“Culture Fit” Is Out. Here’s Why You Should Hire Based On Value Fit Instead

“Culture fit.” It’s become a buzzword in the past few years when interviewing prospective employees. Sure, they have the experience…but will they blend in with the rest of the team, let alone the entire company?

Because of this, hiring parties tend to ask questions such as “What is your ideal working environment?” Other questions include: “Why did you like the best boss you’ve ever had?” and “Do you consider yourself more of a collaborator or autonomous worker?” 

On the surface, these seem like harmless questions, used only to assess personality. After all, the last thing a company wants is someone who plagues the office. The problem: culture fit can be a dangerous trait to look for.


What is Culture Fit, and Why Does It Matter?

Culture fit mainly revolves around the following: how well an employee will work with the team, their communication style with colleagues and leaders, and whether their beliefs align with the company’s.

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Employers must know the answers to these questions – even more so if they’re looking for a long-term employee. This is especially vital when there are multiple candidates with the right qualifications; two people may have the same experience, but one may be more of a go-getter than the other. 

Some companies, on top of multiple interviews with different managers, use personality tests. These can help employers get a sense of how potential employees view themselves and what they believe they bring to a team. They can measure attitudes and behaviors, morals and values. A resume does not detail these, and cover letters don’t always paint the full picture.

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The Problem with Culture Fit

So, yeah, culture fit sounds super important. And it is. But there’s a big setback.

In an article with the Wall Street Journal, a human resources consultant explains that if you hire people strongly based on personality fit, “you end up with this big, homogenous culture where everybody looks alike, everybody thinks alike, and everybody likes drinking beer at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with the bros.” 

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With diversity and inclusion being so important at this point in history, the idea of filling an office with employees who never disagree or challenge one another is unhealthy. And, should one play devil’s advocate following a period of uniform agreement, the rest of the team may ostracize that member – as if the employee betrayed them.

In a survey featured in the Harvard Business Review, the author stated that many of the 2,000 employees studied said that they felt the need to conform. This occurs even if employees look different – rather than “seeing color,” employers see homogeny. 

This isn’t the only issue. In an article, Lauren Rivera, an associate professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, studied culture fit. She discovered that interviewers are not trained properly, and candidates may be passed over simply because of the interviewer’s opinion, not the interviewee’s experience.

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Rivera also found that “interviewers look for a sense of connection, often seeking potential friends and ‘playmates’ rather than those with the best work experience or job-relevant skills.” As I mentioned, personality can be a determining factor between two stellar candidates, but an untrained interviewer may prioritize “culture fit.” By being buddy-buddy within the interview rather than maintaining a sense of professionalism, similar personalities can override issues within the potential employee’s background.

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Challenging the Culture Fit Status Quo

Hiring without culture fit in mind (and therefore challenging the notion that it’s necessary) can be beneficial to companies. With different viewpoints, new and creative ideas may be born. Giving everyone a seat at the table can lead to breakthroughs; people from different backgrounds and in different life states/circumstances tend to see solutions to corporate challenges in a different light, giving them the opportunity to offer new perspectives and more effective problem solving.

There are companies that are aware of how the idea of culture fit can be a negative. At Greenhouse, Jacqui Maguire, Director of Talent Acquisition, says that those who work at the company can apply to be “culture add interviewers” after three months of employment. Read: the company trains new interviewers in order to avoid biases. This includes questions regarding values, but Maguire explains that “interviewing for our company’s cultural values is different from wanting to grab a beer with someone.

Maguire also stresses that there is no room for judgement in an interview, and remaining objective is crucial. “Our culture interviewers can then ask consistent questions to compare candidates apples-to-apples on whether the candidate shares our values around belonging, purpose and entrepreneurship.”

David Hassell, founder and CEO of 15five, encourages the use of “value” fit over “culture” fit strongly. So strongly, in fact, that he left a company he co-founded due to having different values than his co-founder. When he launched his startup, he “put a lot of thought into what the company’s core values would be. Once [he] had determined these core values, it was clear they would be the guiding principles behind [their] ‘culture.’”

Why I Believe In More Than Culture Fit 

At one of my previous jobs, it was evident that most people were hired based on culture fit. Conversations held little challenges; most of the time, statements were repeated in different ways. Eventually, I realized my personal values had changed and did not align with that of the company’s, and I chose to leave.

This was the best decision I could have made. I then found She’s a Full On Monet. Within my first interview, I was not quizzed on culture fit questions; instead, I was asked about my experience and why my purpose aligned with the company’s. In November, I took the job, and I haven’t looked back.

Luckily, I do fit into the culture. However, knowing that the basis of my hiring was my values matters to me. Culture fit questions can only tell you so much; I’m thrilled to be a part of a team that believes deeply in our mission. And let me tell you: nothing can compare to that.


What do you think is most important when it comes to hiring? Do you believe in culture fit questions? Let us know in the comments.

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