Cultural fit versus contributor

Published on 
4 min, 662 words

Categories: work

When we recruit people we are obviously looking at their ability to perform the role on offer but we are also looking at how well they will work with the team.

We are very proud of the culture we have created in the team - as an example, two people in the past left and then came back as they couldn't find anywhere else like it. It is so important to us that we have rejected candidates as we didn't think they would fit in with the team and the culture we have despite having the ability to do the role.

In the past I would have called this seeing if they are a cultural fit. However a recent interview got me to re-evaluate that, or at least the wording:

There is such a thing as fitting the culture. But what I love is this terminology of seeing someone as a fit, it absolutely has a pernicious side to it. You are a square. We have a place for a square over here. Square peg square hole. Versus contribution, which is a growth mind set with its contribution, which is we are growing. We're expanding, we're amplifying, and we need whatever it is you have to help us amplify. It goes back to Frank Lloyd Wright, do you fit? Will you be the square peg that I need in this square hole at this moment to serve me? Or are you going to do something that's going to challenge me and make me uncomfortable? Jim Henson, Walt Disney, and look what we can build together that I couldn't do without you. That's, cultural contribution. I really, really like that for us to think of someone as a potential cultural contributor, rather than a fit.

What you bring that we don't have? How is your voice different? How is your personality different?

I completely agree with this. We want people who don't just fit; they add and contribute to the culture we are building. Evaluating the people we currently have I think that is the case for each of them. They all bring something different - and definitely some bring things others don't (in a good way)!

In the book Unreasonable Hospitality the author, Will Guidara, talks about his interview process and how he used to have a structured flow and now uses a more conversational approach. He says:

You simply have enough of a conversation that you can get to know the person a little bit. Do they seem curious and passionate about what we’re trying to build? Do they have integrity; are they someone I can respect? Is this someone I can imagine myself— and my team— happily spending a lot of time with?

Again the emphasis here is on culture and personality rather than the ability.

We still have some structure to our first interview as there are a set of topics we want to touch on but it forms more of a checklist than a rote series of questions. We aim for the interview to be as much of a conversation as possible with both parties driving the flow. We look for something we refer to as "the spark". We want to see their eyes light up when they answer certain things, we want them to be passionate about something and enjoy what they do. They need to be able to communicate well but also have some sense of humour. We want it to be a fun place to work.

I think the answers to the three questions given above are vitally important and align with our views and how we identify the right candidate.


Designing the Future with Brian Collins/

Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect/

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