Why Companies Should Revamp Their Culture Fit Interviews with Inclusion in Mind

The classic culture fit interview could be preventing some firms from maximizing the diversity of their teams

Toby Egbuna
May 6, 2019 · 5 min read

If you’ve ever been through the corporate interview process, then you’ve probably completed a culture fit interview. In these interviews, interviewers ask broad questions to assess if the interviewee has values and behaviors that align with those of the company. They typically occur towards the very end of the interview process as a final evaluation of a candidate. Some common culture fit interview questions include:

  • Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team?
  • Describe the type of work environment in which you can really give your best and be most productive.
  • What does your ideal job look like?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • What did you dislike about your previous job?
  • What does work-life balance look like to you?

In some ways, these types of questions all have great value. For example, the question “describe the type of work environment in which you can really give your best and be most productive.” If a candidate for an account manager position at a 25-person startup (let’s call this hypothetical startup GreenTea Inc.) answers this question by saying that he performs best in a “routine environment where he knows what will be expected of him every day,” this could be a red flag to the hiring manager. It’s often the case that at startups, employees never know what fire they will have to put out next. Someone that struggles in a fast-paced and unpredictable workplace is probably not a good fit for the position or the company. In this case, the culture fit interview has merit because it identifies mismatches between the candidate’s work style and the nature of the company he’s interviewing for.

Now, consider another example. For the question “what does work-life balance look like to you?” Imagine a very well-qualified single mother interviewing for the same account manager position at GreenTea Inc. That single mother would likely answer the question by saying something similar to “work-life balance means that I can have a flexible schedule. I have a 4-year-old daughter that I need to pick up from daycare during the week at 4 pm, and I want a job that gives me the flexibility to pick her up, handle the duties that I have as a mom at home, and then finish any leftover work that I have later in the evening.” Another trademark characteristic of working at a startup (and most corporate jobs, frankly) is long hours. Knowing this, a hiring manager might decide that this candidate is not a good fit for the position or for the company because she isn’t always going to be available.

In the second example, by choosing not to hire the candidate because of her desire for a flexible schedule, GreenTea Inc. has done 3 things:

1. It has missed out on an opportunity to hire a diverse candidate with a different experience

The company has lost out on an opportunity to bring in someone who will work hard and is used to staying organized. But this is just one example. Imagine a company of mainly millennial-aged employees passing on a 55-year old candidate for a sales manager position because of skepticism over his ability to keep up with the whirlwind nature of the business. They could miss out on bringing someone with triple the experience of their existing workforce and years-worth of networking connections.

2. It has perpetuated the existing, non-inclusive company culture

This is a two-sided equation. On one side, the single mom didn’t get the job. On the other side, someone that is willing to work with a less flexible schedule does get the job. GreenTea Inc. has likely just hired someone of a similar background as the rest of its workforce, thus adding to the already homogenous makeup of the firm. While this might not be a huge problem for this 25-person startup, think about applying this example to a company with 250 employees. There are several studies that show that companies with a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives among its employees are more innovative and proficient at developing new ideas.

3. It has potentially hurt its brand as it recruits for future positions

With technology today, it’s easier than ever for information, and most importantly, for experiences to spread. According to a 2016 Survey by Glassdoor, “70 percent of people now look to reviews before they make career decisions.” In the case of GreenTea Inc., all it would take is one negative review for other potential candidates to look at GreenTea Inc. negatively. Other candidates that desire work-life balance might refrain from applying to future job postings because they have read the review. Even worse, candidates that value equality in the workplace might choose not to apply because they don’t think that GreenTea Inc. shares this value. As a result, the company would be working with a smaller hiring pipeline.

Shifting to a “Culture Add”

Rather than focusing on culture fit, companies should prioritize culture add. Hiring managers should ask “how can this candidate bring her own background and experiences to contribute to the existing culture at my company?” Referring again to the example of the single mom above, the recruiting team should consider that she meets all the qualifications that they are looking for, and find a way to work around her schedule needs. This candidate would be a chance to diversify the team by bringing in someone with a different perspective on business.

While culture fit interviews do have merit, they can hurt a company’s hiring ability, and ultimately, a company’s success. Passing on candidates that don’t fit a company’s existing culture excludes candidates that operate and think differently from the existing workforce, fails to expand the existing company culture and damages the company’s brand. As more and more businesses begin to think about Inclusion and Diversity as a core value, they should remember that inclusion fosters diversity. One of the key avenues for getting to inclusive workplace culture is by being open to people with different values, beliefs, behaviors, and experiences. By checking for culture add rather than culture fit, companies are creating opportunities for diverse candidates to join their team and contribute their business.


The career review platform for minorities.

Toby Egbuna

Written by

Co-Founder of Dyversifi. UNC fan. Aux cord manager. Ed Sheeran stan.



The career review platform for minorities. We help you defog the glass ceiling before you break through it. Submit your story on www.dyversifi.com.

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