Why You Might Not Want to Hire for ‘Cultural Fit’

Any new-hire selection process should test for fit with the company culture, right?
Maybe not.
Recently, one of our clients was recruiting for a key executive position. It came down to two candidates both of whom had the capabilities and experience for the role. One of the candidates was a natural fit with the company culture; the other was a bit of a stretch. A no-brainer, right?
Yes, but not because what you’re thinking.
Hiring for fit with your current culture reinforces that culture. But what if you need to evolve your culture? What if your culture needs to think differently or act differently?
Then you should hire for fit with the desired culture.
That’s what our client did. They selected the candidate who will stretch the culture in the direction it needs to go. The candidate who will inject some discomfort into the status quo.
(Caveat: Organizational cultures can tolerate only so much deviation so fast. Move too far and your new hire might get marginalized. Move too fast and you could create a culture war. If your desired culture is a long way from your current culture then take it in manageable steps.)
Hiring for cultural fit? Just make sure you define which culture.
Your thoughts?

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