Job Fit vs. Culture Fit: How to Identify Great Talent

By Emily Loberto

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Ensuring an individual's job fit isn't just a luxury - it's a necessity. Hiring managers are consistently faced with the challenge of evaluating whether a candidate has the skills needed to succeed in their role and whether they will flourish within the company.

This often results in them trying to deduce a person's "X factor" by asking themselves questions like:

Will this person smoothly integrate into this team or organization?
How will this person impact team dynamics?
Will they be enjoyable to work with?

In other words, they try to gauge cultural fit.

After all, bringing on a new hire is a process that already takes up a lot of managerial time; isn't it just more efficient to hire someone who can hit the ground running from a team cohesion perspective? Isn't it just better for overall team morale to hire someone that everyone likes?

But there's been a lot of push-back recently on hiring for culture fit. Let's dive into the debate surrounding culture fit versus job fit and why the latter is the missing piece in your hiring puzzle.

The Pitfalls of Culture Fit

In the recent past, culture fit was considered a revolutionary idea. It was praised as a competitive advantage for many organizations, especially in the tech industry. However, the term has taken on an exclusionary definition over the years. Interviewers were using the term arbitrarily to — consciously or unconsciously — select people whose personalities and backgrounds maintained the status quo. In other words, the term culture fit was being used to mean “just like us.” In fact, social technology company Meta has now prohibited interviewers from using the term “culture fit” as a blanket term when providing feedback on what they liked or disliked about a candidate.

The danger of a “just like us” mindset in the interview process is that it perpetuates bias and stifles diversity through confirmation bias. Confirmation bias occurs when interviewers make unconscious judgments about a candidate’s suitability for the role within the first seconds of interaction and then spend the rest of the interview seeking information to confirm this first impression. These biases can be triggered by various factors, including their gender, race, what they’re wearing, their mannerisms, their level of extraversion, and more.

When interviewers and hiring managers see the candidate only through this lens of initial biases, they gather proof to confirm why they do or do not like the candidate. The outcome of this confirmation bias can too quickly be, “Well, they just weren’t a great culture fit.”

Meta recognized this, so they required their interviewers to tie their answers more clearly to their objective cultural values rather than using the term culture fit as arbitrary criteria.

The Introduction of Culture Add

Other organizations, such as Salesforce and Pandora, have also recognized the dangers of culture fit and are switching to the language of culture adds, culture add-ons, culture additions, etc. This shift exemplifies the collective lightbulb turning on as organizations increasingly recognize that diversity is critical to business success in a global market.

Organizations that have made this shift from culture fit to culture add tend to be more future-focused, too. After all, culture fit connotes hiring talent to fit the status quo — in other words, the same old, same old. On the other hand, culture add suggests that there is a future-oriented organizational culture in mind. The goal is to hire and deploy talent that will not keep the company where it is but drive the company to where it needs to be.

For example, if the company's goal is to be more innovative, that would require hiring individuals who excel at innovation. Suppose the company's goal is to be more inclusive. In that case, the company must ensure it brings on people who can embrace diversity. But what if there was a step beyond culture add? After all, someone might be an excellent culture addition to your team, but what's the point if they aren't a good fit in their role? Instead of measuring culture fit or culture adds, organizations should focus on improving job fit.

Making the Case for Job Fit

Job fit simply refers to using reliable selection methods to make hiring, promotion, succession planning, and other talent mobility decisions to accurately predict if an individual will have the skills, knowledge, and talents (i.e., the competencies) to succeed and engage in the role.

Whereas culture add applies across the organization, job fit is job specific. Job fit does not negate the benefits of culture add; instead, it builds on top of culture add to address job requirements and business needs.

But how can you effectively measure job fit at scale? Traditionally, competency models have been developed to help organizations identify adept leadership. Still, this route is often expensive, requires an interpreter to translate, and is rarely rolled out company-wide. Psychometric assessments, on the other hand, are a more approachable way to determine job fit. Psychometric assessments uncover an individual’s talents, which are recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior, and can include soft skills like innovation, persuasion, teamwork, adaptation, communication, etc.

Talents can describe culture a lot better, too. After all, you wouldn’t say you wanted a culture of brain surgeons or accountants. Instead, you would say you wanted to foster a culture of innovation, teamwork, and open communication.

Preparing for the Future

Job fit, quantified by talent assessments, addresses both the need for culture adds, as well as ensuring that every individual who contributes to organizational culture is also contributing to other business needs by operating with excellence in their specific role. When an individual feels engaged in their company culture and is thriving in their job-specific requirements, that individual is much more likely to love coming to work — and therefore, provide long-term value to the organization as an engaged employee.

That’s why we’re all about job fit here at Plum. If you want to start quantifying job fit for your organization, check out what Plum can do for you.