Don’t let “Culture Fit” stop Diversity!

Commitment to create a diverse environment, equal opportunity employer, fair consideration without Regard to race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, disability or age. This is a familiar statement that we often see on job descriptions assuring candidates that the company is an equal opportunity employer.

However, is that really the case?

We all know that in a hiring process, the job application and candidates screening phase is just the start of the process. There could be many different stages of interviews following that.

Every single hiring manager wants to make the best hire possible. There isn’t any hiring out there who’s told me that they want the second best candidate, and we should pass on the best person for the job. In fact, sometimes it can be so hard to find the perfect candidate that we end up not being able to hire anyone. I believe we refer to this as the “purple squirrel” situation!

There are many things we look at when we evaluate a candidate for the job. If you do a quick search online, you’ll be able to find a lot of resources out there, from assessment forms to personality tests.

Different companies adopt a different approach. In its essence, as an employer, you’ve only got 2 things you need to focus on during a job interview.

  1. Can the candidate do the job?
  2. Provide the candidate with sufficient information to make a decision.

And yes, in assessing the candidate’s ability to perform the job, we often need to look at his experience, training and even potential to develop the skills.

Often, we try to look at a candidate’s “fit” into the organization. Even in conferences, there’ve been talks by speakers talking about hiring for the right “fit”. Often, this refers to a “culture fit”.

Here’s the test. For the many of us who’s been with different organizations. When we sit in an interview as an employer, reflect on the moments you’ve got the question from your candidates asking you about your company’s culture.

How many times have you used those “similar” and “generic” adjectives to describe the company you’re with.

Wait a minute! Are we saying that all these companies that we’ve been with have the same culture? Maybe. Or, do we really struggle to put our finger down on an unique set of adjectives that best describe the culture of the organization you’re in.

Let’s not be overly harsh with ourselves here. Culture is an interesting thing. I don’t claim to be an expert in this department, but I can assure you, you can try your very best to describe it, to define it, you will still find that the way you’ve describe your organization’s culture will be different from how your colleagues would had put it.

Some would say, you would have to “feel” it for yourself to understand it.

Now, if we cannot clearly define our organization’s culture, how would we be able to quantify a person’s fit into this culture? How should we measure this?

Is this a gut feel or is there a way to quantify suitability?

As human as we are, we gravitate towards things that are familiar or similar. We take comfort in making the safe decision by relying on our experience. I guess that’s how the term “comfort zone” came about.

By doing so, we form biasness and perception subconsciously.

The question is, would “culture fit” be a valid reason to reject a candidate?

How would you know if you yourself is a good fit for the organization in the first place, and by which standards is the candidate assessed on?

In a recent conference which I was a panelist to a discussion on hiring and selection, I raised this very point of view to a room full of about 100+ participants. There was a bit of a harsh silence, but I received a couple of comments during break time that it was an interesting point of view which they’ve overlooked.

While there is no right wrong to this argument, and this could probably spark off a larger debate, I would urge everyone who’s part of a hiring process to take a step back and relook at your assessment of your candidates. Remember, the first step to reducing biasness is to have the awareness.

I hope this article would had help make a difference in improving diversity, inclusion, and in reducing discrimination in the world of recruitment.

Have a fantastic weekend!


Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

Eric Wong is APAC Head of Talent Acquisition Leader at Fitbit. His experience spans across the various human resource functions such as HR Information Systems, Business Partnering and Talent Management. Eric currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). Connect with him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @ErickyWong.


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