Definition

cultural fit

Contributor(s): Francesca Sales

Cultural fit is the likelihood that a job candidate will be able to conform and adapt to the core values and collective behaviors that make up an organization.

Cultural fit and functional fit are two criteria that human resource departments consider when evaluating candidates for employment. Functional fit is about the candidate’s hard skills -- the candidate’s education, certifications, core competencies and experience.  This type of information, which is usually supplied in the candidate’s resume or curriculum vitae, can be confirmed fairly easily pre-interview. 

Cultural fit, which is about soft skills and personal goals, is usually assessed during the interview phase of the hiring process. How the candidate answers open-ended questions like “Can you describe your ideal work environment for me?” can help the interviewer decide whether or not the candidate will thrive within the company's culture.  In large organizations, the interviewer’s subjective assessment may be augmented with data gathered from more formal personality profile tests.

Candidates that are an appropriate cultural fit are more likely to remain at the hiring organization, thereby improving productivity while cutting down on churn and the costs associated with replacing employees. In some organizations, cultural fit is so important that a human resource management representative might recommend hiring a candidate who is a good cultural fit but lacks some of the necessary hard skills for a particular position.  While a candidate’s skills gap can be filled in with training, a lack of cultural fit may quickly lead to job dissatisfaction, poor productivity, excessive absences and turnover.

This was last updated in September 2014

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