How recruiters should define “fit.”

If you’ve spent much time learning about recruiting or hiring, you’ve probably come across the word “fit.” We’ve used “fit” often to describe the way a candidate might match a company’s or a position’s skillset. We even offer a FIT assessment. 

While “fit” is typically a positive descriptor, it’s important to understand that using the term loosely can lead to biased hiring decisions and a workforce that lacks diversity. 

To avoid using the word “fit” to perpetuate bias in company cultures, we want to make sure we give it a clear definition. 

What “fit” shouldn’t mean when hiring

When using “fit” in a hiring situation, make sure you’re not simply describing a person you’d like to hang out with. “What most people mean by culture fit is hiring people they’d like to have a beer with,” writes Patty McCord. 

This definition is subjective and problematic. We’re likely to subconsciously choose people with similar interests, backgrounds, and cultures to our own. But people with all kinds of personalities can be effective at doing their jobs. And, it’s proven that diverse companies are better performing than non diverse ones. 

Give “culture fit” an objective, measurable definition

Culture is another word that’s used loosely in recruiting. Of course we want to hire people who will be able to collaborate with employees across the company and share our values. But, we can’t simply hire people we “click” with and still assure we aren’t being biased. That’s why it’s important to define our company cultures in clear terms. 

Mel Hannigan writes, “If hiring managers define culture fit in terms of personality traits, favoring certain job candidates because they ‘are friendly’ or ‘have a good attitude,’ those managers hinder their organization’s ability to innovate because of its homogenous workforce. Conversely, hiring managers who describe their culture in qualitative terms, such as ‘low structure’ or ‘high autonomy with a complex matrix,’ have a better chance of mapping the skills and abilities of a diverse set of people into their culture.”

Try looking for “culture adds” instead of “culture fit”

Once you’ve been able to name attributes of your company culture, think about hiring people who can add value to your culture, not just fit into it. 

Pandora was one of the first companies to take a “culture add” approach to hiring.  The notion of culture add reflected their desire to ensure all voices, opinions, views, upbringings, were reflected by their staff makeup.

It takes some probing to truly understand how a candidate may contribute to your culture. By learning about how a candidate seeks motivation, solves problems, communicates, and leads, you may find the best match for your job vacancy isn’t what you expected. Often, hiring a person with a new and different approach to their job can lead to more expansive outcomes.

Consider a “values fit” approach

What many companies find when they dig into defining culture is that they’re identifying their core values. Perhaps your company’s values include “open, transparent communication,” “autonomy instead of micromanagement,” and “collaborative, inclusive ways to solve problems.” 

Look for candidates who align to your company’s value system rather than an ambiguous idea of culture. Regardless of a candidate’s personality type, interests, background, or style, sharing these core values can help advance the vision of your organization. This will open your search to people you may not have previously considered. And, it will eliminate people whose core values aren’t aligned to yours.

Are you looking for ways to mitigate bias in your talent search? We’re here to help you find the right match for your company. 

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