Culture fit can be essentially code for "in search of carbon copy" and at times, hurried conformity. However, if the goal is innovation, inclusion and leveraging difference within your organization, the notion of culture fit is the antithetical approach. Changing the status quo requires changing the mindset.
When forming a world class team, ideally one should seek complementary contributors who add to the overall depth of knowledge and capabilities of the team. To put it more simply, culture fit is like building a baseball team full of catchers -- it's a woefully incomplete and one-dimensional team. A complete team requires a pitcher, a manager, a first/second/third baseman and left/center/right fielders, anything less is a losing effort.
To find an employee who adds to the company's culture -- instead of simply fitting into it -- hiring managers should consider these pointers:
1. Think about how the person will add to the company culture, not fit into it.
Culture fit is tantamount to shedding one's identity to make the dominant culture feel more comfortable. Asking someone to try to adjust to the dominant culture under the guise of a better "culture fit" and to give up their uniqueness is just wrong.
Culture add on the other hand is welcoming the person's varied perspectives, experiences and then leveraging those insights to create a better product, a better experience that takes into account the multitudes of the entire human experience.
In scoping the role for culture add -- identify what's missing, determine where the team is over indexing and craft a job description that's more inclusive to attract a broader pool of candidates. That's the winning combination if you want to find talent that can make a product that reaches broader audiences.
2. To help eliminate confirmation bias, focus on how the candidate will fit the role.
Often hiring managers seek people who are like them and are subconsciously seeking to affirm their own background and/or credentials. In other words, they are falling into the common trap of confirmation bias.
Earlier in my career, I hired a candidate because the person attended the same undergraduate and graduate schools that I attended. My thought process was that they must be of excellent stock because their background aligned with mine. However, my consideration of the candidate was flawed as I was seeking to affirm my own credentials.
The question I should have asked was whether the candidate could perform well in the role and whether they were the best qualified applicant. Ultimately, she was the best person and most qualified for the role, but it was based on her specific work experiences and not a school pedigree similar to my own.
Hiring managers should be assessing for whether the candidate can actually do the job instead of overlooking and/or eliminating prime talent from contention based on nebulous 'nice to haves' that are not essential to success in role. It ultimately comes down to whether the person can best excel in the role and add to the mix.
3. Mind the perspective gap.
At times people suffer from a cultural myopia, meaning they are constrained by their lived experiences which makes it difficult to see beyond that vantage point. The perspective gap occurs and is worsened when one cannot acknowledge that different people may have different experiences, unlike one's own.
Perspective gaps can only be resolved through ongoing intellectual curiosity and seeking to understand others background, upbringing, viewpoints, etc. Walking in somebody else's shoes is not only eye opening but it creates more empathy and emotional intelligence.
Change up the interview process so you can find candidates who can both embody the company values but also bring their diverse experiences to the organization -- do this by educating recruiters/hiring managers on what culture add is, move to structured interviews to reduce affinity bias, create a pool of new interview questions that center on culture and expand the pool of interviewers to include more people from differing backgrounds.
Above all, avoid the cultural fit trap. Hire for what's missing, not what's already there. That's a strategy of success.