Diversity & Cultural Fit in recruitment, a perfect match?

Published on 17-03-2020

Some HR and Recruitment professionals are concerned that recruitment based on Cultural Fit may have a negative effect on the diversity within an organisation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cultural Fit and Diversity go hand in hand. In fact, together they provide more diversity in the workplace. In this article, we will resolve the misunderstandings surrounding the term ‘Cultural Fit’ and provide tips for effective recruitment based on Diversity.

Editor’s note: Given the ongoing need for employers to improve their diversity & inclusion strategy, we updated this previously published article.

Misunderstandings around the term ‘Cultural Fit’

Jo Geraghty, Consultant at Culture Consultancy writes on hrzone.com:

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. (…) When you hire for cultural fit, you are in fact looking for individuals who will support the culture and ethos of the organisation and who will bring something extra to help push the organisation along.

No indeed, there are organisations that think that a candidate has to be similar to or have a personal ‘click’ with the hiring manager to have a Cultural Fit. Worse are managers who surround themselves with ‘mini-mes’ or ‘clones’ as Geraghty so aptly puts it.

But 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, most of the time, 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?” during the interviewing process are irrelevant.

The concept “hiring for Cultural Fit” seeks to find and place people in an environment in which they will thrive. Not the candidate’s preference of Earl Grey over Lapsang Souchong is important, but their personal values, drives, motivators and ambitions. These factors transcend personal characteristics such as age, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

Supplementary Fit & Complementary Fit

In our white paper Cultural Fit in Recruitment, we write:

Putting the candidate’s personality at the centre of the candidate selection process can, however, also be misinterpreted. Often the Cultural Fit approach is not understood properly leading to incorrect implementation. A large number of HR managers still solely rely on their gut feeling when it comes to assessing the applicant’s character and personality fit.

This, however, results in selected candidates being very similar in character and the workforce lacking diversity. Not bias but a rather objective approach should be developed that focuses on both “Supplementary Fit” and “Complementary Fit”. These describe the character traits and attributes that reflect the existing culture and as well as those characteristics that further develop the culture and steer it in the right direction.

So, look at each candidate and see to what extent he has similarities with the culture and core values, but also to what extent he can contribute to the culture within the company and make it better.

Reading tip: Diversity Management – A culture based management approach

How Cultural Fit can help to hire for diversity

Diversity within a company starts with recruitment. You will never create a more diverse workplace if you don’t hire for diversity. A good way to start is to let candidates match their values, drivers and preferences with your organisation. If there is a good match based on Cultural Fit and Job Fit, it doesn’t matter what gender, colour or age the candidate has. This way it should be easier to disregard any bias in that aspect.

First you need to attract diverse candidates

However, before you start matching candidates based on Cultural Fit, you first need to attract them to your career site. Then you need to entice them to apply to your vacancies.

The value of the right job description

Diversity in the workplace – there is more to it than considering the match between company and candidate! Have you ever given 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.

Using too many masculine words in a job description will discourage women from applying and vice versa. Interestingly, research shows that there is a distinct male-bias in adverts for senior positions, while supporting roles are worded with feminine coded words. To prevent this, have a look at the words below and check if they are prevalent in your job descriptions.

Male-gendered wordsFemale-gendered words
Active Caring
Aggressive Connect
Determined Interpersonal 
Rock StarTrust

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.

The inclusive job ad

Emphasise in your job ad that diversity and inclusion is important to your organisation and that people from all ages, genders and backgrounds are encouraged to apply. This could persuade a hesitating candidate to take the step to apply.

Fair Pay

Another way to attract women, is to get rid of the gender pay gap and communicate this openly. For example, Generali Switzerland states on their blog that they pay fair wages to all genders and gives credence to this with a ‘We pay fair’ certificate.

Reading tip: How to handle cultural differences in the workplace

Ageism – don’t do it

You might be a twenty or thirty-something now, but beware: soon you will be a fifty-something, trying to get a foot in the door of a company filled with twenty-somethings. In addition, diversity based on age, is also good for your organisation.

Thinking that someone of a different age won’t fit in your team of younglings is nonsense. To be fair, some discussions about music or movies may be going less smoothly with the obvious age gap, but think how much you can teach each other because of just that. The differences are what makes working together with multiple generations in a team interesting. Of course you’ve already checked if there is a Culture Fit with the candidate, using CompanyMatch, so there really isn’t a good excuse to not hire a fifty-something with a 90% match and an excellent Job Fit.

Unconscious bias prevents diversity

Still, even if you actively want to hire for diversity, there is still the problem of unconscious bias. How to combat it? Look at what other companies have done to successfully avoid unconscious bias in their recruitment process. Like Facebook for example:

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 offers 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.

Unfortunately, humans are really bad at making decisions without unconscious bias, even when blinding résumés. Hopefully, in future, artificial intelligence will be able to help us out there.

Until then, be aware that unconscious bias exists and that there is still a long road ahead to eliminate it. And know that there are steps to take to eliminate obvious bias from the recruitment and hiring process.

Diversity and Cultural Fit go hand in hand!

Just because people have different opinions doesn’t mean you can’t believe in common values. The challenge for organisations is to create a working atmosphere in which it is possible for diverse personalities to cooperate on one level and work together successfully. If you implement recruiting based on diversity ánd Cultural Fit you and your organisation will have an easier time achieving your recruitment goals.

Reading tip: Fill in the form on this page to download our whitepaper Leadership And Corporate Culture

Are you interested in the possibilities of hiring for Cultural Fit? Request a demo or contact us and we’ll be glad to discuss the available options with you.

Header photo by Peter Feghali

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