Skip to main content

This is the weekly Careers newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web or someone forwarded this e-mail newsletter to you, you can sign up for Globe Careers and all Globe newsletters here.

Radhika Panjwani is a former journalist from Toronto and a blogger.

When academic Kyle Brykman co-founded TalentFit, a tech startup that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to match job applicants and companies based on “culture fit,” some people feared the approach would erode an organization’s diversity, equity and inclusiveness efforts.

“Hiring for ‘culture fit,’ has got a bad reputation because people fixate on the terminology,” noted Prof. Brykman, an assistant professor of management at University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business.

“My experience is that it often gets thought of as an organization where everyone’s the same or homogeneous.” He said he would never advise organizations to hire people that all have similar traits or backgrounds. “For me, it means finding people who share common values and common approaches to work.”

Corporate culture comprises elements such as values, vision, attitudes and practices that define how a company operates and treats its employees. Hiring for culture fit means recruiting applicants whose core values are aligned to those of the company, explained Prof. Brykman. There is compelling evidence from dozens of studies that show hiring candidates based on a culture fit reduces turnover, increases employee satisfaction and results in improved performance, he said.

During interviews, some hiring managers will ask questions specifically designed to assess a candidate’s compatibility. Asking candidates to describe their ideal working environment, for example, can be an eye-opener. If you’re a small company that values autonomy, individual contributions and competition among its workers, you may be less inclined to hire someone whose past successes were fostered in a collaborative setting with several resources at their disposal.

Beer logic and bro culture

Patty McCord, former chief talent officer at Netflix, has a different take on hiring.

In a Harvard Business Review article, she writes that the process involves going beyond what’s detailed in the résumé – making great hires is all about matching the applicant to the role through unconventional means. Ms. McCord noted that at Netflix she and others had to be creative about where they searched for right talent. This extended beyond what was detailed in the résumés.

“Finding the right people is also not a matter of ‘culture fit,’” Ms. McCord notes. “What most people really mean when they say someone is a good fit culturally is that he or she is someone they’d like to have a beer with. But people with all sorts of personalities can be great at the job you need done.”

In her book Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs, Lauren Rivera chronicles the results of her interviews with 120 hiring executives at elite investment banks, management consulting firms and law offices. Eighty-two per cent of managers admitted one of the most important criteria they looked for in employees was “culture fit,” but only half had a clear idea of their organizational culture. And only one-third of respondents had tools to measure culture fit during the recruitment process.

Candidates were judged on unspoken expectations around certain social behaviours and nearly all recruits hired were from ultra-prestigious schools. The process was flawed because after the applicant pool was whittled down based on the institutions they attended, hiring executives chose candidates they liked.

“These tactics, used to discern a ‘cultural fit’ between the applicant and workplace, systematically eliminate low-income, high-performing college students who may be qualified for jobs at such firms,” writes Ms. Rivera in the book.

Curse of culture fit – homogeneity

To hire for a culture or values fit, organizations must first map the skills and abilities of a diverse cross-section of their employees using a qualitative methodology; create structured interviews where everyone is asked the same set of questions and analyze and evaluate responses to root out biases, Prof. Brykman said.

He also suggests applicants too must do their due diligence by checking out reviews about the company and its values by asking questions such as: “How do you resolve conflict?,” “What are some recent changes you made based on employee feedback?” and “What was the emotional tone of the company during a recent crisis?”

What I’m reading around the web

  • This article from CNBC says the postpandemic economy in the U.S. is a job seeker’s dream. Some statistics: some 48 million people quit their jobs last year, and 76 million landed a new one. The U.S. labour market currently has 11 million openings, which roughly translates to two jobs for every person looking for one.
  • According to this article from the BBC, the second edition of the Global Land Outlook, which has been five years in the making, paints a bleak picture of the global degradation of soil, water and biodiversity. The overall health of land has declined and become less fertile and soon it will not support many species. If nothing changes, an additional area of land the size of South America will be damaged by 2050.
  • A major downturn is coming. According to this story from CNN, Deutsche Bank may have caused a bit of stir earlier this month by becoming the first major bank to forecast a U.S. recession, albeit a “mild” one. The bank warns there’s a deep downturn in the works, caused by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s quest to knock down stubbornly high inflation.

Have feedback for this newsletter? You can send us a note here.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe