Some people have persuasively argued that hiring managers should steer clear of trying to assess cultural fit in hiring because it leads to biased hiring decisions. Others have convincingly argued that employers do have a responsibility to assess cultural fit in hiring and that it will not lead to discrimination if handled properly. A couple of years ago, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) took the middle ground and had two HR experts debate the pros and cons of the topic in, Does Hiring for ‘Culture Fit’ Perpetuate Bias?
From my review of the literature, it appears that the reason people are either for or against evaluating cultural fit depends on their level of confidence that employers will invest the time and effort to be methodical in their assessments. That’s a valid point.
For more than a decade, we’ve been looking closely at how we can help our clients assess cultural fit without perpetuating bias. Across hundreds of completed searches, we’ve found that it’s entirely possible for employers to methodically assess cultural fit during the interview process without perpetuating bias, but it usually requires a change in how you define, evaluate and discuss cultural fit.
To reduce the impact of bias in your hiring practices, look very closely at how you assess cultural fit in the interview. Untrained managers who are using an unstructured interview sequence will almost always perpetuate bias, regardless of their personal intentions. As legendary management guru W. Edwards Deming observed, “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”