What Cultural Fit Isn’t


Let’s define this already! “Cultural Fit” has become such a buzzword in recruiting and HR, but is anyone 100% sure what that means for their own organization? Knowing what a cultural fit looks like in the light of the unique values of your organization is vital, but it is also important to be aware of what a cultural fit isn’t.

A popular definition of cultural fit comes from Adrian Furnham, author of “The Psychology of Behavior at Work”:

“A fit is where there is congruence between the norms and values of the organization and those of the person.”

Here are a few common trip-ups that can result in a mismatch. The following candidates display attributes that are often mistaken for a genuine cultural fit. Beware the…


Many recruiters and hiring managers are sticking with the cloning technique in hiring, wherein they assess their strongest talent, identify their common traits and then hire based on this wish list. Don’t get me wrong, this can be a very effective method for hiring, but it will not ensure a strong cultural fit.

A detail-oriented, local university grad with a 3.5 GPA does not necessarily care that one of your core company values is excellent customer service. Heck, they might even despise working with customers. Company values have to be in the forefront of the hiring process to establish a cultural fit. Sheila Margolis, President of the Workplace Culture Institute said:

“Successful companies understand the values that are core to their culture. And they consistently hire people who will practice those values and project that image effortlessly. Think about your company: Do you know the values that are core to your organization? And do you screen applicants to ensure that those values are also important to them?”


Yes, a positive attitude should always be near the top of any hiring requirements list, but a big old grin does not ensure that the candidate has the proper human, or soft, skills that the position will require. Hiring for cultural fit doesn’t mean that the minimum skills required section is getting smaller and smaller in a trade-off for a positive presence in the office. Organizations are facing enough of a skill gap, without lowering the bar themselves. Eric Friedman, founder and CEO of eSkills Corportation, defines the human skills to look for beyond a nice smile:

  • Adaptability
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Communication
  • Ability to Learn
Trekie vs a Star Wars Fan

“Are you a Star Wars fan or a Star Trek fan?” Let’s get this straight right away; unless your CEO is George Lucas, this question will in no way assess cultural fit. Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz (@RandFish), used this exact interview question as an example in his rant against the mis-definition of what a cultural fit is. Addressing these such questions, Fishkin said:

“I’m scared that this is how the emerging conversation around company culture and finding cultural fits for startups and teams is being portrayed. If this mentality sinks in, and if this is the ‘brand’ that culture develops outside the echo chamber of tech startups, we’re all going to suffer for it.”

Do you know what a cultural fit looks like for your organization? Can you define those employees who live the company values? Cultural fit can be a tough thing to define, and therefore identify. Continue to look to the core values, and don’t be hoodwinked these all too common faux fits.

Would you like to know more about how Cyber Recruiter can help you target your recruiting efforts toward making more sound cultural fits? 

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