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Why You Should Hire For “Culture Add” Not Culture Fit

Most companies are looking for some kind of secret sauce. They look beyond job requirements for candidates that fit their company culture.

Prevailing wisdom suggests that this is the “right” way to hire. Instead of looking at a list of candidate qualifications and skills, you're evaluating the full package.

Culture fit has therefore been accepted with open arms as a key component of the interview process and plays a critical role in the hiring decisions of most organizations.

That said, there could be a better way...

Culture fit vs. culture add

“Oh, oobee doo. I wanna be like you. I wanna walk like you... talk like you... too. You'll see it's true... an ape like me.. can learn to be human too.” – The Jungle Book

It’s easy to fall into the trap of hiring people that “walk and talk” just like your team (sorry, we couldn’t resist the Jungle Book reference.)

Most companies aren’t just looking for candidates with the right skills – they want someone that matches their company’s DNA. The rationale is that these candidates will gel better with the rest of the team, ramp faster and add more value as employees.

They’re not going to rock the boat. They’ll fit right into the culture that you're building.

This sounds great on paper, but there’s a problem:

Adding people with exactly the same values, ideas and approaches as your team can be dangerous. It’s easy to create an environment where everyone thinks and acts in the same way, which is not typically an environment where ideas and innovation flourish.

In some organizations, culture fit can also become a weaponized term that interviewers use to blanket reject candidates that don't fit the mold that they’re looking for.

Instead of getting hung up on “fit”, companies looking to build more diverse teams are better off thinking about “culture add”. What can a candidate bring to the table that will add to your culture and help move it in the right direction?

This paves the way for companies to engage candidates from a variety of different backgrounds and demographics and lets them think outside the box when they’re building out different teams.

Instead of matching candidates to existing employees, recruiters can look more closely at the unique communication styles, values, and interests that might help candidates add to an organization.

Culture add is a principle that organizations like Facebook and Pandora are already leveraging to improve the diversity of their hiring efforts (more on that here in this great article from Lars Schmidt), and could be a secret weapon as you build your company.