Hiring for diversity, or hiring for fit?

Fit. Hiring for fit is the one constant, overriding demand from companies recruiting new leaders. Because, regardless of skill and capability, fit is the key that will ensure long term success or seemingly never ending hassles and, ultimately, middling performance.

The concept of ‘fit’ generally centres around personal qualities, something so difficult to evaluate out of context – which is the nature of every interview process. Frankly, despite the ‘science’ behind psychometric assessments, these, too, are not perfect tools ensuring perfect hiring records.

After all, if culture fit could be scientifically evaluated through psychometric assessments, organisations would substantially reduce (if not eradicate) the hiring of people who landed up not living up to expectation or potential, due to fit.

We know – because we help fill vacancies that have arisen due to the departure of people who did not ‘fit’ – that there is no golden bullet, no magical formula, and no perfect assessment tool that can ensure that companies will get it right.

Even more so, in companies that are going through organisational transformation – be it of the BEE variety, or general restructuring – the nature of ‘what fits’ (or who fits) is constantly evolving and changing.

What might have been a great fit in the past, may not suit the future vision of the organisation. And just because an individual is ‘different’, may be the very reason to hire him or her.

If hiring for ‘fit’ means that we land up recruiting people who are ‘like-minded’ and share commonalities, recruiting for diversity surely challenges many of the assumptions and unconscious biases inherent in the hiring process?

There are more questions than answers here. I hope this is just the beginning of a conversation – one that you’ll perhaps have the next time you interview someone who has fantastic skills and experience, but who you decline because he or she is different to you. And your reason for declining goes something like this: ‘She’s just not a good fit’.

– Michelle Bedford-Shaw, Principal Consultant

Michelle Bedford-Shaw



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