To add diversity to your team, hire for value fit, not culture fit.

Ruby Dark

Dec 16, 2021

We all want to work with people we like. Asking candidates questions about their hobbies and background may seem pretty innocuous, but these questions can inadvertently introduce bias. There’s a much better way to assess how well candidates are aligned with your company mission. Hire for ‘value fit’ and ‘culture add’ to find out what new hires can bring to the table.

✅ Checklist of actions:

  1. Define exactly what values you’re looking for in a candidate.
  2. Define what skills, experience or perspective you’re missing on your team.
  3. Prepare a list of culture-add questions that explore those skills and values.
  4. Assess the candidate with culture-add reflection questions.

At Fair HQ, we avoid assessing candidates based on ‘cultural fit’ and recommend you to do the same. Judging ‘culture fit’ usually comes down to arbitrary hiring gimmicks. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • If you were a cocktail, what cocktail would you be?
  • What’s your spirit animal and why?
  • If you were trapped on a desert island, which video game character would you want with you?
  • Who would play you in the movie of your life?

These questions might give you a good sense of who you’d rather grab a pint with after work, but just because you ‘click’ with a candidate doesn’t mean they should get the job. Let’s face it, if you’re a recruiter in a tech startup, these questions won’t give you any insight into the candidate’s relevant skills and experience.

Hiring people who seem to ‘fit in’ with the company culture means you’re probably not hiring the best person for the job.

Talent managers often overlook a candidate’s flexibility in favour of how well they’d immediately fit in with the company. In fact, research from the Stanford Graduate School of Business revealed that a candidate’s ability to adapt to new work environments is a much more powerful predictor of success.

Why culture fit is bad news for diversity

Hiring for culture fit excludes otherwise qualified candidates who are seen as different. You might be discounting your next star hire just because they didn’t seem too keen when you mentioned team baseball tournaments in the interview.

Hiring people who you believe would mesh well with your existing colleagues means you’ll end up hiring similar people again and again. That’ll make it pretty difficult to bolster diversity.

Homogenous teams are also riddled with blind spots and miss out on the innovation and multitude of perspectives that diverse teams offer.

Instead, your interview questions should uncover new perspectives and experiences that candidates could bring to the table. With this information, you’ll be able to assess how well a candidate could contribute to the collective intelligence of your team, rather than nebulous ideas of “company culture”.

Why you should hire for culture add and value fit instead

It’s important to make sure that the people you work with are respectful and cooperative. One bad apple can ruin the bunch, and this is even truer for small teams.

It’s not always easy to judge this objectively. The best way to cut out bias is to focus on your company values and mission rather than shared interests. Only ask relevant questions that explore their approach to work and their alignment with your core mission and values.

You’ll also want to uncover what candidates can bring to the team that you’ve been missing so far.

It’s key to really clearly define what you’re looking for here. This way, you leave as little as possible down to the interviewer’s subjective interpretation. We’ve defined a set of skills and qualities to judge how well a candidate lines up with our company values. Here are the metrics we use:

We assess candidates against how well they're aligned with our company values: Back it up, Make it simple, Embrace the challenge, Care deeply and Inspire inclusion.

It’s important to ask the right questions so that you can explore how well the candidate aligns with your values. And once you’ve completed the interview and have time to reflect, make sure you assess the candidate with culture-add in mind. Here are some examples:

Culture-add questions to ask the candidate:

  • What is it about our company that made you apply for this role?
  • What are you most excited about in this role?
  • [Describe a skill or quality crucial for success in the role]. Tell me about a time you demonstrated this quality.
  • [Describe realistic job-related task] Have you encountered a similar problem in your work? How did you resolve it? Walk me through it step by step.
  • How do you like to work? Tell me what your ideal workday looks like.
  • Describe a time when you helped a coworker overcome a difficulty they were facing.
  • What can I do to support you in this role?

Culture-add questions to reflect on when assessing the candidate:

  • Did they show enthusiasm for our company mission?
  • What gaps in our knowledge can this candidate fill?
  • Does the candidate have knowledge of any new processes or techniques that we would benefit from including on our team?
  • Could this candidate challenge our way of thinking and suggest improvements to our current processes?
  • Does this candidate represent a voice or viewpoint for our customers that we’re missing? Or would they help us better communicate with prospective customers by having this voice or viewpoint?
  • What other skills, perspectives or experience does this candidate have that we’re currently lacking on our team?
  • Are their working preferences suitable to our company set up? For example, if you’re a remote-first company, does the candidate enjoy working solo or do they prefer the energy of an in-person office?

Culture and value-focused interviews can only give you so much understanding of a candidate’s potential in a role. The most nuanced and relevant insight will come from a work-sample test. It’s the key ingredient to equitable hiring. Stay tuned for the next post in our series where we tell you exactly how to use them in your hiring process.

Backing it up

Chang, E. H., Kirgios, E. L., Rai, A., & Milkman, K. L. (2020). The isolated choice effect and its implications for gender diversity in organizations. Management Science66(6), 2752-2761.

Walsh, D. (2018) ‘Look Beyond “Culture Fit” When HiringInsights by Stanford Business

Rivera, L. (2020) ‘Stop Hiring for “Cultural Fit”Kellogg Insight

Deutsch, W. (2019) ‘Innovation: What’s diversity got to do with it?Chicago Booth Review