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Can culture fit be tied to discriminatory hiring practices?

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2022 | Employment Law

When posting an attractive position, organizations often find themselves inundated with quality applicants. From resume screening and phone screening to in-person interviews and committee discussions, it can quickly become a challenge to narrow an exceptional list. Unfortunately, hiring managers often lean on the notion of culture fit when making their final decision.

Whether it is an internal promotion or an external hire, the company must always consider the applicant’s qualifications first and foremost. In recent decades, the concept of culture fit has become something of a trend. This is an attempt to classify the hiring decision in terms of the applicant being right for the company outside of his or her resume qualifications, work experience or educational background. When used correctly, culture fit can add value to an organization’s workforce. Unfortunately, it is often used incorrectly and ultimately boils down to discrimination.

How is this construed as negative?

On the surface, culture fit can be a positive for the organization. New hires could quickly integrate themselves with the existing team, bring relevant contributions to the workforce and stay longer in their roles. Hiring to culture fit, unfortunately, can quickly backfire.

Many hiring managers use the notion of culture fit to exclude applicants from the pool. This might seem like a fine line, but it is not. When an applicant is turned down based on age, race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion or other similar factors, the hiring practice is discriminatory in nature. These exclusionary practices can land a hiring manager and the entire organization in legal trouble.

Even unintentional or unconscious, basing a hiring decision on characteristics outside of what’s presented as relevant work experience is dangerous. Hiring managers can quickly fall into a pattern of only interviewing and offering a position to those with similar characteristics as the manager himself or herself. Including a candidate based on these characteristics is already a slippery slope, but excluding a candidate is discrimination.