Cultural fit. You know it’s real, but you hate it when a hiring manager who is an absolute dufus goes with the most general feedback possible:
“I just didn’t think she was a fit.”
Sure you didn’t. Could you be a little more specific? Was she not a “fit” because she had opinions you didn’t agree with? Because she started out at a community college? Because she had kids? Because she wasn’t hot enough on your “smoke show” scale?
I hate it when managers use “fit” as a reason not to hire. “Fit” is a crutch for too many managers that actually means, “The candidate wasn’t enough like me” or “enough like my team.” Alternatives to that are, “not from the right school,” “not attractive enough” or “didn’t communicate in a fashion I view as appropriate” (which means they seemed too slow or too fast on the communication front).
Hey hiring manager dufus—what we need are teams that look less like you, not more like you.
Which is why we need to talk about Cultural Fit. If you’re ever going to stop accepting “fit” as a reason why a hiring manager won’t move forward with a candidate, you better start helping define what successful “fit” looks like.
Translation: “Fit” isn’t what you want it to be, Mr. Hiring Manager—it’s what we collectively define it as. The best way to define what fit is at your company is to pivot and make that definition of “cultural fit.” Once you’ve made that pivot, you’ve got some work to do to get the definition right.
In my experience, Cultural Fit defines some of the behavioral factors beyond ability to do the job that makes people at your company successful.
September at Kinetix (the recruiting company I help run) is all about cultural and motivation fit in interviewing, so I’ll give you an example from our company based out of the ATL.
At Kinetix, things change quickly because our client’s needs change rapidly.
That means some of the people who are most successful at Kinetix tend to be those who are low-to-mid on Rules Orientation. If you’re low-to-mid on Rules Orientation, it generally means that you’re OK with chaos and thrive when every situation has it’s own solution. High rules people hate this.
That’s one example of Cultural Fit. We need people who are comfortable with lots of change and a low amount of rules.
What are some common anchors of cultural fit? This post is already too academic, so let’s serve up the The 5 Best Cultural Fit Scenes from Hollywood, served up in no particular order. Use these as thought starters for what’s most important to your company related to Cultural Fit (hint, that might be the opposite of what you see in the videos), and start building what cultural fit means as your company and accepting general “fit” as a means to decline a great candidate you otherwise love.
(Email subscribers, click through for video clips below.)
Cultural Fit Scene #1 – Ben Affleck in Boiler Room (NSFW, so be careful)
Cultural Fit Component – Don’t come here thinking you’re better than you are; we like raw talent we can train. Oh, and we have one goal—money.
Cultural Fit Scene #2 – Jennifer Anniston in Office Space
Cultural Fit Component – We like people who aren’t cynical and jaded; give us the people who will play along with the engagement-tactic-of-the-month flavor we’re running here.
Cultural Fit Scene #3 – Steve Jobs dismantles IBM guy
Cultural Fit Component – What we value is the opposite of conventional wisdom, and if we make a mistake in living up to that by questioning a guy’s sexuality, so be it.
Cultural Fit Scene #4 – Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting
Cultural Fit Component – The best talent thinks deeper about the mission of your company. You better be able to defend it or you won’t be able to hire them.
Cultural Fit Scene #5 – Jason Bateman in Horrible Bosses
Cultural Fit Component – Misinformation and politics rule the day. Either become a part of that ecosystem or you’ve got the wrong match. Interestingly enough, at times, hiring managers in this type of company will look for those they can manipulate.
The lesson? Never except “fit” as a reason for why a hiring manager is saying no to a candidate. Force them to tell you what that “fit” means, and the more you do to establish what cultural fit means at your company, the more control you’ll have over who comes—and potentially who stays.
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.