Say the phrase “culture fit” to a recruiter and they may raise an eyebrow. Why? Because many people think of “culture” as a static, homogenous idea—a workplace where everyone shares the same background and interests. The idea of trying to fit every candidate into the same mold is problematic.
I don't think of culture as exclusive though—a company’s culture is its core values. Any applicant, regardless of their background or behaviors, can, and should, believe in the principles of the company they’re hoping to work for.
As recruiters, there is so much value in seeking out these candidates. Hiring applicants who align with your values allows you to build a workforce that has a genuine passion for your company, improving the overall employee experience and retention over time.
A positive perspective on culture fit
Evaluating culture fit is dangerous when “culture” means looking for candidates who are exactly like you and your peers. This monolithic view develops when recruiters conflate their personal lives with their professional lives. Instead of focusing on values, this definition of culture causes recruiters to look for applicants who went to their alma mater or, perhaps even worse, someone they “would share a beer with.”
Hiring for culture fit doesn't have to be bias-riddled, though. Keep the term positive by recognizing that culture is tied to your company's core values—not specific behaviors and experiences—and by defining your values in a way that is intentional and inclusive. Each principle should directly relate to a candidate’s ability to thrive at your organization and should be broad enough to align with any skilled applicants.
Here are a few examples to make the distinction clearer:
Exclusive value: “Our team is built with individuals who have a strong academic record and have shown a passion for lifelong learning.”
Inclusive value: “Our team members share a desire to be lifelong learners.”
For most positions, a high GPA and graduate education aren’t required qualifications that lead to better job performance. However anyone—regardless of their background—can have an enthusiasm for learning, and a drive to continually grow and learn can lead to stronger job performance.
When your company's values are defined explicitly and inclusively, evaluating culture fit is a valuable process, not a problematic one. Without excluding any applicants based on their background, you're able to find the candidates that are a strong fit for your company, and likely to stick around.