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Brought to you by Haystack: Overemphasis of cultural fit means missing out on talent

  • Opinion
  • December 11, 2015
  • Alen Levis
Brought to you by Haystack: Overemphasis of cultural fit means missing out on talent
When it comes to hiring, making sure each new employee is an asset to your company is a no-brainer. But what if you’re missing out on superstar staff because you’re focusing too much on whether you think they will fit in? Is your company culture becoming a breeding ground for complacency and over confidence? Are you simply allowing prejudice to creep into your hiring process and calling it ‘hiring for best fit?’
Click on any article about ‘company culture’ and you are likely to read about how important it is to focus on cultural fit when hiring. There’s no denying that ensuring your employees are a cohesive team is a vital part of business success – hiring those who work well with your management style and office environment makes work more enjoyable and productive for everyone. Nevertheless, it is equally important to avoid letting your business fall victim to an ‘us and them’ mentality. When you begin to exclude people because of their lack of ‘fit’ on a superficial level, you begin to seriously affect the diversity of your team, which in turn will negatively affect the creativity and output from your company!
The dangers of confirmation bias in business
When it comes to those we like to work with, or think we will work best with, we will often look for those who display similar tastes and personality traits as us. When we are asked to find employees who will ‘best fit’ the company’s culture, this often is misinterpreted as ‘find those who are most like us’. While hiring people we have things in common with is not in itself a bad idea; it becomes a problem when teams grow overconfident as they each reinforce the perceived brilliance of their own and other team members’ ideas and strategies. When a team becomes complacent like this, their productivity and innovation decrease, and you end up with an arrogant team of people who struggle to think outside the box. Not what you want for your business at all!
Finding a balance
So how do we find the balance between too homogenous and too diverse (although I’m not sure if that exists, it is true that teams need to be able to communicate and work together effectively and easily!). The first step is simply being conscious of your own internal biases. Perhaps you went to a private school, and as a result, favour those who have a similar education for higher up positions. Or perhaps you never had any great female leaders around in your formative years, and now you struggle to perceive women as capable leaders. Another, more insidious example of hiring bias is the assumption that someone is ‘too old’ or ‘too young’ to be able to assimilate or contribute effectively (more on this in our next article!)
Once you are aware of any prejudice you hold that may be limiting your interpretation of ‘best fit’ you are better equipped to conduct a balanced and effective hiring process. Of course, changing how you interpret the idea of ‘fit’ will also help you, which leads us to our last point.
“Will they fit?” vs. “Will we benefit?”
In countless hiring articles (including ours) bloggers encourage recruiters to ask themselves ‘will they fit?’ before choosing to hire someone. Deducing whether someone will feel comfortable within your organisation is important – no one looks forward to going somewhere they feel out of place day after day – but often this question gets reduced to a question of who has the same interests or background as the person hiring. To get a better feel for who would flourish in your organisation’s culture, consider asking “Will We (the applicant and the company) benefit?”. This encourages us to look at not only whether that person will fit in socially, but whether all parties will benefit from the potential relationship – opening the question up from a social angle to a broader, more output oriented view will help you keep in mind that hiring the best isn’t about making friends, but bringing together the right blend of people to come up with the best results for you and your business.

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