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The Pros and Cons of Hiring for Cultural Fit

Much like people, every individual organisation has a defined set of characteristics, or rather, a ‘personality' that makes up its business culture.

When organisations bring on new hires, they’re looking for people who agree with and fit in with their agenda – in other words, they’re looking for people who are a match for the company culture.

When a new hire shares similar fundamental values, beliefs, and goals with their business, they’re considered a cultural fit. While it seems like a simple idea, the key to understanding cultural-fit hiring is knowing that it doesn’t mean recruiting identical people.  

Hiring for cultural fit is meant to result in a diverse and effective workforce; however, when this isn’t done effectively, it can do more harm than good to your organisation. 

Here we discuss the pros and cons of hiring for cultural fit, and how it can impact your business.

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Pro: Engaged Employees
It’s no secret that high levels of employee engagement are crucial for business success, and when an employee’s values align with those of their company, they’re more likely to be satisfied in their roles and remain invested for the long haul.

Employees who are in jobs that are a good fit for their personality is one thing, but when the overall company culture reflects their personality as well, they naturally become more confident in their role and work harder to achieve the desired results.

Pro: Saves Money

Every organisation wants to save money where it counts and hiring for cultural fit can help make that happen when it’s done correctly.

When there is an effective culture fit in place, employees will want to stick around because they feel they’re benefitting from a role they enjoy in a company they mesh with. This means that when you hire a qualified employee who also fits your company culture, you’re hiring for the long term, ultimately helping to reduce turnover rates and lower recruiting costs.

Pro: Company Promotion

Everyone loves free publicity, right?

Well, when an employee feels at home in their organisation, they’re more likely to personify and promote the core values of your company to friends, family, and co-workers. Not only does this help with your organisation’s reputation as being a good employer and increase business morale, but it also helps in attracting fresh talent.

Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and when employees are happy with their company, they’re going to talk about it which, in turn, is certain to spark the curiosity of job seekers who are also looking to feel valued in the workplace.

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Con: Low Retention

While hiring for cultural fit can save organisations money in recruiting costs, it can also have the opposite effect when it’s implemented poorly.

If your organisation doesn’t have a good understanding of the reality of its own culture – which means how the company culture appears to employees, rather than what’s outlined in your values and mission statement – you might find that your employees aren’t as great a fit as you thought they’d be.

While there’s never any concrete assurance that a new hire will stay, when employees feel like they’re not a fit to company culture, or feel like they’ve been misled in the hiring process, they’ll more often than not choose to leave.

So, if your company relies heavily on hiring for cultural fit and you’re seeing significantly low employee retention rates, it might be time to re-evaluate how you see your company culture – or to change your recruitment process.

Con: Focus on Personality

Too often businesses make the mistake of choosing an applicant based on their personal traits rather than focusing on their skills and qualifications during the interview process.

Hiring an employee simply because they have similar values to your organisation is like hiring the same person repeatedly – cutting out a lot the opportunity for diversity that creates a balanced and efficient company culture in the first place.

By focusing more on personality than education and experience, organisations lose a well-rounded perspective in their company culture and even risk creating a bias against future hires who don’t necessarily fit the mould as well as others do.

Con: False Pretence

While job applicants can seem like a great cultural fit for your business, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are.

In the age of technology, with so much information at our fingertips, it’s easy for candidates to research your organisation to understand its values, and then imitate the qualities they believe you’re looking for in the interview.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re being dishonest, it might just mean that they’re embellishing for the sake of a good interview in hopes of having better chances to be hired.

While some may call this preparedness, the issue at hand is that focusing too much on what someone says in an interview is risky – meaning concrete evidence of their experience is necessary to properly reflect on whether they’ll be a good cultural fit and a good hire in general.

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While many companies have recognised the value of iring for cultural fit, not everyone is there yet.

Presently, the companies that are making the biggest strides with this are larger companies – the ones who can focus on inclusion and diversity during the hiring process because they have the time and resources to do so.

This is not to say that smaller companies aren’t making the effort or that they promote bias within the company culture, but rather that because they have fewer resources (i.e. for training and awareness), that they may feed into unconscious workplace bias.

To this end, until there’s proper training available for large and small companies alike, organisations will miss out on qualified and diverse candidates due to the ineffective application of hiring for cultural fit.

We do, however, have a few tips to help you find the ideal candidate for when your company’s culture prevents you from hiring those with the best qualifications:

Study your current business culture
Review the level of inclusion and diversity in your business, and make sure that your company’s values allow room for your employees to grow. If your employees have the opportunity to grow, then your company will too, and you’ll be more likely to attract the right candidates from the get-go.

Be open to transformation
Things change fast and frequently in the working world, and job seekers want to work for companies that keep up with modern workplace tactics. Being open and flexible to changes will make your organisation more appealing, making applicants all the more eager to work for you.

Consider blind hiring
This technique ‘blinds’ – or anonymises – the demographic information about an applicant that can otherwise lead to bias. Blind hiring is a good way to increase workplace diversity and hire the most capable candidates.

Ask the right ‘cultural fit’ questions
A company’s culture is the ecosystem of the entire organisation and needs to run efficiently for businesses to develop and remain competitive. So, asking the appropriate questions to gauge how well they’ll fit in is key to finding the ideal candidate.

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No matter how effective your organisation’s recruitment tactics are, there’s never a guarantee an employee will live up to expectations – even if they seem to be the perfect cultural fit.

You’ll know you’re on the right track, however, if you see a diverse, unified, and happy set of employees who are motivated to help achieve business objectives.

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