How important is it for potential employees to fit in? New research says it might trump everything — including an applicant’s qualifications.
Companies place a major emphasis on hiring people they’d like to hang out with and who have similar interests as them.
That’s according to a new study published in American Sociological Review called “Hiring as Cultural Matching: The Case of Elite Professional Service Firms.” Researchers conducted 120 interviews with professionals involved in undergraduate and graduate hiring in elite U.S. investment banks, law firms, and management consulting firms.
Lauren A. Rivera, an assistant professor of management and organizations and sociology at Northwestern University and the author of the study, is quick to note that companies still are sure to hire people who are qualified for open positions.
But, Rivera concludes, the reality is that hiring managers and HR pros don’t always hire the most skilled candidates, instead opting for people they’d like to be friends with and who they’ll bond with and feel good around.
Class bias concerns
One major concern that Rivera points out with placing such an emphasis on cultural fit is class bias:
“Evaluators are predominately white, Ivy League-educated, upper-middle or upper class men and women who tend to have more stereotypically masculine leisure pursuits and favor extracurricular activities associated with people of their background.”
That led to researchers accepting or rejecting candidates based on things completely unrelated to qualifications or job experience — like whether an applicant had played lacrosse or squash.
The takeaway for HR and hiring managers: Yes, cultural fit is crucial and should be near the top of your list of priorities when looking for a new employee.
But try to take a step back and make sure that your personal preferences aren’t clouding your decision.
Otherwise, you may miss out on a potential top performer because he didn’t play croquet.