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Culture Add not Culture Fit

  • 7 Sep 2023

Looking for growth, transformation, and innovation? You need to hire outside the box

There’s a well-known quote attributed to Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. This applies not just to science, but also to recruitment. 

If you want to grow your business or take bold steps toward innovation, you can’t just keep hiring the same people over and over and expect to see fresh results. 

It’s tempting to hire based on comfort – someone familiar is ‘safe’ and will fit into your well-oiled machine without a minute’s hesitation – but taking this route will not lead anywhere new. To really take your business places, you need to hire outside the box. 

Tom Sweeney, Director of Crew Technology Recruitment, has seen it all through his years in the industry. Here, he breaks down the difference between a culture fit vs. a culture add, how to hire outside the box, and what challenges candidates and businesses could face. 

Culture fit vs. culture add: how to spot the difference

“Very simply, a culture fit will give you everything you’ve done before, while a culture add will contribute something new to your team,” explains Tom, “They’ll help push you toward growth and transformation because of their unique perspective, experience, ideas, or ways of solving problems.” 

A culture fit is easily recognisable in many cases: you walk into a business and there are five Steves all sitting around talking football and drinking coffee. They’re looking to hire a team member they can hang out and have a beer with, who can join in their banter and fall in line with management. They’ll likely all come from the same or similar background. 

A culture add can be the ‘odd one out’. They might prefer tea over coffee, yoga over football, and prefer to take their breaks outside on the lawn. They’ll question why things are done a certain way, challenge the assumptions made by the team, and bring a fresh perspective to social discussions. 

Rather than fitting in with everyone else, a culture add will stand out and force their new team to look at things differently. 

“It can be a small thing, but for example, if you’re a finance company building an app and you hire someone who’s built finance apps before, chances are high that you’ll end up with something similar to your competitors. If you hire someone from a different industry or culture, you’ll get a fresh approach that can make your app better, give it a point of difference, or bring something new to the competitive table.” 

How candidates can make sure they stand out

For candidates to contribute something fresh to their new company, they have to make sure they’re an add, not a fit. “Do you really want to go somewhere you’re expected to just fit in and not be heard for your unique voice and ideas?” Asks Tom, “Most companies have a LinkedIn page that showcases their team and who they are. Take a look through that: do they celebrate diversity and different backgrounds? Or do they all look like very similar people?” 

In an interview, candidates can ask about a company’s diversity and inclusion policies, how they invest in or encourage innovation, and how their ideas would be heard and considered. The answers to these questions can help a candidate figure out if they’d be supported in bringing their unique self to the table, or if they’d be expected instead to just ‘fit in’. 

The challenge with hiring a culture add

Rather than going along with the status quo, a culture add will stand out and challenge you to do things differently. However, if not handled properly, this challenge can quickly pivot from constructive to disruptive. 

Firstly, when hiring, you still need to go through the full process of technical tests and interviews to ensure they have what it takes to do the job. After this, to go deeper into personality and experience, you’ll need to go beyond your standard questions. Tools such as psychometric and personality tests can help to remove any unconscious bias when understanding diverse viewpoints and backgrounds. 

Your aim is to hire a positive addition, not a bull in a china shop who’ll detract from your good growth or become toxic. Taking a longer time to hire can ensure you’re not missing any red flags when looking for someone different. 

Change can be difficult, and upsetting the status quo can take team members some getting used to, especially if this is the first time you’ve hired a culture add. Bringing in a unique perspective can create difficult conversations and a different energy, and not everyone may adapt as easily or quickly as you’d like. 

It’s important to ensure that your whole team are on board with the direction you’re taking, and how you expect this to contribute to your goals. You’ll need to support the new hire through a robust onboarding process to ensure they and the team can work well together. In the first week, aim for the new hire to spend time with each other team member individually to find out what they do, why they do things this way, and to get to know their working style. 

Matchmaking for innovation

We pride ourselves on knowing our clients well – who they are, what they want, and what they need. When we’re talking to candidates, we use this knowledge to match the person to the position based on their background, skills and experiences. 

We work with our clients to help their businesses grow by hiring the right people who will contribute to positive change and innovation. You can’t transform your business with someone who says ‘This is how we’ve always done it, this is how we’ll keep doing it’ – it’s only through hiring outside the box that you can begin to truly take fresh steps. 

Get in touch with Crew today