A question you may never have asked – culture fit or culture add?

Picture the scene. You’ve met with a great candidate, and you’re reviewing what the interview team thought. The person had relevant experience, was confident and came across well. They could demonstrate how they’d contributed to their current company. They were enthusiastic about how they could input to your role. But from nowhere comes the comment “I’m just not sure they’re right for us.”

What’s really being asked here?

You may not have thought about it in these terms, but what’s being asked is “are they a ‘culture fit’?”

According to Harvard Business Review, who know about these things, culture fit is ‘the likelihood that someone will reflect and be able to adapt to the core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that make up your organisation.”

It’s a very common reason why candidates are rejected. Companies often endeavour to find the right culture fit when recruiting. There’s an understandable assumption that if a new employee will fit well within their current team, there’s more chance that they will be successful.

And that’s a good thing, right?

Do you know, I’m not sure it is. Doing a bit of research for this blog I came across a quote from a CEO stating “employers simply can’t take a chance on someone who won’t mesh well with the existing team, doesn’t share common goals with their colleagues.”

Simply can’t take a chance? I think that’s quite sad. If you only recruit a certain ‘type’ of person, don’t you risk ending up with a homogenous team who all think the same way? By rejecting candidates because they don’t behave like you or share the same attitudes as your company, you prevent the introduction of more diverse perspectives. Surely you need people who can view things differently and come at things from another angle. A variety of conflicting attitudes and behaviours could help your company to make better products or deliver better services.

So maybe we should instead consider ‘culture add’

Culture add is really the opposite of culture fit. It describes people who can absolutely work within the company’s values, but who will bring that aspect of diversity that can be such a positive force. Fresh ways of thinking, new approaches to old problems – this is how companies develop and thrive.

Changing the recruitment mindset to culture add means a change in focus away from why the candidate doesn’t fit, to instead, what they can bring to the table. Stop looking for people to meet the criteria of the status quo, and instead look for candidates who can add to the organisation’s development. It’s a shift in thinking away from protecting the norm to more inclusive thinking. And I think we need more of it. 

Have you ever considered the difference between culture fit and culture add? And if so, do you come down on one side or the other? I’d love you to get involved in the debate.

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