Why You Don't Want to Use Cultural Fit as a Reason to Hire Clones

You Can Successfully Seek Employees Who Are Not Just Like You

You don't want to hire employees who are just like you. Seek diversity.
••• Jack Hollingsworth / Getty Images

Everyone talks about hiring a good cultural fit. This is important. If you're a relaxed organization where people wear flip-flops and come and go at will, the last thing you want is to hire a new manager who wears a three-piece suit and demands that everyone work an 8:00 to 5:00 schedule. This choice will make for unhappiness all around.

But, this desire for cultural fit can sometimes lead people to hire their clones.

It's appealing to hire someone who is just like you. The interview often goes smoothly when you have so much in common with your candidate.

A person who comes from a similar background, attended the same university, and has the same sense of humor as you do just seems like the best fit for the job. After all, you could easily become best friends outside of work.

Well, hiring someone because you could be friends outside of work can lead to a whole host of problems inside work. Here is why you shouldn't hire someone just like you.

Friendships at Work Can Cause Problems

Lots of people make friends at work, and that's fine. However, when you're the boss, you need to keep relationships with your subordinates professional. If you are too friendly with one employee, it can become difficult for you to judge performance.

People often play favorites with their employees, and yet they rarely mean to do so.

It's just that when you get along so well with a person, it's hard to see where that person needs to improve.

You want to keep your relationship with all your direct reports on the same level. You need to make fair and level-headed judgments. When it comes to disciplining or even terminating an employee, you need to judge based on performance, not on with whom you'd like to have dinner.

You Need Different Points of View

It's really gratifying to have a great idea and have everyone in the room say, “Yes, of course, that is a fabulous idea.” People who have the same background and the same personality as you are very likely to say that about your ideas. After all, they see things the same way you do. While that's good for the ego, it's not good for your business.

Unless your clientele is only people who are just like you, what you want to hire are people who will say, “I think we should look at your idea from this angle,” or “I don't think that will work because of A, B, and C.” You desperately need that different point of view.

What's the advantage of different viewpoints? Different people can point out flaws and solutions that you just can't see. It's not that you're not competent or smart—it's just that everyone is limited by their world view. You need someone with different experiences and a different personality to see the things that you cannot see.

Diversity is Not about Skin Color

Many companies talk about diversity, and the US government requires many businesses to report their diversity based on race and gender. That's all fine and good, but it's not true diversity.

Your department may be a veritable rainbow of skin tones, but if you all went to the same university, it's likely that you're more alike than different.

Think about areas in which your business is lacking. To what target audiences do you need to increase sales? Having people that come from different areas of the country (and world), can open your eyes to new markets. Hiring people who disagree with you politically can alert you to problems you might not see otherwise. If the people you employ come from different backgrounds, they can bring solutions you might never have considered.

You Don't Want an Employee with Your Skills

In fact, what you want is someone with different skills than you have. Why? Because you are already doing what you can do. You need someone to do the things you cannot do.

You're an excellent organizer. Do you need another talented organizer on your staff, or would you rather hire a skilled communicator? (Not that an individual can't have both skills, but you can see where you might end up if you lack either one of these skillsets.)

Sit down and make a list of the areas that you (and the rest of your current staff) need to improve and incorporate those skillsets into the job description of your vacancy. This will help ensure that you are not hiring a clone of yourself, but that you are making your department stronger and more effective.

Don't You Need Unity for Effective Performance?

You may have heard of a successful television show called It ran for 14 years and was hugely successful. Yet, the two cohosts, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage are not friends. Never have been. Never will be.

How could they work together so successfully when they don't even go out to dinner together from time to time? Business Insider gave the reasons for their success:

  • The cohosts had a process that worked and believed in it.
  • They respected each other's work ethic
  • They didn't let their egos get in the way of doing the right thing.
  • They had similar beliefs on handling and using their fame.

You can create unity with your direct reports and coworkers without them having to be just like you. Mythbusters would have been a very different show if Adam and Jamie had been identical personalities. One of the things that made it so much fun to watch was that Jamie was very stodgy while Adam was crazy. Different is good.

When you're hiring, make sure that you look for what you need in a new employee, and don't strictly match the candidates to your personality. Your business is better off for differences.