What Long-lasting Marriages Have Taught Us About Cultural Fit?

Published on 24-02-2015

Whenever my grandparents hear us kids changing jobs, they mutter to themselves “why do they leave their companies?” and then purse their lips with a silent hint of disapproval. I can’t blame them for not giving our decisions a thumbs up – after all, they’re the generation most of whom work at the same company for their entire lives.

My grandparents often say “working for a company is like marrying someone, it’s a commitment for life”. Moments like this I can’t help justifying myself with a simple argument, “but the employment nowadays doesn’t work like that anymore”. Only to my relief, I manage to not blurt out the other half – “neither does today’s marriage”.

cultural fit

No matter how commonplace divorce has become, lifelong couples are still admired by most of us and how they preserve happiness in marriage becomes the world’s most wanted recipe. After reading up on an adequate amount of research on this topic, it occurs to me that to keep a marriage time-proof, one of, if not the, most important ingredient is shared values & beliefs. However, the sad truth is that not enough of us have this quality ranked high on our selection criteria for Mr. or Mrs. Right. It makes me think of another typical relationship in our daily life – employer & candidate.


For a long time, we’ve been screening candidates as women check whether a man is good husband material. Is he highly-educated and intelligent? Is he well-mannered to impress my family and friends? Is he handy enough to change light bulbs? Just to name a few. The same can be said about candidates. They focus all their attention on examining the job offer while too few questions are raised to hiring managers in regards to company culture, values, leadership style, etc. At the end of the day, in spite of having all the boxes checked, we’re disappointed to find out he or she is still not the one. The faux pas I see we and candidates are both committing here is that we approach recruiting too much from a functional perspective, as a consequence having some human factors left out.


Life teaches us that oftentimes it’s those things that somehow feel bigger than ourselves, such as values, beliefs, ambitions, that strongly hold us together and then bond us to a company. And don’t think this rule of thumb only applies to lifelong employment. As a matter of fact, it concerns every stage of an employment cycle, from attracting, recruiting to developing and retaining.


Here is the one lesson I’ve learned from long-lasting marriages – the sum of relevant knowledge, skills and experience may make someone competent at the job, but it’s the shared values that make the candidate and company become “soulmates” and go through all the ups-and-downs hand-in-hand. Knowledge can be learned, skills can be trained, experience can be built up, but shared values & beliefs are hard to shape, therefore should be cherished.


Ready to find your company’s “soulmates”? Read Culture Fit: More Than A Gut Feeling first.

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