Boss Lady

Why you shouldn’t be scared to hire for ‘cultural fit’


As a recruitment expert and company founder, I find many employers and employees are totally clueless when it comes to hiring for so-called cultural fit.

Hiring for cultural fit is often seen as the “holy grail” for employers. But most avoid it because it seems too hard and is not clearly understood.

Talking to hundreds of employers, I have found many worry hiring for cultural fit, or comfort with the company’s values and beliefs, put them at risk of building a workforce that lacks diversity.

They worry they will get the same type of employee and miss out on the value created by innovation and new thinking.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The biggest issue is in identifying and articulating what cultural fit for your organisation actually is.

Alarmingly, some employers and employees think cultural fit is related to superficial definitions like educational or career backgrounds.

They also cite comfort and familiarity with their co-workers and a shared enjoyment of office perks like ping pong tables and free lunches.

These have nothing to do with cultural fit.

Employers and employees need to look for their shared enthusiasm about a company or organisation’s mission and purpose.

Do they have a common approach to working and approaching tasks?

Do they have a mutual understanding of how to make decisions and assess risk when working individually or as a team. This is what we mean when we talk about culture fit.

Having helped place thousands of people in work, we can see employees whose values are aligned to those of their organisation are more committed and more satisfied with their job and less inclined to leave. People with higher value fit stay longer and perform better.

Employers need to know adopting a focus on employee values and how they align with the organisation’s values, rather than personal characteristics like gender, ethnicity and age, delivers a better cultural fit and greater diversity of perspectives, experiences and skills.

An even bigger mistake is when employer tries to assess a potential future employee’s core values using intuition and “gut feeling.”

Recruiters mistake alignment between themselves and the candidate for alignment between the candidate and the company.

You can’t determine cultural fit without first measuring and capturing the values of the company or team.

Employers need to standardise their assessments and see if the candidate’s values align with the values that are important to the organisation and that the organisation’s values align with those that are important to the candidate.

It is impossible to accomplish this in a face-to-face interview.

What is ‘culture fit’

  1. Shared enthusiasm for your organisation’s mission and purpose
  2. Common approach to working
  3. Understanding how to make decisions and assess risk on your own or as individual

What it is not ‘culture fit’

  1. Similar education and career backgrounds
  2. Comfort and familiarity with co-workers
  3. Enjoyment of office perks like ping pong and free meals.

Carolyne Burns is an Entrepreneur and recruitment technology expert.

About Carolyne Burns

Carolyne Burns is co-founder and managing director of Expr3ss! Originally from Adelaide, Carolyne Burns launched Expr3ss! in 2005 with co-founder and chairman, Dr Glyn Brokensha. Before the Expr3ss! journey, Carolyne held a variety of roles at Morgan Grenfell in 1986. Following this, Carolyne worked with Baron Partners on the sharemarket listing of mission critical web host, HostWorks Group, while also studying commerce part-time at the University of Adelaide. Since relocating to Sydney in 2006, Carolyne has been focusing solely on Expr3ss! which has seen great success in the last 10 years, attracting major brands that include Krispy Kreme, Kennards Hire, Beaumont Tiles and Spend-Less Shoes.

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