Stop Hiring for Culture Fit

Stop Hiring for Culture Fit

If you’re looking for talented people you can turn into cultural doppelgängers—rather than seeking to align productive differences toward a common goal—you’re doing it wrong.

Talent leaders should hire for “culture fit”—at least, that’s what we’ve heard.

For decades, actually, that’s been the most widely recommended (and generally accepted) best practice. The term “culture fit” has itself created an industry segment worth billions of dollars.

Today, however, conventional wisdom is coming under scrutiny. And in light of today’s accelerated pace of innovation, I would argue that hiring for culture fit is no longer advisable—nor is it a method for achieving sustainable growth. It’s just not the best way to grow or sustain engagement and productivity in teams or organizations.

If you’re hiring for culture fit, you’re doing it wrong. To build, scale, and sustain your workforce to meet the demands of Industry 4.0, you’ll need to take four crucial actions when seeking external talent or building internal teams. In this chapter, I’ll explore them.

1. Align talent to these four cultural identities (or environments)

“Culture” is a broad term, and it can mean many different things to different people. Some groups will define it as something like “a core set of values and practices.” Others view it more like “their style” (think nap rooms and beer on tap in the break room).

But, what does the term “culture” truly encompass?

According to the Business Dictionary, “organizational culture” is “the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.” It’s the ethos, values, and frameworks for how a company conducts itself internally and externally. In other words, an organization’s culture includes its core values, its expectations for behavior, its decision making frameworks, how it conducts itself with others, how its information flow operates, its power structures—even how one is allowed to express oneself within the organization. This cultural identity is crucial, as it affects productivity, performance, employee engagement, and customer relations.

When thinking about culture, we should be thinking about alignment rather than fit. “Fit” implies that your organization seeks to indoctrinate new members into its specific way of life—to clone its vision of the ideal member in everyone who joins it. When we talk about “fit” we create the potential for exclusion. It prompts us to seek someone who already embodies the values and principles we think are best (then seek to “fit” them into a pre-existing spot in our organizations), and ignore others.

Achieving “alignment,” however, is different. Alignment involves embracing diversity of thought and building inclusive, innovative, community-driven teams that are all oriented toward shared goals, even if they look and think differently from one another.

The necessity of thinking about “alignment” rather than “culture fit” becomes even more apparent when we examine the complexity of organizational culture. Every organization has four separate cultures (yes, you read that correctly!). Aligning talent “with culture” means aligning it with: your main culture, the subculture of the department, the team culture, and your geographic culture. Visualize the engine that runs your organization. You’ll see gears that move you along. Then visualize small gears for your people, team, departments, verticals, and your main organization. Each of these gears contributes to the next in order to meet goals and propel the business forward. When we have well-oiled machines (that is, when everyone is doing something better together), we are able to propel our mission and realize our organizational vision.

Let me explain them in more detail.

The main culture

This is your overarching company ethos, your “way of doing things.” It’s the primary “gear” that’s moving you externally in the market. It’s what others recognize as “you” and, ultimately, is why clients come to you. It is the “who you are” part of your culture. When seeking alignment, look for:

  • General characteristics and behaviors that agree with who you are
  • Brand fit and representation that aligns
  • Passion or purpose that flows into organizational mission

The subculture

Verticals or departments bring their own values to the organization’s cultural mix. Operationally, each behaves differently and pursues different goals, all of which feed into the main culture. For example, engineers building solutions think in very different ways than marketing creatives do. The goals of solution builders are very different than those of creatives. Be aware of the mix. While remaining open and inclusive in your hiring practices, don’t overlook the dynamics of a subculture. In this relationship look for:

  • Ability to cross-collaborate
  • Open communication practices
  • Big-picture thinking
  • General energy and personality fit
  • Thinking styles

The team culture

The greatest alignment you seek is right here. Team culture determines the team’s manner of working together, day-to-day, to solve problems. Team culture drives efficiency, productivity, innovation, engagement, and results. This is what allows you to build, scale, and sustain. When thinking about alignment, look for:

  • How a person responds to new information and then contributes to the process – you’ll want a well balanced team to drive all aspects of change, not just natural innovators.
  • Communication styles
  • Personality styles
  • Behaviors and thought practices
  • Alignment to open values
  • Individual “magic” (see below) and potential for (and desire for) for growth

The geographic culture

Think of geographic culture not as an engine gear itself, but rather the “grease” that aids in frictionless movement. This cultural filter might not directly contribute to meeting goals of an organization, department or team. It does, however, contribute to reducing conflict, eliminating misunderstanding, and communication delays. You’ll be looking to align with local geographical norms and global views. Considering this angle of potential alignment, look for:

  • An understanding of the geographical culture
  • A willingness to learn and integrate geographical norms
  • An awareness and intelligence of the practices, norms or variances from one’s own

2. Look for the magic

If you’re seeking people to just “fill a job,” then you’re doing it wrong.

If you think about the people you bring into your organization as partners instead of employees, you’ll have a better rate of return on your relationships. This mindset of employing partners, co-creators, and collaborators to solve problems for your clients provides a more inclusive, open approach. We use technology to “do things.” But when you take the time to find the magic within people, they will not only be engaged and perform better, but also build careers alongside you.

When assessing specific competencies, be sure to:

  • Push beyond a resume, CV, or formal degree
  • Look beyond what someone has been “paid to do” (life experience and volunteer roles actually yield amazing competencies in people)
  • Look beyond a role or title someone has held previously
  • Look for people who are not happy staying in their lanes. The potential lies in someone who seeks opportunities for growth and challenges to stretch themselves.

Remember, of course, that the demands of Industry 4.0 will require:

  • Ability and capacity to engage with fast cycles of change
  • Interpersonal skills like communication, collaboration and emotional intelligence
  • Leadership skills for running projects, teams and organizations
  • Open behaviors and values
  • Capacity to navigate open process and decision making models

And when interviewing for talent that aligns with your organizational culture, consider asking:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • Where or how do you want to get involved from a technical perspective?
  • What do you want to learn?
  • What is one challenge you would like to overcome?
  • What perspective on teaming do you have?
  • How do you see yourself as a leader?

3. Be open in your sourcing

Becoming a dynamic, inclusive organization requires an organizational culture built on open values. Only true diversity of thought can produce innovations at the level required to thrive today.

We’ve been working to break down barriers to diversity in the workplace for decades, and we still have a tremendous way to go in our effort to close gaps. “Diversity” goes beyond religion, gender orientation, ethnicity, and so on. We must stop focusing on the labels society has assigned others so we “know where they fit.” That is a fear-based model of control.

Building our teams based on “fit” can actually create exclusive tribalism rather than what we actually intend: a sense of belonging. For example, employing hiring practices that seek talent from one primary background or educational institution will end up with exclusive environments that lack diversity of thought (even though they might represent good “culture fits!”).

We want to have people from different walks of life, with different backgrounds, and with different mindsets, so that we can collaborate and create unique solutions. Your organization should have no place for a “them versus us” mentality, which already seeds a broken system. Doing better together takes a variety of perspectives and experiences.

After a nine-month field study eventually published in the American Sociological Review, Lauren Rivera, associate professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, concluded that when hiring managers talk about “fit,” they focus on things like hobbies and biographies. Have you ever heard of the airport test, the question of “would you enjoy sitting next to this person on a long flight?” Rivera stated in her report, “In many respects, [hiring managers] hired in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners.”

The tech world has become obsessed with hiring for culture fit, and has done itself (and the entire organizational ecosystem) a disservice as it has fed a growing diversity problem. For open ecosystems—communities and other organizations—to stay true to their values, building heterogeneous teams can boost performance, new ideas, and gain advantage.

4. Build (talent), don’t buy

Last year I interviewed Aaron Atkins of Slalom about a more open approach to talent acquisition. Aaron heads up acquisition in Southern California for this open organization. He shared that Slalom doesn’t seek out the “A-Players” but rather seeks people with potential for aligning creatively with the organization’s goals. Once candidates are a part of the team, Slalom begins to build talent and create utility players. Atkins had this to say about a new way forward:

“It is how we are educating and training our new folks to move towards culture change. This all comes back to a build versus buy mentality. So some organizations are large enough that they can go in and buy. They can go and acquire a new company, or they can go hire a bunch of people in the sense that we’re going to buy these folks.

Slalom is much more of the build mentality of—how do we identify the right people, with the right capabilities, and train them to have the right skill sets. So it’s moving more towards training and development of building our next level of talent.”

Slalom realized they had clients seeking specific technical talents and there was an open space that needed serving. Recognizing they were losing money because they didn’t have the “right number of folks” was not okay with them. Instead, they set about internally building competencies within their existing talent pool. Now, whenever someone is on the bench and not at a client site, they’re trained in the new skills to serve clients needs. Slalom creates utility players that can be cross-functional across a wide variety of solutions and services, which only increases their value from a market perspective.

Your challenge, then, is to take a hard look at your organization’s hiring practices and methodologies. Transforming your organizational culture—your way of doing things, including the way you work—will require taking new approaches to build truly open organizations. Open organizations, at their core, must stand on all five principles to function and produce results. Begin by building inclusive practices as you seek out potential in either your existing talent pool or those you are looking to hire.

This article was originally published at

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

Surviving Industry 4.0 – think beyond digital

Surviving Industry 4.0 – think beyond digital

At the heart of what we call “digital transformation” isn’t just technology—it’s people, too. When we forget that, we put our organizations in danger.

We live in an age of innovation featuring rapid cycles of change. Futurist Gerd Leonhardt estimates we will see more change between 2015 and 2035 than in the prior 300 years of modern history. To effectively understand this change, we need to step back and see the large scale impact of this age.

The source of the changes is far more than “digital transformation” or “emerging technologies.” We are a connected and aware generation who consumes information in mass volumes in real-time through handheld devices. Policy and regulation are changing. Political upheaval is occurring. New business models are emerging. New markets are appearing. We are part of a global market and a much larger ecosystem—and as with all ecosystems, the slightest shift can cause radical changes throughout the whole of the system.

Transformation beyond the digital requires a new approach to the way we build agile, open organizations—and, it will need to start with how we empower our people to engage continuous cycles of change. With the advent of Industry 4.0, we need empowered, engaged change agents more than ever.

Humans drive change. Humans sustain change. And failing to invest in people as they grapple with change could be problematic for your business.

The importance of now

The cycles of innovation will not be slowing down (in fact, it will be speeding up). To really understand the urgency and importance of people development today, consider this.

The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey offers the subtitle “Millennials are disappointed in business and are unprepared for Industry 4.0″—before even launching into the study. The survey’s findings lead to a staggering awareness that organizational and people team leaders have not taken Millennial workforce development seriously. They are underprepared for the speed of innovation and for basic teaming skills.

Why should you care, you ask? According to 2017 statistics:

  • 56 million Millennials currently are in the workforce; making up the largest group
  • Gen Z began entering the workforce in 2016 and now comprise 5% of the workforce
  • Millennials will be 75% of our workforce by 2025

As the composition of technologies inside our organizations changes, so does the composition of people—and that means the composition of expectations is changing, too. If you expect your company to not only succeed but thrive in the 21st Century, you’ll need to make an immediate investment in interpersonal and managerial competency training.

The engine of change

The rules of engagement have changed. Transformation needed for our workforce, business models and organizational ecosystems must go beyond “digital transformation” alone. However, our approach to building applications, systems, and new technologies cannot be the same one we use use to train, engage, and prepare people. Digital transformation, policy and regulation changes, new business models—all are tools, vehicles aiding the achievement of new ends or goals. But they’re not driving the change. The change engine itself is fueled by people.

Our efforts to make technology work for humans requires applying human dynamics to solutions rather than just technologies.

An inclusive, holistic approach

Change is personal and response varies by context.

For example: You’ve probably worked on projects with someone who seemed resistant to the initiative. They may have asked 1,000 questions. Or they wanted to continue to reiterate, over and over, the legacy of what had already been built. As an innovator, your likely assumption was that they were being “wet blankets” to the team and initiative—and, had no place on an innovation team. (Am I right?!)

Or maybe this was the case: As a detail-oriented risk mitigator, you might have been given a project full of creatives who you don’t understand. It is frustrating. The need to move fast, without details, or a risk assessment—this boggles your mind. You’re thinking, “Vision is great and all, but let’s talk about the potential pitfalls along the way.” It has raised all of your red flags, and your assumption is they aren’t in touch with reality—and might not even be that good at business.

Each of these (too common) scenarios depicts a mismatch of attitudes toward change. In my work, we’ve discovered that people engage change in nine different ways across a spectrum of filters. The output of the change engagement—a “change language,” if you will—reveals a person’s positive contribution to either drive change (and aid in adaptability) or to optimize and sustain the change. When combined with interpersonal competency development, this awareness of positive contribution allows each person in an organization or on a team to understand how to navigate change by leveraging their strengths.

This awareness also helps people avoid feeling displaced or like they’re not contributing value to a process or project. It also provides them with a communication style that aids in their being understood. Taken together, this increases engagement and fulfillment in the work, as they’re operating from a more natural and comfortable position.

When a leader then leverages this information to build a well-balanced, high-performing team, they’re providing the entire organizational ecosystem with an engine of change that can now “surf the wave” of innovation rather than be caught in the undertow.

Each person in your ecosystem has the capacity for positive contribution and value to either drive change, adapt, optimize, or sustain change. Everyone has the capacity to be a valuable contributor, to channel the way they engage with change, and to make it work for everyone. This understanding combined with interpersonal competency training is what will drive the engine of change.

To become a true open organization, the shift to people development with interpersonal and change competency development must be a top priority in order to sustain growth.

This article was originally published at

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

What Happens After You Experience An Epic Career Failure?

What Happens After You Experience An Epic Career Failure?

Epic Career Failure or Letdown? What do you do next?

I think I’ve finally come to accept that I’m in a perpetual state of transition. Not only am I realizing it is just part of being Jen, but it is what makes me great at what I do. For the longest time I attributed my transitions to my less than stellar relationship choices as an adult. What I am realizing is it is part of someone who is actively living and participating in life.

My Public Jump

At the beginning of 2016, I decided to ramp down my business to pursue an opportunity that felt right to me. My soul latched on to it and I began to do my due diligence. It checked out. I did the required relationship building just to make sure. And then…I jumped.

I publicly announced my decision to join a start-up and move 2000 miles away from home to settle in Los Angeles. I was excited, a little proud even and ready to immerse into a whole new way of life. Four weeks after I landed on the ground and hosted a big event, I found myself separating from the company.


Taking Risks

The thing is, I take risk. Not in a “move the table outside at a restaurant” kind of risk, but rather the “it’s time for a good change and this could be awesome” kind of risk. I’ve been moving my whole life so to uproot and go again wasn’t a big deal. So I don’t know anyone in California, so what.

Sometimes life is asking you to take the risk. To be bold. To get up and move. To do things that might leave you feeling like you got your pants dropped in public.

Part of it is my personality makeup. I’m a classic ENFJ and Idealist. Top that with being a super bold Leo and you can see the recipe of the characteristics I work with daily. Frankly, I scare the crap out of my entire family. I go big or I don’t go at all.

How Do I Deal With It?

Before I break down your lesson of the day here, let me wrap up my story. I’ve had far worse and even more embarrassing things happen to me in my life. I’m still here and better for each and every mishap. My intuition is still strongly telling me there is greater purpose for me being here and the “epic fail” was really my stepping stone.

Great things really are around the corner.

Here’s what you need to know when you go big for something and it doesn’t work out exactly as planned.

Sometimes things just don’t work out. There are always other variables and factors that pop up that are outside of your control — or your best judgement before you jump in the situation.

You’ve likely been through worse and know that you will survive this too.

Don’t panic. Look for what good comes out of your situation and learn from it.

Be grateful that you were bold enough to get up off the couch and go for it! Most – I don’t have a number here but seriously like hardly anyone – don’t ever get enough courage to jump.  You’re in great company if you do!

Failure is not a cool word. Reframe how you think about it and realize that it is learning what doesn’t work for you or isn’t right for you.

Regroup. Get clarity and get moving again. The world needs you.


The fact of the matter here is this. Nothing about me has changed except I’ve grown and learned some new stuff in the last few months. So when you experience a letdown (privately or publicly) remember that you’ve grown and learned something new too. Don’t let it cause you to stall and miss your next big growth opportunity!

How To Work With Jen 

I feel a kinship to Thomas Edison regarding his famous quote:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – Thomas Edison


Don’t forget to share this post and leave comments below!


As Seen In Forbes 2016

As Seen In Forbes 2016

As a Founding Member of Forbes Coaches Council, I have to opportunity to be part of various Forbes articles. Listed below are links to those articles:


Released January 5, 2016:  Seven Strategies To Position Yourself At Work As A Leader

Released January 19, 2016: Eight Surprising Truths About Leadership That Can Help You Excel

Released January 22, 2016: Forbes Coaches Council Members Share Valuable Business Coach Advice

Released February 2, 2016:  10 Daily Work Habits Every Young Leader Should Adopt

Released February 9, 2016: Seven Practices That Distinguish Great Managers From The Rest

Released February 15, 2016: Forbes Coaches Council Members Share Their Greatest Accomplishments

Released February 16, 2016: Seven Things You Can Do Now To Get Closer To Your ‘Dream Job’

Released March 14, 2016: Seven Ways To Handle Losing Your Job

Released March 18, 2016:  How To Convince Your Employer To Let You Work Part Time

Released March 22, 2016: How To Recover From A Job Layoff

Released March 25, 2016: How Senior-Level Candidates Can Make Their Resumes Stand Out

Released March 29, 2016: 10 Personality Traits That Get In The Way Of Growing Your Business

Released March 30, 2016:  Nine Questions To Get People Thinking Differently About Their Careers

Released April 8, 2016:  13 Ideas To Promote Female Equality In The Workplace

Released April 8, 2016: Forbes Coaches Members Share How They Cope With and Overcome Challenges

Released April 28, 2016:  How Managers Can Balance Pushing A Team For Results While Keeping Them Engaged

Released May 2, 2016: Should Culture Be Created Intentionally, Or Should It Be An Evolutionary Process?

Released May 9, 2016:  13 Ways To Overcome Negative Thought Patterns

Released May 13, 2016: 10 Coaching Skills Every Leader Should Master

Released May 26, 2016: 10 Strategies For Regaining Focus After A Stressful Situation

Released May 31, 2016:  12 Experts Discuss The Difference Between Leadership And Influence

Released June 2, 2016:  Seven Ways Companies Can Realign Culture And Vision

10 Essential Things To Create A Breakthrough In Your Life Or Business

10 Essential Things To Create A Breakthrough In Your Life Or Business

“I’m waiting for my breakthrough…”

This is in the Top Three list of phrases I hear the most from others. I would argue that our breakthrough is waiting for us to be ready for it!

In order to welcome in something new, you need to make some adjustments to what you currently are doing.

Here is a 20 minute video training on the 10 essential areas you need to prepare to get your breakthrough in life or business.

The 10 Essentials


Take the time to find space and recharge. Naps are always great! But, rest is about taking the time to find some peace and reconnect with you.


Get out of your box! Press in to what is coming with anticipation. Your comfort zone will never accommodate a breakthrough.


You must stop doing what you normally do. Get fresh insight. Look for a new viewpoint and open your mind so that you can find clarity and see in new ways.


Be open to new insight and feedback from others. Remaining coachable will lead to success.


Read a good book. Create art or music. Go on an adventure and explore. You’ll gain fresh perspectives and feel recharged!


Again, you are wanting to create and experience something new. Stay in alignment with who you are so that you experience a real change.


Let go of the dogma and boundaries that may be holding you back from moving forward. Let go of finite set of perceptions so you can expand your borders. Create places of hope and release the negatives.


Some folks in our circles are only intended for a season. Take a look at who you surround yourself and identify if anyone is limiting you from moving into the next phase of your journey.


[Tweet “A rut is a coffin with the ends kicked out. “]

Change how and what you do. You can’t create a space for a breakthrough if you are stuck in your habits. The way you’ve always done it isn’t working. Time for a change!


Let go of the expectations you currently hold that tell you you should be further down the road or doing something differently. It is a journey. It will never look like you think it should look. Meet yourself where you are today!


Your takeaway here is to stop your “doing” and start the “being”. Be you and implement the essentials. You will begin to see things shift rapidly and that breakthrough will show up!

Which of these areas has been a game changer for you?

Share with us your breakthrough stories!

I welcome your comments and want your feedback! Please leave me some below here!

Why Your Story Matters In Your Business and Leadership

We all have a story.

It is your message and one tool to grow your influence.

People need to relate to us in a transparent and vulnerable way. However, we need to choose what is shared.

Watch this video below on how to create the right environment and why it will increase your influence.

Those around you need to hear your story – even in business! It can serve others and create a place of trust with your clients and followers.

It is about connecting and leveraging emotional intelligence to be relatable, trustworthy, and empathetic to your clients. Being in business doesn’t separate you from being who you are.

Utilize your emotional intelligence to serve others and grow your business, too!

Remember no one can argue with your story. You’ve lived it!

I want to hear your comments of how using your story improved your business or relationships.

Click Here For “As Seen In Forbes”


As Seen In Forbes 2015

As Seen In Forbes 2015

As a Founding Member of Forbes Coaches Council, I have to opportunity to be part of various Forbes articles. Listed below are links to those articles:

View 2016 Articles Here


Released November 12, 2015:  Six Non-Verbal Communication Mistakes That Could Tank Your Next Job Interview.

Released December 8, 2015: Forbes Coaches Council Spotlight – Jen Kelchner

Released December 8, 2015: Seven Strategies Introverts Can Use To Become Effective Leaders

Released December 14, 2015:  Six Books First-Time Leaders Should Add To Their Holiday Wish List

Released December 23, 2015: Seven Warning Signs Your Job Isn’t Right For You

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