back to blog

Can I Be a Culture Fit if I’m Different?

culture fit

Culture fit has been a primary hiring criterion for employers for several years now, but the buzz word can be dangerously misconstrued. Many organizations have used the term as an excuse (blatantly or not) to hire carbon-copy employees who look, think, act, work and talk the same. But then there are employers who are singularly focused on checking off diversity and inclusion checkboxes, “fit” be damned.

The best approach is somewhere in the middle. Employers are quickly realizing that culture fit shouldn’t equal “sameness” and that employees can—and should—have shared values without needing to be culturally similar. How do you find an employer who strikes the right balance?

  1. Do your research. No employer hits all the rights notes all the time, but they can at least be striving towards inclusivity. Indeed offers tips on how to identify companies that are putting forth that effort. Clues can be found in their job postings, social media, and company website. You can even go further by selectively seeking out current and former employees (scouring your LinkedIn connections is a good way to start) and asking them what the company is like. If you’re still unclear on how the employer views “culture fit,” ask during the interview stage. Questions like “What do you feel are the most important values of your company?” and “An inclusive environment is valuable to me; how do you promote inclusivity among your teams?” should be fair game when searching for the right job fit.
  2. De-bias your resume. We recently shared how critical it can be to take bias-causing information out of your resume and applications. Most employers try extremely hard to ignore these clues about your age, ethnicity, gender, and more. But they’re human, and even the best-intentioned humans can be woeful victims of unconscious or implicit bias. Don’t get unfairly counted out before you get a chance to interview. Do you need to include employment and graduation dates? Mention volunteer work and hobbies that reveal family status or religious or political affiliations? Follow these tips to remove bias-based barriers.
  3. Focus on shared values. You can be a culture fit while being different if your employer frames culture fit around values instead of “sameness.” “An assessment of culture fit should focus on how well the person’s values align with the organization’s, rather than how well their personal characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation, align with the current workforce. Researchshows that adopting this stricter definition of culture fit can reap its benefits while still bringing in diverse perspectives, experiences, and skills,” according to the Harvard Business Review. Find keywords in the job description and on the company’s core values page you align with and use them in your resume/cover letter and throughout the interview process. For instance, make it a theme to highlight how you’re both collaborative and committed to excellence if that’s what the organization cares about. People from all walks of life can share values like these while still maintaining their diversity.
  4. Follow your gut. In the end, if you get the sense that the organization is uncomfortable about what makes you different, there’s little hope you’ll be happy there. Watch for clues like the way you’re asked about your background (particularly questions about your religion, marital status and more that are potentially illegal). Pay attention to how often you find yourself code switching, which happens when you change the way you talk, behave, dress, and more to simply “fit in.” Sure, you’ll want to dress and act to impress while job interviewing but be carefully about precariously hiding who you really are during the process. Studies have shown that the need to code switch in the workplace can take a serious psychological toll.

Of course, everyone’s situation is unique. Consider talking to your recruiter about your concerns and for tips on finding employers that may align with your values while embracing what makes you different. 


Ready to move your career forward? Connect with The HT Group today!

And be sure to connect with us on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter for up-to-date news and tips and let us know what’s on your mind.