Challenging “cultural fit”

On our Mind
In the staffing industry, we often hear from our clients “the candidate was not a cultural fit” OR “the individual didn’t fit in with our culture.” Recently, one of our candidates also expressed concern when she was told she was not selected based on “cultural fit.” Naturally, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that ‘culture’ played a role in the decision.

We know that our client intended to express that our candidate’s overall experience, including hard and soft skills, were not ideal for the role. However, the choice of language was not only ambiguous but also a slippery slope into what may be perceived as discriminatory and even, racist.

The first thing for employers to do is ensure that culture plays no role in the screening and selection process (that is, culture in the sense of race and religion). Then, employers should either remove the word “culture” altogether, replacing it with language like “essential qualifications and skills,” or consider the much more positive term “culture add,” that is, the many benefits that people with different backgrounds and experience will bring to your organization.

E.g.: “We’re happy we met for the position of (Title). We will not be pursuing your candidacy for this role.”

If you need to provide additional details, you could add: “We selected another candidate on the basis of their experience, skills and industry. We’re glad we met, and we value your expertise. Let’s keep in touch.”

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