Why Hiring for Culture-Fit Can Ruin a Start-Up

Culturally fit employees are every employer's dream; until reality kicks in and employers realize that by hiring candidates that mimic exact backgrounds and characteristics of their current employees, the company is failing to progress. While many larger organizations can enforce the concept of hiring culture-fit employees, this concept when implemented by start-ups can ruin the firm’s chances of growth, development, and profit.  

The concept of hiring culture-fit employees is ideal in theory where the company wants the employees to either mimic or believe the founder’s values and morals, but in a live environment this rarely works out especially if the company has projects that require people with different levels of expertise with different viewpoints on problem-solving and work skills. Your employees should not mimic just the shared values of the organization but of your customers as well. If you are an organization with a very diverse customer-base then you likely need to be an organization of a very diverse workforce of employees as well. 

Start-ups run their operations based on the talents of a few people, which makes it all the more necessary for recruiters to hire candidates based on their actual skill sets, talent pool and from diversified backgrounds. Start-ups also rely on creative people who can think out of the set norms while honing their skills and helping the firm grow with their unique skillsets. This can only be achieved if start-ups are willing to scratch the surface and find out the actual talents of the individual candidates that they are considering recruiting.  

In most circumstances when companies choose to hire candidates that fit in perfectly within the set restrictive norms, such candidates might have studied at the top colleges and come from a higher socio-economic background, the result is the majority if not all the candidates are like each other both in the terms of skillsets and their ideologies. One of the primary issues that arise from hiring for culture-fit is that the economically empowered crowd gets priority over others and this can be a biased way to hire candidates especially if the firm advocates being a tolerant, inclusive and employee-centric organization.  

Most employers, interviewers and HR personnel that tend to hire culture-fit employees, tend to look for work friends or people with similar likes and dislikes in the workplace. While this might benefit team bonding up to an extent, it can greatly hamper the growth of the firm as potential employees that can be a true asset to the company might get alienated and even dissuaded from joining the start-up as they do not fit into the demographic profiles. These demographic profiles while might seem like those of ideal candidates, might not bring much to the table in terms of experience, various expertise, different skillsets and different ideologies in areas such as problem-solving, people skills and teamwork. McKinsey & Company found in their latest January 2018 report on Diversity that companies that are more diverse are 33% more likely to outperform above the national industry median.  

Many of the employees that want to hold on to their jobs, tend to try to be culture-fit by following all the morals and values of the company by the letter. While this might have short-term benefits, the long-term implications of employing people who are thought to act as one big mass will be anything but productive. One of the plausible solutions to end the practice of seeking for culture-fit candidates for start-ups is to train interviewers to understand their own unconscious biases and help them understand actual ways to overcome this potential shortcoming. Another solution for start-ups who want their new recruits to hone their skills is to hold training programs that can help the employees understand how to be good at their jobs while holding on to the traits that make them unique and an asset to the firm.  

Will Staney

Will is the Founder and Principal Consultant at Proactive Talent Strategies, LLC and the former Head of Global Talent Acquisition at rapidly-growing startups Twilio andGlassdoor. Prior to that he held recruiting leadership roles at enterprise software leaders VMwareSuccessFactors and SAPwhere he lead strategic programs includingemployer brandingsourcing strategy, recruiting operations and systems process design.

During his over 7 years as a recruiting practitioner, after 10 years in sales and marketing, he developed a passion for building what he calls "modern recruiting machines". He would push innovation from the inside, execute on his vision, and once it was realized he would pass the torch on to those he had mentored and move on to his next challenge. He was destined to start a consultancy so he could help as many companies as possible adopt a more proactive recruiting strategy with community in mind.

In his free time, Will enjoys riding his motorcycle, trying out the newest gadgets, and spending time with his two kids, Foster and Felicity.