Hire for Fit — Except When You Want People Who Are Different

What happens when your manager — who goes out regularly after work with a group of employees to scarf down chicken wings — has a hard-core vegan show up in the lobby for an interview?

That’s where “fit” comes in. You’ve heard it at conferences and read it here and most everywhere else people talk about hiring: you should look not just for hard skills, but hire for fit.

But, then again, you’ve heard the opposite: that you should seek out diversity, diversity of thought, people who bring different ideas, experiences, and perspectives to your organization.

Carol Schultz and I talk about this these two ideas, and whether they are contradictory, in the approximately 13-minute video below.


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9 Comments on “Hire for Fit — Except When You Want People Who Are Different

  1. It’s good topic. Todd, as you point out near the beginning of the interview, good assessments deal with it. “Fit” is a term understood in many ways but shouldn’t be. Having mavericks in an organization should be part of the organization’s culture – mavericks should fit as easily as conformists. If fit is used – and it can be, regrettably – to screen out people who “aren’t like us”, that isn’t proper scientifically-defined fit. Don’t look on social media for “fit-ness”; it’s not reliable or validated information.

    The standard for fit should be the same as any other criteria: prove it is relevant for performance and that it is non-discriminatory. That can be done. Fit, properly understand as the important (not frivolous) components of work style in an organization, is a pretty good predictor of performance. Use assessments, good ones, to match job culture and person preferences

  2. Nice lead in. Once I read the chicken wings and Vegan paragraph, I absolutely HAD to watch to video, I had no choice. I’m dying for some great chicken wings being lost in the desert in Tri-Cities, WA ….

    Nice video, good insight.

  3. @Paul: Good comments. With regard to assessments, even good ones, they should not be used solely to match culture and preferences. When I use them it’s to provide baseline or guiding information with which to ask better questions of a candidate to determine fit.

  4. Great comments!!!
    I loved your statement that Hiring someone when it comes to culture is like dating, you should not take quick decisions and take time to know your candidates, an intimate conversation is very important.
    One of our most tenured headhunters in México wouldn’t recommend a candidate to the client until he had a meal in their house and met their wife (or husband). Wish I had the time to do it, but at least we can share open heart communications with them.

  5. Thanks, Todd and Carol. I liked this. I was a little unclear about “Being weird is OK, but they need to fit.” Also, it seems that the more people work in close physical proximity, the more important the “fit” aspect is. Thus, the more you can have people work virtually, the more you can concentrate on what they do than on who they are. This is a strong component of “Solution Recruiting”- finding the best way to get the work done.



  6. @Keith: It’s always hard to cover everything in a short amount of time. What I mean by saying weird is ok is that “weird” can mean many things. For example, an individual may be a bit eccentric but still be a cultural fit with company and team.

  7. Keith, regarding your first point/question about “being weird is OK, but they need to fit.”

    How about Dennis Rodman (pictured above) — he’d likely qualify as a bit different, but perhaps a fit for a team whose primary value is “work hard-practice hard-hustle” if he’s a really hard-worker. Or, if the team’s primary value is selflessness-don’t worry about stats-just-help-the-team win, perhaps he’s a fit for that team if that describes him.

    The other day, I saw a guy ride up to Kentucky Fried Chicken in a unicycle — perhaps a bit of a weird transportation mode — but let’s say the restaurant is really intensely focused on, say, customer service, and so is he, then maybe there’s a fit.

    I have viewed or read a weird financial blogger (James Altucher) and listened to weird sportscasters (Steve Lyons) and gone to movies with weird actors, but more for their fit in sports, finance, or the movie, than for their weirdness. Presumably a company could also hire someone for their ability despite their weirdness, or in some cases partially because of it.

  8. @ Carol, Todd: Thank you.
    I worked for an “employer of choice” in Diversity, which was specifically to find female engineers. In reality, “diversity” at that company meant:
    “We hire all types of under-30, upper-middle class, mainly white people, just like us!”
    Boy, was the stress on the “just like us” part!

    You show me a startup where loads of high-level people have distinctly different backgrounds than that of the founders or the funders, and that’s a place I’d probably LOVE to work at!



  9. In the world of jazz, “weird” can be a great quality. It implies you have a unique, identifiable approach that sets you apart. Yet you can still be key and integral part of the group and collaboration.

    It must have seemed weird when Jaco Pastorius, one of the greatest bassists ever, would solo with the dexterity of a saxophonist and the melodicism of a singer. Yet, his weirdness revolutionized the approach to his instrument and continues to influence nearly all bassists and most jazz musicians period. At the same time, he executed his role as a member of a group, and as it happens, one of the greatest of modern history (Weather Report).

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