I consume a lot of text every day. Whether it's a thought piece on Medium or a short news brief on TechCrunch, you can count on a tab being open at all times. I also have a terrible habit of sending long reads to my reading list and never hearing about them again (anyone else guilty of this?). I've made it a habit to piggy back off of the pieces that inspire or upset me. I'm about to do that with this post, because my train of thought has led me somewhere interesting. I've read a couple of concerning articles this week. One was a summary of recent diversity statistics at companies like Facebook and Google. The other was an op-ed piece on cultural fit at companies and what they really mean by the term "fit".
About me: I am an impatient but very hard worker. I ask a lot of questions, I speak quickly, I sometimes have difficulty paying attention in meetings or on the phone, but in the end, I do great work. I am strongly focused on outcomes and overarching goals, perhaps even to a fault. I ask "why?" very often, and I use humor to get myself through stressful periods at work. I pursued a technical major in college, but I'm not looking to be in an primarily technical position for the long-term.
Question: How many times have you been asked, "What makes you a good fit here?"
I don't know about you, but when I hear that question I think of organizational values. It's been drilled into me by countless advisors and career center counselors.Organizational values can be things like: innovation, transparency, relationship building, fairness, being resourceful. We often refer to such values in studying for interviews, so our answer goes a little something like "I'm hard working, willing to learn, I fail fast, and I'm results-oriented". You would think this would be a great answer, and if hiring managers abided by the true definition of cultural fit, it would be one. But in their world, it [your answer] actually isn't.
Often we find, and recent studies show, that fit isn't about organizational values, but more about personality fit. Many times, interviewers aren't even aware that they're placing a lot of value on the chemistry you have with them in an interview. Don't get me wrong, I think it's important that we have some commonalities. You like working hard, so do I. You like being recognized for it, so do I. Maybe you like art museums and so do I. But these things shouldn't be deal breakers. If you ask me what my hobbies are and I don't enjoy golf, you shouldn't cross me off the list in your head because I won't be out of the office on Fridays at about the same time as you are. Hire or don't hire me because of my alignment with your company's values and not because of how I see the world or how I reach certain conclusions.
Call to action: Stop looking for candidates who "fit".
By searching high and low for candidates who seem to be younger versions of yourself, you are hiring clones. Even the greatest personalities don't need to exist in high quantities in one place. Yes, I'm suggesting you re-think everything about your hiring process, but my intentions are good. Think about it; choosing prospective employees who think and act like you can ultimately mean choosing people who look just like you and come from a similar background. Just in my internship experience this summer I've seen how someone's very different thought process, which was molded by a different background, has led us to better project outcomes. This isn't a myth or a buzzword; diversity has value. The company I'm with right now does an amazing job at hiring people of all backgrounds, and thus, we come up with innovative solutions to our problems every single day and are leading the industry with what we do.
Unlicensed doctor's orders? Define what fit means to you. Don't confuse it with chemistry. Be transparent about your organization's values and hiring processes. Come up with a quantitative system for evaluating fit during interviews. Make sure it's not the the most important factor. Hire great misfits. Do great work. Repeat.
The aforementioned concerning articles:
Facebook's recent diversity report: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2015/06/driving-diversity-at-facebook/
*I have come to a conclusion that there may be a correlation between hiring processes, organization values, cultural fit, and our lack of overall diversity in the workplace. I welcome healthy discussion and debate about this topic, as I've been known to accidentally skim over important considerations when writing emotional critiques of the industry. Comment below, please! I'd love to hear your thoughts.*