Ex-Apple recruiter: There's a dark side to 'culture fit' hiring

Ex-Apple recruiter: There's a dark side to 'culture fit' hiring

If you really sit down and think, what does ‘cultural fit’ constitute at your organisation, you might find that it rules out more than it lets in.

Rachel Bitte, Chief People Officer at recruiting software company, Jobvite believes there’s an unexpected dark side to the practice, which creates homogeneity at a firm.

“I think companies really have to be careful,” says Bitte, who has over 20 years of HR experience working at Apple and Intuit, to Business Insider. “What do you mean by a ‘fit’ for your company?”

Whilst hiring managers want to bring on people with the right mindset, their own definition of cultural fit can lead to a lack of diversity as unconscious biases seep in. “There are unconscious biases around, ‘Hey, this person went to the same university that I went to,'” Bitte says. “There’s a gender bias. There can be a race bias or a language barrier.”

Research by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, found that relatively untrained interviewers often look for “potential friends and ‘playmates’ rather than those with the best work experience or job-relevant skills.”

Professor Lauren Rivera’s research also found that when it comes to “elite professional services” firms, candidates are often “skewed in favour of applicants from the most privileged backgrounds.”

For example, Rivera found that recruiters are often favourably inclined toward candidates who played sports that had a strong presence at top-level Universities – which can lead to alienating prospective employees that don’t fit into such cultures. In fact, this can cause more toxic elements of a company ‘fit’ to become ingrained in the corporate culture.

To change this, Bitte says that some companies now use programs that redact information like names, pictures, and education. Furthermore, some start out with skills tests instead of interviews.

As a recruiter, t’s important to train your resourcing team to identify and move past their own unconscious biases. “I’m wondering if that might be the future of where we’re going,” Bitte says. “Companies are starting to play with this idea and what it means to hire for skills vs. hiring for background.” 

One way to infiltrate the skills you want prospective employees to mirror, is by leading from the top down. For example, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has been lauded for his latest email to staff, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Clarifying the ethos behind Apple, he wrote: “at our Austin campuses, we are kicking off a donation drive in partnership with the Central Texas Food Bank and Caffè Macs to collect food, diapers and personal hygiene items -- all things that are critical in the aftermath of a storm of this magnitude.”

He added: “I want to update you on some of the things Apple has been doing to help, and ways that you can get involved." It's these traits resourcers need to seek out, such as how a candidate can help to bring about positive change and interact with employees and managers of all backgrounds, rather than applying preference to someone like themselves.

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