“They seem like a great candidate, but will they fit in our culture?” This is a question often asked that can have unintended consequences when used as a primary weight in assessing a candidate’s fit.

If you have ever been in a position to decide on a new hire or taken part in the hiring process, you most likely have asked, “what is our culture missing?” or “What type of individual will help us create the culture we are seeking for the future?”. Many leaders unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) look at how a candidate might fit into the culture and layer in their own biases as a factor in determining who to hire. Here are just a few reasons why hiring for culture fit can get you into trouble. 

Hiring for “culture fit” alone is problematic because doing so won’t ensure a dynamic, innovative, and future-focused organization. Instead, it can unintentionally encourage managers to choose candidates that look and sound like everyone else. If sameness enters a company, unconscious bias can impact more decisions, and companies risk missing other perspectives and opportunities to drive change. 

To understand exactly what it is that you are missing, you must ask your team to look in the mirror and fully recognize what your organization’s culture is now- the good, bad, and the ugly. This is not what is on your website or what you tell people in most cases, it may be hard to admit shortcomings but for this to be effective it needs to be an honest exercise. Next, you must accept you may not have the culture you want or even think you have today, coming to terms that things could be better when they are good is a tough pill to swallow.

Workplace culture is generally composed of individual values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes of people in the workplace. The collective behavior can be shaped by an individual’s upbringing, social/cultural context, or industry norms. When it comes to organizations, the leadership and management teams have the most influence to determine what the culture will become. I believe in order to have a healthy and prosperous culture, you as a leader, must honestly believe in your team and not be dismissive of the findings on what your culture is lacking in this process.

So how do you assess for culture add?

Once you have completed an internal examination of current culture and understand what you want the future culture to look like, then comes the execution of finding that particular person or group of people with those attributes to make it so. When bringing on new talent to your team you must first uncover if their personal values and beliefs align with the organization. This does not mean hiring people that look and think like you do. This means searching for people that generally share the same values that are the foundation of your organization, these are attributes embedded in their DNA. Do they believe in always doing what is right no matter what? Do they choose to be positive in life and at work? Do they subscribe to the belief that only in serving others do we truly serve ourselves? Are they open to being inclusive of others’ thoughts and ideas? If you are aligned on these values, you can then utilize the diversity of the team’s collective experience to propel your organization forward. Alignment on such a purpose is the glue that keeps an organization focused, even as various processes change or evolve.

Why is this so important?

Companies with strong cultures typically have the best reputations in the market. Research the organizations you admire and respect the most to aid in finding talent that amplifies your current culture and frames it for the future. Actively seeking out candidates that view the world differently than you do will ensure having a diversity of thought among your teams. This is crucial for building teams who are always challenging themselves and each other to be the best version of themselves, not just for today, but for future success. 

If you have people driven to challenge the status quo, then identifying unique attributes your organization needs and including those in your next executive search will undoubtedly add value and evolve your organizational culture over time. Creating a culture of innovation and forward-thinking comes only after doing the hard work of analyzing what your current culture is and what it is not, then going out and hiring with those diverse candidates who have something to add to your culture. This surely isn’t easy and requires intentional actions, but will absolutely be worth it.