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Recruiting & Candidate Development

Recruiting Based on Cultural Fit - An Excuse to Discriminate?

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ianwelshIf you want to fill a job, hire someone with the skills to do it. If you want a companion, go to eHarmony – in your own time!

I had a friend who was rejected for a job that seemed perfect. She was told that they selected someone who was a better fit. There was no explanation. What does it mean – this fabled “fit”? One thing is for sure, it is an often mystical final step in the recruiting process that can turn superb qualifications and references into a pile of nothing!


I apologize to those who use the term “fit” in the context of what is required to do the job. My experience and direct observation, however, is that it is frequently used very differently - responding to the question, “Is this candidate someone the manager would enjoy working with and/or would fit in with the team?”

Somewhat short sighted don’t you think? The new hire may indeed be very compatible with the manager, but maybe the manager will be fired a week or so later for not being a good fit with his boss – for whatever reason, including work.

So, our new employee who fit very well with the terminated manager, does not fit at all with the new manager. A bright future already dulled and an employee who abruptly becomes an outcast – in the environment built on fit.

Putting legal considerations aside, it makes sad sense that if a person can be hired based on personal fit, that same person can subsequently be terminated based on lack of fit and the transition can happen very, very fast. Is there a risk that employees will lose their fit as they become older, less attractive or have health problems?

You see where I am going? The employer in this case is a corporate entity. A corporate entity is not a person. The corporation does not care whether Mr. Smith, the manager, is surrounded by cute young things or colleagues who are fanatical about fishing and football.

The needs of the corporation are long term and employees need to meet the requirements of their position regardless of a specific manager or group of colleagues. Personal relationships may vary, of course, but in a professional environment, the sustaining element and basis for progress must directly relate to performance of the work.

So, even if hiring based on “fit” – on personal preference - was professionally accepted, it would not make business sense. The fair way, the correct way, has to be based on the legitimate job requirements. Has the applicant the skills to perform the job? That is the only way that the interests of the organization are met, the interests of its employees and the interests of equity.

Recruiting based on the job is the correct way, the cleanest way. Take away cultural road blocks and systemic barriers and the world will open up. Diversity will no longer be an obstacle but an opportunity. Diversity will be the true fit with the organization – not a token program wrestling with the personality cult.

If you want to fill a job, hire someone with the skills to do it. If you want a companion, go to eHarmony. If you are building an organization, embrace all the great talent that exists within our diverse society and unite our resolve to succeed together.

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have..



Bio:Ian Welsh CHRP

Ian’s style of HR is being resourceful in a human way. His HR experience spans more than 25 years at an executive level within major organizations where his emphasis was on HR solutions – respecting theory but knowing how to apply it in real life situations and recognizing holistic needs. As an Independent HR Practitioner, based in Toronto, Ian continues to focus on “reality HR” with strong communications overtones. He shares his experiences and thoughts on his Toolbox for HR blog “The Search for Mutual Success” and interactively through online discussion.


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Growth in women's share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations declined to 27% in 2011from a high of 34% in 1990. While women make up nearly half of the workforce, they were 26% of the STEM workforce in 2011.

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