Knowing what to look for when hiring new talent for your organization creates many challenges, as different hiring managers recommend hiring for different things. Some talent & acquisition professionals will focus solely on diversity; others may recommend you hire candidates who are going to best fit within your organization’s existing company culture. More recently, however, some hiring managers have been recommending hiring “culture contributors,” or people who add to the organization’s existing business culture.
What are the benefits or advantages of hiring for “culture fit” versus “culture add,” and which should you aim for when hiring for your organization?
The Meaning of Hiring for Culture Fit
The idea behind the term culture fit is that you want to hire people who would fit seamlessly into the fabric of your organization — people who will get along well with others and whose perspectives align with those of other people in your organization. In other words, people who mesh with your company culture. After all, it has been a long-reigning thought that successful teams and organizations consist of people who work well together because they get along and their personalities gel (though research now shows that emotional intelligence and a high degree of communication are more significant contributors to effective teams).
However, in some talent & acquisition circles, culture fit has taken on the meaning of hiring only people who look, think, and act like you. This leads to an obvious concern about the ideas of promoting diversity and inclusion within an organization. After all, if you have an organization of people who predominantly fit within one overarching category, that means that the individuals within it will be less likely to challenge the status quo or shake things up. More of the same type of people within a company culture can result in lower levels of innovation and creative problem-solving.
The Meaning of Hiring for Culture Add
A newer term that has been making its way around the hiring and talent acquisition communities is “culture add.” Essentially, this refers to hiring culture contributors — people who share the same values and beliefs as your organization but who can also add to its existing culture by bringing with them a diversity of thought, opinion, experience, upbringing, and other unique characteristics.
According to a Forbes article, Pandora is one such example of a company that is embracing the idea of hiring for culture add and is taking it to the next level. It cites a quote from Pandora’s Director of Employee Experience & Marketing Marta Riggins:
“We believe that ‘culture add’ goes beyond recruiting. It’s about creating an integrated B2E (business to employee) marketing strategy to engage and attract great talent from all communities and backgrounds, develop programs to uncover and overcome bias, and fostering a culture of inclusiveness and belonging.”
Figuring out how to identify culture contributors can be challenging. However, LinkedIn came up with a questionnaire for identifying potential candidates. Their list of questions for how to screen for culture add in prospective employees is as follows:
- “What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?
- Tell me about a time in the last week when you’ve been satisfied, energized, and productive at work. What were you doing?
- What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your resume?
- What would make you choose our company over others?
- What’s the biggest misconception your coworkers have about you and why do they think that?”
Why Hire for Culture Contributors Instead of Only Cultural Fit
There are advantages to hiring both for culture fit and for culture add. However, what sets hiring for culture add apart as the most advantageous approach to hiring is that it reflects an organization’s desire to ensure that all perspectives, opinions, experiences, and other differentiators are reflected in their employees. Hiring for culture add helps to make an organization more diverse and inclusive in comparison to organizations that tend to hire employees who fall within the same categories. However, this does not mean that culture fit should entirely be ignored, either — instead, it just should not be the primary focus.
According to Big Think expert, tech journalist, and Contently co-founder Shane Snow, hiring more of the same by focusing only on culture fit is like setting your company up for a crash. He uses the analogy of a company being on a raft that is approaching a waterfall. People with a different viewpoint or perspective — who don’t align with the culture fit for your organization who have diverse perspectives — may see the waterfall but also may not feel like they can or should speak up.
In his Big Think course “Built to Collaborate,” Snow alludes that by having people whose thought processes and perspectives are similar, you stifle opportunities for innovation by keeping your organization in a box:
“The more similar your personalities are, yes, the more happy and the more comfortable you are at work, but, actually, the more likely you are to not have cognitive diversity. The more similar you are, the more comfortable you are, the more you get along, the more likely you are to settle on similar solutions to problems.”
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