Values and Culture Fit

What is culture fit?

Culture fit is the extent to which an employee or potential employee aligns with the culture of the organization. Culture includes the organization’s vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, environment, location, beliefs, and habits. In Organizational Psychology, culture fit is often referred to as person-organization fit or person-environmental fit, defined as the degree to which an individual’s traits, values, and beliefs are congruent with those of the organization.

What is value fit?

Value fit is a similar concept to culture fit, but it refers specifically to the alignment between an individual’s values and the espoused values of the organization.  As mentioned above, values are just one aspect of culture, however they are likely to influence other aspects. People tend to make judgements and decisions based upon their values. 

What are values?

Your values are the things that you believe are important and guide the way you live. They are relatively stable across time and across different contexts. However, values may influence behavior more strongly when they are relevant to the context. For example, if you value achievement, that may be more likely to drive your attitudes and behavior at work than in your personal life. Talogy defines work values as “the importance individuals place on different aspects in their working life, which helps to guide their judgement and behavior in the work environment.”

Values are not typically defined by their absence or presence, but by the order in which they are prioritized. For example, most people will value stability to a certain extent, but where this falls in relation to their other priorities will differ.

Why is it important to consider culture fit when hiring?

Culture fit or person-organization fit – and more specifically value fit – has been demonstrated to relate to important outcomes such as commitment, job satisfaction, and intent to stay with the organization.

Often when designing selection processes, the focus is placed on predicting job performance. Although it is very important to establish if employees will perform well, it’s also important to measure their likelihood to stay with the organization.  For example, it is not beneficial to an organization to hire a high-performer, invest time and money in onboarding and training, only to have the new hire leave shortly afterwards – requiring the organization to start the process all over again.

What does it take to lead across culture?
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What is meant by culture add?

Culture add refers to the idea that organizations should move away from hiring for culture fit, and instead focus on hiring people that can contribute something unique to their culture. It is often advocated as a means of increasing diversity.

Is it a good idea to hire for culture add?

It depends. Diversity is a benefit to organizations and should be a key priority when designing a hiring process. It is a good idea to hire people with a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, and to hire many different types of personality, skills, and knowledge.

However, if what is meant by culture add is intentional hiring of people with different values to the organization, then it is important to tread more carefully. Research has demonstrated that value diversity is linked with increased conflict and decreased cohesion. 

Hiring people with different values can be beneficial if you are trying to change or broaden the values and culture of the organization. For example, if you are trying to create a learning culture, it makes sense to target your hiring process towards people who value learning. However, this should not be the only intervention taken to bring about cultural change. This needs to be accompanied by organizational development interventions that will help to bring about this cultural shift. If your only strategy is to hire people with different values, and nothing else changes in the organization, then it is likely to result in these new employees feeling that they are a poor fit and becoming dissatisfied. Culture is often most influenced by senior leaders, so hiring for culture add at this level is likely to have a greater impact.

How do you hire for culture fit?

The first step to take when hiring for culture fit is to have a deep understanding of the organization’s culture. Many organizations will have a defined mission statement, a set of espoused organizational values, and common practices or norms. These are typically influenced by the organization’s founders or current senior leadership and managed by Human Resources. However, sometimes the reality doesn’t match up with this, especially if the organization historically hasn’t been hiring with culture fit in mind or has experienced significant change since the culture and values were initially defined. 


To understand what your organization’s culture and values are, you could conduct a survey with current employees, or conduct focus groups with a neutral facilitator. As culture is often driven by leaders, interviews with senior leadership that explore the organization’s mission, purpose, and vision can also help to define the culture.


Once you have a clear idea of your organization’s culture and values, it is important to incorporate this into the selection process in a robust way. Often, decisions about an applicant’s ‘fit’ are made by subjective judgements formed by the hiring manager or other individuals involved in the hiring process. Research has shown that people are not very good at forming accurate judgements of another person’s fit, and their determination of this will often be influenced by the degree of perceived similarity between themselves and the applicant. This is where hiring for culture fit can go wrong and pose a threat to diversity; an applicant’s fit should have nothing to do with whether they support the same football team as their hiring manager, for example. 


If possible, assess for culture or values fit early in the selection process, before you have met the candidate face to face. This can be done using a values assessment. When you do interview them in person, use a structured interview format and stick to job-relevant criteria. Avoid focusing on personal interests or hobbies or trying to identify common life experiences.


Finally, remember that culture fit is a two-way process. While you are trying to make judgements about candidates’ level of fit, they are doing the same, trying to gain insight into the culture of the organization to decide if it is right for them. Portray an honest representation of your organization’s culture and values. For example, there is nothing to be gained by telling candidates how much innovation and new ideas are encouraged even when this is not the case. If hired, they will ultimately discover the organization was not the right fit for them, increasing the likelihood of them leaving. 

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Does hiring for culture fit impact diversity?

Not necessarily. The practice of hiring for culture fit has attracted criticism in recent years, as some experts have expressed concern that it will lead to the exclusion of certain groups who differ from the organization’s existing employees. It is true that hiring for culture fit can pose a risk to diversity for two main reasons:

  • Often, judgements of cultural fit in the hiring process are made in a subjective manner, which leads to hiring of people who are very similar to those already in the organization.
  • Hiring for culture fit may lead to the exclusion of certain groups if the culture of the organization is not inclusive.


However, it is possible to overcome these risks by hiring for culture fit in an objective and fair manner, as noted above. To make your culture more inclusive, organizational change interventions are typically needed. This should be addressed before incorporating culture fit into your hiring process.

Learn more about building better organisations through inclusive leadership in our whitepaper.

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