or assessment that is now trending among such recruiters is the one about culture fit. Cultural fit and functional fit are two criteria that human resource departments consider when evaluating candidates for employment.

Culture fit in the context of recruiting is about having employees whose beliefs, values, and behaviors are in alignment with those of the employer. Cultural fit is the likelihood that a job candidate will be able to conform and adapt to the core values and collective behaviors that make up an organization. But this is opposed to the diversity and inclusion policy – don’t the people who studied psychology get that?

When it comes to culture, companies are like communities or even countries, who also have their culture. What would you think about the countries or communities, who don’t allow people of different values or even cultures to become their citizens or members? If companies accept customers with different values, why wouldn’t they accept employees with different values? Think about that.

We are living in a modern world where multicultural societies thrive the most, but there are psychology-majored recruiters out there who believe that it is wrong to have a diverse team and who don’t include those who don’t fit into their idea of what a great culture is.

Although the idea behind the culture fit assessment may be viable, the way the recruiters go about it is certainly not. The sort of questions they ask the candidates to determine whether they are a cultural fit is absurd, bordering on insane. So much that some go as far as using an algorithm to assess whether candidates are culturally fit!

Of course, there are some broad determinants, but the candidates have already taken those into account before applying. So, vegans will never fit into an environment where animal-killing is accepted, so they won’t apply for the jobs in the companies that exploit animals or do animal testing or sell meat. Likewise, the individuals who thrive in a casual environment are not likely to apply for the jobs that thrive in a strictly formal setting. Those who don’t share the values of the pharmaceutical companies won’t come knocking on their doors.

When it comes to values, which are promoted as the most relevant determinants for the culture fit, they are usually so broadly shared that anyone could be a fit for them and, just to get the job, any candidate can just lie that they share the company’s values, which are stated on the company’s website. Besides, those values are mostly just on paper, whereas the employees don’t really consider them much in their day-to-day chores. And even if people share the same values, that is no assurance at all that they will work well as a team because for that values don’t count that much but other factors.

As the research on cultural fit has evolved in academia, companies began drawing their own interpretations and methods of hiring. Can someone please tell me how could possibly the standard questions like these determine whether a candidate would fit with the team:

• Where do you see yourself in five years?
• Tell me three strengths and three weaknesses of yours?
• What do you appreciate most about working in a team?
• Do you dislike any elements of teamwork?
• What drives you in your day-to-day work?
• Is there anything you like about your current colleagues?

Rarely anyone has firm answers to those questions, which is an additional reason not to judge them on that feeble criteria. If someone wants to become an astronaut in 5 years and you are concerned about staff retention in your non-astronaut business, this is still not a viable reason to dismiss the candidate, as he or she could bring enormous value in a short time regardless of their goals. Most people don’t achieve their 5 years goals anyway, so to consider that answer in the selection process is irrational.

One of the main problems companies have with retention is not that the employees turn out not to be culturally fit but the flawed executives, who fake DEI or create a climate that is either toxic or disadvantageous for certain types or classes of employees.
We don’t have the time for delving into the irrationality of each of those questions or any other ones that recruiters use to determine a culture fit, but we hope you get the idea by now.

It’s understandable to want to hire people who align with the characteristics or values of your organization. However, incorrectly identifying culture fit can lead to a homogeneous working environment that lacks diversity, and can play into your unconscious biases.
The interviewers may fall into the trap of seeking personal connections instead of actually identifying common values. It’s like the colloquial “beer test” wherein faced with the difficulty of choosing between two candidates, you go with the person you’d enjoy having a beer with. However, there is substantial evidence that playmates rarely make for a solid company process.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has become a business priority, and for good reason. Strong DEI policies are not just a “nice-to-have,” but rather essential for both individual and business success. In conjunction with ongoing global crises, social movements, and racial injustice, more people, especially the younger generations, are deeply invested in DEI and how organizations are approaching it. From existing employees to job candidates and even customers, people today are looking to invest their time, labor, and money into ethical, socially conscious businesses. If you are seeking only those that are culturally fit for you, then you are disregarding the public demand for diversity & inclusion of this day and age. The public will eventually find out about your malpractices and expose you. You have been warned.

If you need further convincing that dismissing those who seem not to be a culture fit is wrong, consider doing more research on that and this example: an older person returning to the workplace after caring for their children may not appear to fit into a culture of younger people happy to work late, but they will bring a whole lot of knowledge and life experience to the table that could make a difference to the business. And, just because they aren’t young and can’t go to the pub due to family commitments, it doesn’t mean they don’t uphold the same values of the business.

To avoid any misunderstandings, let’s state it clearly that corporate culture is very important but whether a job applicant is culturally fit is not that important because, with proper measures in place, such as those implemented by a virtuologue, anyone can adapt to a culture of their company that is compliant with true DEI. There is a proven correlation between the business culture of a company and its financial success, but let’s not confuse that with the recruiters’ flawed assessment for the culturally fit.

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