Hiring for Fit vs. Hiring for Inclusion: Which Route Should an Organisation Take?

In the past decade, the idea of hiring for cultural fit and hiring candidates who espouse the same values as an organization has become a common phenomenon. There is a strong reason why some organisations seek out certain personality types. Investment banking and consulting are believed to be competitive and aggressive professions, a reason why most firms in these verticals work towards hiring more of Type A personalities- competitive, highly organized, ambitious, highly aware of time management and/or aggressive. The concept of cultural fit has particularly taken root in start-ups, which often focus obsessively on their office lifestyle.


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Back in 1975, John Morse, an organizational psychologist, conducted a study of the effect of congruence — fit between personality and organization — and employees’ self-ratings of competence. He split employees into two groups. While the first group was placed in a job which did not involve any kind of psychometric testing, the second experimental group was placed in more routine and stable jobs which suited their personality type. 

The result showed that those in congruent jobs which matched their personality reported feeling more competent. In other words, positive cultural fit can have a great impact on employee’s self-esteem and make them feel more capable of carrying out their work to the best of their ability. 

HR professionals are talking a lot about hiring for fit and the concept seems sound. After all, to create and maintain a strong corporate culture, companies ought to seem well-served to ensure that new hires fit well into their organisation’s culture. 

However, there is a flip side to this commonly held wisdom.  Hiring for compatibility is reasonable enough in theory. Conventional wisdom is that happy workplaces are productive workplaces, but it falls apart when it collides with the reality of the way humans are wired. Cultural fit as a concept is hazy and unclear unless well-defined. More often than not, it’s used to hire a candidate who is somewhat or exactly like the existing employees. As a result, it could give way to prejudices while hiring without overtly telling the HR team to let go off those candidates who don’t fit.


Could building a culture based on fit keep out those who are different in some way? Does it create equal employment opportunity risks? Are innovators being excluded?

Multiple studies have shown that reducing diversity by recruiting “people like us” can be detrimental to the success of an organization. Homogeneity can lead to complacency and overconfidence, as like-minded employees tend to repeat and reinforce

 the same ideas over and over. A lack of diversity in people, backgrounds, skills, opinions, and ways of getting things done has been directly linked to less innovation and lower performance in the workplace. 

While hiring for diversity, a new employee who might not look like a cultural ideal, but has the right skill set, could possibly challenge existing employees to think differently. In fact, companies more open to diversity are often viewed more positively by outsiders.

Should CHROs look at hiring for culture fit or hiring for inclusion?  Can HR leaders help companies’ find the right balance?

HR leaders and managers cannot and should not attempt to balance fit and inclusion. Instead they should focus on creating a culture that welcomes and fosters strategic diversity in thoughts, experiences and expertise to drive higher results.

Organizations committed to hiring based on cultural fit must first clearly define the cultural values of the organization and use that information to guide the hiring process. 

While making hiring decisions, the focus should be on behavioral indicators and not demographic traits. For instance, fit isn’t about ensuring that a high-tech company is staffed with Gen Y and Gen Z employees because Baby Boomers “aren’t as contemporary and energetic.” Therefore, it's very important to clearly define hiring traits in behavioral and operational terms.

When hiring for fit, companies could institute a few standard practices to ensure diversity and inclusion are not ignored, such as:

1.Measuring and defining the corporate culture

2.Setting up a diverse hiring team from a  variety of backgrounds to make sure personal biases are diluted

3.Neutralizing job descriptions and focusing on the essential job requirements like requisite merit, education and skills needed for each position 

4.Revisiting each interview and re-analyzing critical interviews by a third party to eliminate judgments

5.Focusing and striving for inclusion before diversity

On the other hand, hiring for diversity must include differences in the way people think, their unique backgrounds and perspectives potential employees can bring to the table to drive innovation at the workplace. Different age groups, sex, ethnic backgrounds and religions all serve to provide companies with differing perspectives that can open new ways of approaching the work they do.

As an alternate school of thought, some companies are beginning to drop the idea of culture fit altogether. As more companies shift their recruiting focus towards intentional diversity and inclusion efforts, they’re reframing their thinking to how diverse candidates can add to their culture and not just fit into it.

For organizations to succeed in an increasingly competitive and faced-paced business environment, they need to draw upon the input and wide range of backgrounds and opinions of employees they select to join their organizations. Both culture fit and diversity help drive workforce productivity and excellence. Diversity without culture fit could lead to difficulty in building consensus, unresolved conflict and inconsistency. Culture fit without diversity could lead to group-thinking and lack of innovation. If organisations bring the two together, the resultant is high performing teams that drive sustainable competitive advantage.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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