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Forget fit? Then what?

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For many years, HR experts in Staffing and Recruiting, as well as job search and career experts, have spoken of the importance of "fit" between a candidate and the organization.

In a nutshell, "fit" refers to the match-up between the two parties on such criteria as values, personality, and work styles.

If you have determined through your interview process that there is a good fit, make an offer.

If there is not a good fit, move along to the next candidate.

Recently however some voices have started to question this paradigm. For example, in Inc magazine, Barry Schuler says, "Next to skill set, most companies consider fit a major hiring criterion. This sounds good, but it can lead to a kind of workforce homogeneity that stunts growth."

Hiring for fit, Schuler says, is baloney.

Instead of screening candidates for the best match with your existing culture, look for candidates who will challenge and change your culture for the better!

Instead, Schuler says, build a counter-culture:

"Everyone understands the importance of diversity in the workplace. Many companies develop specific programs to insure a diverse workforce. Why not the same with culture? If you begin with the presumption that you will benefit from a melting pot approach rather than cultural homogeneity, you won’t strictly filter for fit. Ask candidates about the cultural attributes they have experienced that have really worked, and hire people who mix it up. You will be rewarded with a richer, more tolerant, culture, and you just may discover your secret sauce consists of an ever-evolving recipe."

But won't such diverse candidates seem strange, even threatening to an employer? Yes, especially when an employer is into preserving their culture rather than innovating.

So what are the implications for today's job hunters?

Fresh vs new blood: New is not necessarily the same as fresh or vital. Ask yourself, What can I bring to this organization that they most need in order to stay competitive? What new ideas and new models are being discussed in their industry that could be of benefit?

Assess the culture: In your research about the organization, see if you can suss out its culture, its personality so to speak. Is it a sales culture? An engineering culture? What capabilities and ideas can you bring that would complement its culture?

Assess the strategy: In your research, see if you can suss out where it is going? What's the plan? Ask yourself, What do I bring that can help this organization get where it wants to go?

If Schuler is right that an emphasis on "fit" can lead to sameness and a stale organization, convey how You can bring creativity and fresh thinking.

How can you be a positive force for culture change in an organization? I'll have more to say on this in a future posting.

Note: Here's the link to Barry Schuler's thought-provoking post:

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Thursday December 19, 2013

Terrence H. Seamon is an organization development consultant who provides leadership and team development services to employers in New Jersey. His book Lead the Way explores the challenges of leadership. Additionally, Terry is a job search and career coach whose book To Your Success provides a motivational guide for anyone in transition. His third book, Change for the Better, provides leaders with a guide to initiating, and navigating through, organizational change. An alumnus of PSG, Terry co-founded and co-moderates the St. Matthias Employment Ministry in Somerset, NJ. He can be reached at and via his website:



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