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A Bad ‘Culture Fit’ – Or Just An Excuse To Discriminate?

Culture fit is a concept that has been previously defined as, employees’ beliefs and behaviours aligning with their employer’s core values and company culture.

Employers often strive to find the right culture fit for their company. Based on the presumption that this employee will fit well within their current team and will hopefully increase employee retention rates, saving those all-important hiring costs. But does this desire for the perfect culture fit lead to hiring managers making decisions based on an inclination of what they believe makes a good match?

A bad culture fit or discrimination

Whilst previously we have discussed the benefits of investing time into the right culture fit listing advantages such as; staff retention, a more productive workforce and ease in communication through employees sharing similar mindsets. This does not necessarily mean hiring for culture fit is always the best decision. So instead we will discuss the drawbacks to this hiring strategy and the negative implications it may entail…

The difficulty with hiring for culture fit

More often than not candidates are used to hearing they were unsuccessful because they weren’t of the ‘right fit’.

But how can you define what the right fit is? And are you overlooking potentially great candidates based on an assumption?

Not being the right fit is a concept that in many instances receives a negative reaction from unsuccessful candidates.

Because often, culture fit can be masked as an excuse to reject a candidate based on the interviewer’s presumption of why they didn’t like someone. The problem with this arises when the lines to their rationale are often vague and subjective. Did the employer simply not hire them because they didn’t gel well in the interview?

Why it should not be a priority

Culture fit is based on a ‘feeling’. The hiring manager concluded that a candidate would not fit well within the company due to their viewpoint, formed when interviewing. Therefore this is something very personal and opinions will differ between each hiring professional – making it difficult to rationalise.

  • Open to bias

To support a bias-free hiring strategy, selecting a candidate based on the right cultural fit may not be the most favourable method. Hiring managers can often subconsciously choose to hire those who are similar to themselves. This so-called ‘mini-me’ encourages work styles, ideas and inputs to align and rarely differ. Whilst some employers may favour this method to hire more like-minded people – it’s important to acknowledge that this strategy lacks diversity and consequently discourages different opinions. And without this, companies are unlikely to hear different thoughts or even be challenged and aware of any potential mistakes if every employee shares a similar mentality.

  • Overlook potential

Are you overlooking a candidate’s potential and putting their skills and experience secondary to making the right culture fit? If so, does this mean you’re missing out on great prospective hires because you felt they weren’t the right match for the company? Sometimes a candidate with a different attitude and personality to current employees can bring new energy into a team and shake up your current way of doing things.

Choosing value fit

Your company values are easier to define than the company culture. Employees can share the same values but still, have different work styles and opinions which can make recruiting for a ‘value fit’ far more effective than cultural fit. A candidate’s values are less likely to be subject to bias and aren’t as difficult to define as the everyday workplace culture is.

Do you agree? We want to hear your thoughts! Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @CiiVSOFT.


  1. Fleur

    Thanks for this article.
    This is right on point. When there is no other reason to eliminate a qualified candidate, cultural fit is used as excuse to support subvert nepotism. This is very apparent in the finance and investment banking industry.
    As highly qualified candidate ( more qualified than most), and hands on industry experience, I have experienced rejection , for no real reason.
    In any case, who and what defines cultural fit. As the world becomes, should this not be done way with ? In the finance industry, where it is dominated by white men, does cultural fit mean being white ?

    • Adam Butwilowski

      Interesting points Fleur, hiring for culture fit can lead to discrimination and a lack of diversity in the workforce.

      • JamieLeigh

        I recently started a role in the financial sector withing the vetting and compliance team, I started on a Monday and out of know where I was invited in for an extremely early probationary review via email which stated this would be to discuss my ‘ cultural fit ‘. I feel I must mention that this came about less than 36 hours after they found out I am in a same sex relationship. I had been achieving all task and arrived early every day, passed all tests first attempt within half the time I was given so it was not related to my work abilities and mentality, and my cultural fit was not in question at all when they assumed I was an straight white woman. Coincidence or discrimination? I think its glaringly obvious.

  2. Nina Camara

    Great article, I totally agree with your arguments. Speaking from the experience companies which reject someone based on cultural fit put their subjective opinions (which often result in petty biases) above the quality of work. I find this kind of attitude as a warning sign, it usually means that the company culture is pretty hostile and there’s a lot of groupthink. If you are not one of the ‘right people’ working in such environment can be very frustrating.

    • Adam Butwilowski

      Thanks Nina, it’s a tricky area that employers need to be aware of the risks of hiring for ‘culture fit’.

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