Diversity in Hiring 101: Culture Add vs. Culture Fit

In the new war for talent — and with today’s increased focus on diversity and inclusion in hiring — HR leaders must be more proactive than ever about crafting company culture. Which means taking a hard look at the notion of the “culture fit.”

It can be easy for hiring managers to gravitate towards candidates that seem like an obvious culture fit, especially during the recruiting process. But when we boil the idea of company culture down to the employee level, we start running into some big questions:

  • Are we trying to hire people just like us?
  • Does “shared identity” mean “homogenous group?”
  • Is hiring for cultural fit discriminatory?

Unpacking the term “culture fit”

The word “fit” alone can be disturbing, conjuring up memories from high school cafeterias where you had to conform to certain norms to fit in.

Take a minute to think about your company’s cultural events. Be it happy hours, family picnics, kickball tournaments, or axe-throwing outings, these are important bonding opportunities for your employees, and represent who you are as a company.

Now think about the people at your company who don’t participate in those events. And listen for the voice deep down inside that may be whispering, “Yeah, that person doesn’t really fit in.

But here’s the thing: Your culture can’t grow if it stays the same. You need more than just people who fit in. To create a powerful, healthy company culture, you need to be open to more.

As leaders in a competitive business landscape, our goal is to protect our culture while we actively pursue the disruptors that bring about progress.

Culture “fit” is out. It’s time for a new mindset: the culture add.


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Bias is easy, diversity is hard

Throwing out the use of “cultural fit” and replacing it with “culture add” can completely change your approach to situations that deal with bias, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace.

In an effort to increase diversity, Facebook went so far as to ban the phrase “culture fit” from their job postings in 2017. The tech giant also mandated that interviewers provide specific feedback to back up their votes on new hires, instead of reducing it to a good/bad culture fit recommendation.

As humans, we’re just hardwired toward bias. It takes diligence to make decisions without it. Yet we all seem to think we’re objective.

Fast Company contributor Jane Porter explains that because of our brain’s quest to simplify decision-making, we’re much, much more biased than we think we are. In order to filter through thousands of competing pieces of information each day, we unconsciously rely on past knowledge and assumptions when deciding who to trust.


It’s important to mention here that diversity and inclusion efforts yield more than social returns; they also increase business value. A 2015 McKinsey & Company report found that “companies in the top quartile for gender, racial and ethnic diversity” do better financially than those who aren’t.

After all, bringing together people of different backgrounds, genders, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations almost guarantees diversity of thought and richer ideas. And in today’s knowledge economy, ideas are the currency that buys us creativity and innovation.


How to apply culture add > culture fit

Despite living in a data-driven world, too many recruiting decisions come down to the hiring manager’s gut feeling about a candidate. Without a procedure in place, hiring for cultural traits can give the impression that discrimination is involved. (Or worse — it is involved.)

Faced with such challenges, Pandora is yet another company that recently dropped the idea of culture fit in favor of culture add. And in an effort to hold themselves accountable to new diversity goals, the streaming service published the demographic breakdown of the entire organization on its website. Talk about leading by example!

Ultimately, companies like Pandora are paving the way toward a new way of thinking about culture. It’s not easy to protect the status quo while pursuing change-makers, but the effort is always worth it in the end.


Don’t just talk the D&I talk — walk the walk.
15 Tips for Building a More Inclusive Workplace in 2020

Ready to make the switch from culture fit to culture add? Learn how to create a more inclusive workplace this year.

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5 best practices for hiring with the culture add mindset

1. Beware of bias — don’t trust your gut

Now that we know the science behind unconscious bias, there’s just no good reason to make hiring decisions based on instincts alone. When you have a bad feeling about a candidate, don’t ignore it. Do the hard work of getting to the root of the issue instead of dismissing them immediately.

2. Look for shared core values

If a candidate or an employee doesn’t share a company’s core values, there’s no question — it won’t work. If they demonstrate behaviors that could be toxic to your team, they don’t belong. But personality itself is not a good indicator of whether a person can add value to your team.

3. Ask interview questions focused on behaviors

At the end of the day, humans do what’s important to them. During the interview process, ask questions that require candidates to reveal their own values and associated behaviors.

For instance, if intellectual curiosity is a company value, ask a candidate about the last book they read. If service is a priority, ask when they did something nice for someone.

4. Build a diverse hiring team

Sounds simple right? Make sure your interview panel represents the diversity you want to see (or at least knows to prioritize diversity).

5. Judge all candidates using the same criteria

Ask the same questions, give the same assessments. And remember, this is not just to appease compliance laws or make people feel good. Rather, these habits help wear down your unconscious biases in order to create an excellent work environment for everyone.


Your 2020 Anti-Bias Guide:
A Roadmap for Ending Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

A Roadmap for Reducing Unconscious Bias in the Workplace copy

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Eliminate bias in hiring and beyond with technology

We hope this article helped give you some insight into hiring for culture add, and being aware of potential hiring biases. Because at Kazoo, we’re passionate about bringing together all the tools you need to make work work better for everyone. That’s why the Kazoo Employee Experience Platform brings goals, performance management, recognition, rewards, surveys, and more into one simple, easy-to-use platform.

If you’re ready to align, connect, and engage your workplace, check out our Kazoo overview. Or, schedule a personalized demo today.

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