Why culture add is more important than culture fit

We’ve noticed something quite alarming in the French tech scene. Culture fit is a commonly used buzzword, but what about culture add?


Our clients often use culture fit excuses to justify risk aversion when it comes to candidates. They see the same candidate a few times. Then without testing their skills, they decide that this person isn’t right because of “culture fit”.


Yes, culture fit is extremely important. But so is having an environment that is open and inclusive to many different types of opinions and backgrounds. So this culture fit excuse typically means they didn’t feel this person was similar enough to them or their idea of the perfect candidate. 


The problem: Most people let their cognitive biases or first impressions determine their hiring choices.


The first 50 people you hire are your cultural cofounders, the people that define the culture for the rest of a company’s lifecycle. After 50 employees, culture must scale. However, when values aren’t broad and defined enough, this doesn’t necessarily leave room for diversity. Plus, this certainly ignores the number one reason you hire someone, for their skills!


So what to do about the culture fit vs culture add debate?


First, make sure that your values are large and inclusive enough for a wide range of profiles and backgrounds. Provide exact definitions on how this can be measured in potential candidates (with concrete examples). Company values should never be left up to individual interpretation.


Next, incorporate these values into your scorecard and your structured hiring process. At this point, these values should be both clear and operational.


Finally, When a candidate is outside of what you think is a good fit, look for culture add instead.


What is missing from your culture and how can this new hire be a positive contributor?


Another way to avoid this is testing for skills early in the process. Whether or not this person is exceptional for this role is still question number one. Let’s not forget, humans are very adaptable and don’t necessarily show everything in an interview. We suggest a skills assessment during the second interaction with a candidate. It this comes too early, the candidate won’t be motivated enough but when it is too late, you may waste time with the wrong people. 


When we look from this perspective, we see more candidates for their value add. The best part about this? Your pool of candidates opens and ultimately reduces your time to hire.

How do we know this culture add thing is worth the hype?


As recruiters who specialize in international profiles, we’re always pleasantly surprised to see the diversity of roles and sectors most C-level profiles have in the US and abroad.


Google and Facebook hire people from a wide range of industries and backgrounds. Yet, candidates who don’t come from a “top startup or GAFA” or who don’t come from the exact same industry in France often aren’t considered. Pure snobbery or risk aversion? We don’t like either!


We all like to think we are open-minded, but next time you decide you don’t like a candidate for culture fit look deeper and ask yourself, why? (Ask this question at least 6 times to get to the root cause 🤔) 


Taking risks on candidates who have cumulative, transversal skills and a little something different than what you already have is another way to find the next rising star (who probably isn’t as over solicited as your “dream” candidate) while providing the diversity needed to push your culture and company to true greatness.


Ready to be a culture add in a new company culture? Find your next role here

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