Should you hire for culture fit?

4 min read
Jennifer Aldrich
  •  Jan 19, 2017
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There are about 987345 articles popping up about how hiring for culture fit is the worst thing you could ever do in your life. It seems like there’s a rift between the terminology and what it’s supposed to actually refer to.

Let’s discuss.

When you’re putting together a team of people, you should always hire clones of yourself.

I’m completely kidding. That’s a terrible idea.

A trio of no.

If you hire people who are identical to yourself, you’ll wind up with the most boring product ever created—and it’ll likely have a limited reach appeal because it’s catering to just one type of person.

When you’re putting together a design team, you need to look for a diverse group of problem solvers.

Related: What exactly is a design culture?

I’m using the term “diversity” here for 2 reasons:

First there’s the obvious reason: Hiring a diverse group of employees will lead to designing products that are relatable to a wider audience. (And obviously there is the part about you being a horrible human being and breaking laws to boot if you’re discriminating against people because of their diverse backgrounds during your hiring processes.)

“Diversity in hiring leads to innovative products with far better UX.”

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The second reason is that you need a diverse group of thinkers.Twitter Logo I’m referring to the way people solve problems and look at the world. Integrating a design thinking activity in your interview process can be very telling in this area. Don’t integrate it to find people who solve problems the same way you do—that defeats the purpose. Use the exercise to find employees who will push the envelope in directions you wouldn’t have thought of. Diversity in hiring leads to innovative products with far better UXTwitter Logo than products made by teams of head nodders.

Now that we’ve established that you need to have a widely diverse team, let’s move on to the hot-button topic.

You should hire for culture fit.

The use of the terminology “culture fit” does not mean you should hire non-diverse team members. We established above that diversity is one of the most important aspects of building an innovative design team.Twitter Logo

Think of culture fit like a pile of puzzle pieces that fit together to form a masterpiece. All of the puzzle pieces are different shapes and sizes. Some of them don’t fit together directly, others do, but at the end of the day they come together and make something beautiful.

Hiring for culture fit means hiring a group that is able to collaborate and communicate effectively to be productive. It doesn’t mean everyone on your team needs to be similar, or that they need to be best friends. It does mean you don’t want to hire a complete #$%#@$% who shoots down ideas without contributing new ones, or talks down to teammates, or makes people on your team feel inferior.

“Think of culture fit as a pile of puzzle pieces that fit together to form a masterpiece.”

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While we’re on the topic, you also don’t want a person who is going to make your company look horrible on social media.

“Hey look! Company X gave this guy who says horrible inflammatory things and posts inappropriate unprofessional items on public social media accounts a job, so they must condone his awful behavior. I’m absolutely not buying any of their products. Ever.”

Not the effect you’re going for. I don’t care if someone is the best graphic designer on earth, if they’re a horrible human being, they don’t have a place in a design team. Let them remain a solo artist. Employees like that destroy design teams so quickly you’ll get whiplash. Collaboration is key to creating amazing designs.Twitter Logo Adding someone horrible to your team will snuff out creativity in a snap.

Culture fit means hiring someone you’re proud to have representing your company and your brand.

If the thought of the person saying they work for your company at an event makes you cringe, you don’t want that person on your team. They aren’t a good culture fit.

“Culture fit means hiring someone you’re proud to have representing your company.”

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If the person is a sanctimonious jerk who you can’t stand talking to/being in the presence of, they are also not a good culture fit. There’s a huge difference between confidence and being a negatively arrogant, disrespectful force.

Most importantly, hiring for culture fit means hiring team members who can respectfully disagree with one another while collaborating, so everyone can voice their opinions and ideas openly. You don’t need to hold hands and sing campfire songs, and of course you’ll have heated discussions. But remaining respectful during those discussions is key to maintaining a positive team culture.

Hiring for culture fit is the key to creating a team that can use their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and ways of thinking to identify innovative, creative solutions to the problems you’re trying to solve with your designs.

Read more from Jennifer Aldrich

Collaborate in real time on a digital whiteboard