As company culture has become an increasingly important element for recruiting and retaining employees, more and more organizations have begun considering “culture fit” as part of their hiring process. According to one recent survey, one out of every five employers say that they wouldn’t hire a candidate who was not the right cultural fit for them. Culture fit is a term used to describe hiring decisions that are based, in part, on an applicant’s personal traits. It’s not a bad thing for a company to weigh the cultural impacts of a hiring decision, but this rationale can easily be seen as a subjective hiring practice if not done carefully.
Company culture is an important factor in employee retention because workers are more likely to stay engaged at a workplace where they enjoy their time and fit in well with their colleagues. It is often utilized in job listings to help attract applicants that are looking for a certain workplace “vibe” and is a great way to bring in more enthusiastic job seekers. However, screening applicants for “culture fit” can bring about a number of pitfalls for employers.
The Danger of Culture Bias
Hiring managers are certainly free to identify certain personality traits that match their organization’s stated values and weigh those into their decisions. However, few can prove that their idea of “culture fit” is measurable and objective. It’s extremely easy for hiring managers to allow unconscious biases to sneak into their interpretation of a good “fit.” Unconscious bias can be something as simple as favoring a candidate who went to the same college as the hiring manager, or it can be something more discriminatory like rejecting a candidate from a protected class – race, gender, age, religion etc – because they may not “fit in” well with existing employees.
Culture bias can actually hinder recruitment efforts if left unchecked, and can lead to a rather homogenous workplace, lacking in diversity and creativity. Worse, rejecting a candidate with little more reason than them not fitting the company culture can open the employer up to costly discrimination claims.
Reducing Bias When Hiring for Culture
Ensuring applicants are compatible with the company culture should not be removed from the hiring process, but it also should not get in the way of forming a diverse and skilled team of workers. Below are some ways in which employers can reduce bias when hiring for culture.
1. Identify possible bias patterns.
The first step to reducing hiring bias is to look for ways in which an organization’s hiring process might already be subjective. Do hiring managers tend to look for people they can see their own selves in? Do job listings contain language that may be perceived as attractive to one type of candidate more than others? Is the workforce made up of very similar looking people with similar backgrounds? These are all signs of unconscious bias in the hiring process.
2. Establish a blind screening process.
One way to ensure the hiring process is focused more on qualifications and skills is to use a blind review process for resumes and applications that removes certain information such as ages, genders and even names.
3. Standardize the interviews.
Bias in the interview process can show through the questions that candidates are asked. Standardizing the process by asking exactly the same questions to each candidate can help minimize bias and give the interviewer a solid structure to base their insights on.
4. Keep diversity in mind.
Diversity goals can be a controversial topic for employers, but they are crucial in minimizing hiring biases. However, rather than saying, “we need to hire x amount of x type of people,” which can lead to backlash from certain groups of people, employers can urge their hiring team to keep diversity and equality in mind when making decisions.
Recruiting and hiring can be very challenging for all involved. Ultimately, hiring decisions should be based on the consideration of a variety of factors not limited to just personal traits and likeability. When done objectively and with intent, employers have a better chance at finding the best possible candidates from a vast pool of potential workers, and they reduce their risk of being seen as discriminatory in their hiring practices.
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