Does Hiring For Culture Fit Perpetuate Bias?

Identifying and hiring the best possible candidates is vital for driving growth and innovation in the highly competitive marketplace. The idea of cultural fit, initially implemented as a metric for identifying aligned professional values, is now seen as a possible driver of bias in the workplace.

Here we look at the research on both sides and present a framework on how to properly screen for cultural fit.

What Is the Definition of Cultural Fit?

Popularized by tech companies in the early 2000s, “cultural fit” became a metric to identify candidates that not only demonstrated desired functional skills, but also soft skills and personal motivations that would lead to longer tenures, more cohesive teams, and productive collaboration.

However, cultural fit has increasingly become jargon for subjective or personality-based hiring decisions in the ensuing years. This has led to widespread debate regarding the suitability of including cultural fit during talent acquisition.

While industry experts are divided on the value of using cultural fit during the hiring process, both sides agree the subject deserves consideration before onboarding your next employee.

Does Hiring For Culture Fit Perpetuating Bias? An Argument for Each Side

While some hiring experts recommend removing cultural fit from the evaluation process entirely, others argue it is still a valuable metric for building a successful team. Let’s look at what both sides of the coin have to say.

For: Hiring for Cultural Fit Ensures Success

Evaluating a candidate’s cultural fit can be beneficial when done correctly.

Assessing functional fit (or the hard skills a candidate must possess to complete required tasks) should always form the foundation of hiring decisions. But determining the likelihood of onboarding talent working collaboratively and productively within their team can also be a valuable consideration for hiring managers.

Experts point to evidence of higher job satisfaction, superior job performance, and higher retention amongst employees who share the values of their company to support their position.

They also stress that while functional experience from one company is likely applicable to another, workplace organization structures, norms, and leadership values vary wildly. For example, some companies prefer ambitious and competitive employees that adhere to the established hierarchy. Others may desire more collaborative and self-directed team members that are willing to take risks.

The high cost of acquiring talented employees is another reason to consider candidates' cultural fit when expanding your workforce. With employment trends showing one in three new hires leave their position within a year of hiring, companies can save a significant amount of time and money by reducing turnover with positive, long-term additions to their staff.

Against: Cultural Fit Can Be Seen as Hiring Bias

Those opposed to including cultural fit in the hiring process claim the prevalence of vague and subjective company culture definitions or guidelines make measurable and objective comparisons impossible. This leads to the development of informal practices surrounding cultural fit assessments that can weaken the long-term success of your company.

In place of objective benchmarks for evaluation, detractors claim hiring managers often determine cultural fit with a variation of the “beer test.” Originally applied to American politicians, the beer test asks, “would I like to have a beer with this person?” to determine qualification for a role. While ill-advised for political decisions, this process is even less desirable in your candidate evaluation process.

Applied to hiring, this casual process leads hiring managers to consider candidates with whom they made a personal connection - often shared interests, alma maters, or other intangibles - to be cultural fits for the company at large.

When this occurs, companies are more likely to become homogeneous, losing out on the numerous benefits of a diverse team. High-performing candidates that did not make a personal impression on hiring managers or come from non-traditional backgrounds are also less likely to be onboarded, arbitrarily reducing the talent of your workforce.

Biases when determining cultural fit are also likely to lead to less racially and gender-diverse workforces, inadvertently combatting diversity initiatives and handicapping access to alternative perspectives.

How to Properly Screen for Cultural Fit

While properly screening for cultural fit can be difficult, you can avoid common missteps by introducing objectivity to your cultural evaluation process. Experts recommend developing clear guidelines that affirm conformity to company values - not individual values or commonalities.

A great way to start is by creating standardized assessment models and scoring guidelines for candidates. By utilizing systemic evaluations, companies can reduce personal biases in the hiring process and find talent that will support the mission of their business.

Another simple strategy is expanding your hiring panel. By including three or more members of your business, you ensure candidates will be vetted by a diverse representation of your company culture. This also reduces the chances of a hire being made due to personal connections or similarities.

Technology offers another promising route to reducing bias - predictive analytics. Predictive analytics uses advanced mathematical models and data mining to develop predictive models of a candidate's suitability for a position. Predictive analysis minimizes the impact of human error from the evaluation process by quantifying historically subjective aspects of the hiring process.


How PerceptionPredict Eliminates Bias With Hiring

Perception Predict specializes in applying advanced predictive analytics to the hiring process. By taking a data-driven approach to growing your team, PerceptionPredict helps your company identify the best possible candidate while reducing human biases from the process. Our Performance Culture Fingerprints allow your leadership to understand the human component of developing a superior performance-based culture.

Our Performance Fingerprints provide a complete analysis of candidates, including predicted length of tenure, personality and motivation profile, forecasted performance, and more. Using advanced statistical analysis and machine learning, our tools quantify every aspect of a candidate, making equitable comparisons simple.

Book a demo now to learn how Perception Predict can take the guesswork out of your hiring process with cutting-edge technology built by leading experts in data science, I/O psychology, and human capital consultancy.

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