Diversity & Cultural Fit in recruitment

Published on 16-05-2017

Diversity in workforce might suffer from hiring for Cultural Fit – that is a common point raised by field experts and scholars working in HR. Managers are even afraid to raise the topic in job interviews as a study in Australia has revealed.

Common arguments that counteract the concept of matching candidates and employers based on shared cultural characteristics are

  • To develop a homogeneous pool of employees
  • To discriminate (race, gender, class, sexual orientation, or education)
  • A lacking diversity in workforce
  • Unconscious bias of hiring managers

“Let’s take the time now to dispel one myth; hiring for cultural fit is not the same as hiring a bunch of clones who will all react identically to any challenge.”

Jo Geraghty, Culture Consultancy

Shift in terminology

Balancing “fit” with diversity and how Cultural Fit helps to attract and hire talents are the main challenges facing managers. Matching with the company of interest is one indicator among several criteria, however it rapidly gains importance in recruitment. Recently, a shift in terminology has taken place. More and more people refer to “culture add” or “value fit” and outline how new hires can contribute to the culture in terms of personal values and characteristics. However, these are components of Cultural Fit and help to grow a diverse workforce.

Value fit

Value fit is a segment of culture and should not be regarded as an exclusive indicator whether or not a candidate fits in with a company. Values are based on an individual’s interpretation and can be lived out differently.

Company culture needs to value culture add & diversity 

The corporate culture is not meant to be defined by the head of HR or the recruiting team only, organisations need to use system-wide approaches and include the entire workforce to define “how things get done around here”. By utilising a system-wide approach to narrow down the company culture, it becomes truly representative and useful for hiring purposes. Furthermore, a hiring team needs to be made up of people with a variety of different backgrounds and by including more than the HR team in the process of defining the culture, hiring for diversity becomes more feasible.

Diversity in recruitment

Homogeneous pool of employees

Pandora has recently changed its focus to “culture add” in recruitment to counteract the development of a homogeneous pool of employees and foster diversity in the workplace. Culture add basically refers to the Supplementary Fit, which is part of the Cultural Fit. Of course candidates should be evaluated on the fact how their personality and characteristics further develop the culture and steer it in the right direction. However, the approach misses the Complementary Fit, which describes the character traits and attributes of candidates that reflect the existing culture.

The CompanyMatch scan evaluates to what extent a job seeker and employer match, but also points out the differences and provides information on what values and interests a potential candidate would add to the company culture if he or she joins.

…if he or she joins

Diversity in workplace – there is more to it than considering the match between company and candidate! Have you ever given a thought to the way your company presents job descriptions?

Job descriptions can also reflect an organisational culture and values that are dominant within that company. According to a study published by social psychologists from University of Duke and Waterloo certain words and phrases in a job advert are perceived as masculine or feminine.

The following words are perceived as more masculine:

[ultimatetables 3 /]

The words below have a feminine denotation:

[ultimatetables 4/]

Consequently, it is fundamental to use a mix of these words to appeal to women and men in an equal manner. It will also help to diminish the entry of unconscious and inherent bias.

Unconscious bias

Facebook has made their revised HR strategy public, which focuses on diversity and inclusion.

They state:

“One of the most important things we can do to promote diversity in the workplace is to correct for the unconscious bias that all of us have.”

The company will offer workshops, courses and research-based training for people outside the company, who are also keen to build a workplace based on equality and not unconscious bias.  

Hiring managers are led and impacted by feelings and those are biased. Anonymity in hiring helps to dismiss unconscious bias and prevent managers to hire in their own image. CompanyMatch has developed online matching technology that preserves anonymity to the point at which the candidate is willing to share more details.

Misunderstanding diversity in hiring

Many companies have tried to increase diversity in workforce by hiring more women, older people, or people of different cultural or career backgrounds, thereby missing the point of a diversified workforce. The companies did not consider the characteristics of the existing company culture, which has been established by those who already hold the power. Inevitably, this kind of recruiting leads to costly mismatches.

Hiring for Cultural Fit does not mean looking for someone who has similar interests and hobbies as the people who work in an organisation. The objective is not to become close friends and go out after work to watch a movie, therefore questions such as “What is the last book you read for fun?” or “What types of movies do you like?” are irrelevant.

The concept “hiring for Cultural Fit” seeks to find and place people in an environment in which they will thrive.