What are the main factors you consider when finding the perfect candidate for a position within your business?

The right qualifications and experience are probably top of the list, perhaps followed by the idea of finding someone who is the right cultural fit. However, research has continually argued against the merits of prioritising the latter.

Adam Grant, management and psychology professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, highlights that one of the most important leadership observations gleaned from research is that companies should discard the idea of cultural fit.

Grant told Inc. that businesses should instead look at ‘cultural contribution’ as cultural fit leads to stagnation.

“Instead of asking, ‘Does this person fit our culture?’…we should be asking, ‘What is missing from our culture, and is this person going to enrich it?’,” he said.

Instead of asking, ‘Does this person fit our culture?’…we should be asking, ‘What is missing from our culture?’

Associate Professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Amir Goldberg, said that while cultural matching should happen during the interview – for both the employer and the employee – the team responsible for hiring has another big factor to look out for: adaptability.

Goldberg argued that employees have varying degrees of cultural fit and adaptability, but the latter is something management must look into very closely.

This idea formed the basis of a paper Goldberg co-authored with Govind Manian, Christopher Potts and Sameer Srivastava. In it, they analysed more than 10 million internal emails from a technology company between 2009 and 2014.

By using linguistic analysis – as language is often linked to how a person does or doesn’t fit into a certain environment – they could determine cultural fit over time.

The study found the biggest indicator of success comes from a worker’s ability to both identify and internalise a company’s standards.

“We find that what predicts who will stay, who will leave, and who will be fired is not so much an initial level of cultural fit as much as their trajectory, the degree to which they adapt,” Goldberg said.

“There are important differences between individuals insofar as they are capable of reading cultural code and shifting behaviours accordingly.”

The authors called this ability to shift “enculturability” and found that workers who struggled with it were more likely to get fired.

The right questions

Goldberg also suggested that when hiring, management should ask questions based around how adaptable a person is in different working environments, as well as how much their beliefs match those of the company.

Patty McCord, former Netflix Chief Talent Officer and current adviser to entrepreneurs, notes that when someone is considered a good ‘cultural fit’ it often means “he or she is someone they’d like to have a beer with”.

“This misguided hiring strategy can also contribute to a company’s lack of diversity, since very often the people we enjoy hanging out with have backgrounds much like our own,” McCord wrote in an article published on Harvard Business Review.

McCord’s advice:

  • Probe deeper beneath the surface of a resume
  • Create an internal team of recruiters rather than have external recruiters/li>
  • Have management involved in the recruitment process
  • See recruiters as vital to the business
  • Look at compensating a potential employee according to their future value rather than their historical value

Finally, once you find the right person for the job, don’t forget to keep engaging with them to retain them over the long term.

The case for ‘job crafting’

Facebook is the perfect example of a company that champions job crafting as a way to encourage its workers to remain at the company.

This process allows employees to redesign their jobs to create better job satisfaction and engagement. They can expand the scope of their tasks; alter the amount of interaction they have with other people; or change how they conduct certain tasks.

So, if you’ve already hired the most adaptable person, who knows what else they could bring to the table once you allow them to broaden their job description.

Find out more trends in recruitment for 2018.