How important is cultural fit?

Prior to starting any search a hiring manager should have a list of must haves and a list of nice to haves.

The ideal candidate will have all of the must haves and most of the nice to haves, but in reality the vast majority of people have some must haves, some nice to haves, and a whole lot of something else. I don’t really want to call it cultural fit, because that sounds trite, but that is what everyone is referring to it as.

Being a culture snob does not do much for the image of your company. In fact, the more you shove your “cultural fit” in people’s faces the less diverse your company seems, because you are constantly hiring the same type of person that fits your mold.

It is true you want someone who believes in the vision of your company and shares the same values, but you do not need to have cookie-cutter employees on the payroll to make sure everyone is a cultural fit.

A couple of years back I was working with a candidate who was interviewing at a trendy clothing company in the area. He was a vibrant young recent graduate who had many hobbies including snowboarding and skydiving, basically a home run for this youthful, hip company.

After his interview I called to get feedback from the hiring manager, who to my surprise sounded deflated.

“Everything was perfect with his interview. We loved him!” she said. “Except…he showed up in a suit, so he is a no-go.”

Ok, an ideal candidate with all the other qualifications and some very trendy hobbies is disqualified because he wore an interview suit? This is an example of you really taking your company culture a little too seriously.

cultural fit

Your company culture should speak for itself. When your employees talk about how happy they are and you get a reputation for having a positive work environment, no amount of foosball tables or beer-stocked fridges will matter. People will want to work there. By making your company culture mandatory, you just scare off people who otherwise may be a great fit.

To be an asset to your company, an employee must like what they do and do it well. That is it. They don’t need to partake in the Ugly Sweater parties you throw or have beers at noon on a Friday. The only thing that makes a difference is that they enjoy coming in to work — the rest is fluff and a nice to have.

My advice to hiring mangers is to not be so aloof when it comes to finding the right hire. If you are not lenient with your perceived culture, you may miss out on hiring top talent. The moral of the story is, don’t be a “culture snob” and hire the best.

What do you think? How make or break is cultural fit to you?

photo by: Ionics

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