Should you Hire for Culture-Fit or Culture-Add?

Should you Hire for Culture-Fit or Culture-Add?

Hiring with organizational culture in mind is something that many organizations try, but too many get wrong. Not only is screening based on culture notoriously hard, but correctly defining one’s organizational culture represents a huge pitfall for HR teams, who often have a completely different perspective of organizational culture to other departments. However, when done well and appropriately, hiring with respect to culture transforms recruitment processes for the better, helping to optimize performance, retention, and engagement.

In this article, I will outline the two best ways to adopt culture-based hiring: hiring for a culture-fit and hiring for a culture-add.

When to hire for culture-fit

Culture-fit suggests that the candidate is a match to the organization’s culture, values, and working styles. For example, if the organization is particularly hierarchical, structured, and organized, hiring candidates who also share these characteristics suggests a culture-fit approach to hiring. Conversely, if the organization is a highly creative adhocracy with a flat organizational structure, that same candidate would represent a cultural misfit.

The biggest benefit of hiring for culture-fit is improved employee engagement and, consequently, improved employee retention. Severe cultural misfits inevitably feel uncomfortable working at their organizations, with a pervasive sense of being an unwelcome outsider. Although some misfits can tolerate this discomfort, many opt to leave instead in search of more suitable employment. As a result, hiring for culture-fit helps increase employee retention, extending the typical employee lifecycle significantly.

Hiring for culture-fit is, therefore, best suited to organizations with significant employee attrition. If retention is your biggest challenge, then culture-fit is something that should be strongly considered when hiring. The same logic holds for high turnover roles, such as call center roles and customer service occupations. By hiring for culture-fit, you not only reduce the amount of attrition, but it also brings you closer to identifying the other drivers for attrition, as you can simply cross cultural misfit off the list.

When to hire for culture-add

Culture-add suggests that the candidate complements the organizational culture but doesn’t exactly align with it. They may have certain behavioral dispositions, experiences, or characteristics which add something unique to the organization, helping drive change within the culture itself. For example, within a particularly process-oriented culture, hiring someone who is more results-focused could be complementary to the culture, adding a new perspective to the workforce.

The biggest benefit of hiring for culture-add is improved versatility, which translates to improved organizational performance. Diversity of thought, opinion, and work style ensures that organizations can quickly adapt to change. It also helps with creativity, fostering the generation of new and innovative ideas. This is particularly true in smaller organizations without a fully established culture, as culture-add hires can help shape the organization's culture for the better long-term.

Hiring for culture-add is best adopted by start-ups and scale-ups, as these organizations' cultures are the most protean. Larger organizations, however, typically have cultures which are less impacted by individual hires, as well as cultures which are more palpable to employees. As a result, smaller and newer organizations can benefit significantly from culture-add hires in a way that larger and more established companies simply cannot. This is particularly true when looking at senior-level hires, as those have the most impact on still-forming cultures, more so than with rank-and-file staff.

Recommendations for practice

First and foremost, you need to avoid relying on interviews to determine if someone is a culture-fit or a culture-add. Interviews are fundamentally assessments of one’s communication and charisma, and they struggle to measure other characteristics. For example, if you ask questions about their resilience or work ethic, it’s the charismatic candidate that impresses the interviewer, not necessarily the most resilient or hard working candidate. That isn’t to say that communication isn’t important, or that interviews aren’t useful; they just aren’t the correct tool for the job.

Instead, personality and behavioral assessments should be employed. These assessments are designed specifically to measure a person’s key behavioral characteristics without the interference of communication skills. By using these tools, you can identify the specific traits, characteristics, and dispositions with respect to organizational culture, increasing the viability of culture-based hiring decisions. This approach is also significantly more scalable, allowing you to screen candidates far earlier in the recruitment process, maximizing the probability of success.


HR practitioners and hiring managers should avoid thinking about culture dichotomously. Sometimes, birds of a feather flock together, and hiring for culture-fit makes the most sense. Other times, opposites attract, and hiring for difference represents the more prudent move. Both approaches, however, hinge on organizations effectively measuring the relevant behavioral characteristics and correctly outlining the aspects of their organizational culture. Ultimately, the more time, effort, and resources you put into designing a culture-based hiring strategy, the more dividends it will pay, particularly over the long term.

Chloe Yarwood

About Chloe Yarwood

Chloe Yarwood is a seasoned HR manager at Test Partnership, with many years of experience in HR leadership. She writes extensively on HR-related topics, sharing valuable insights and practical strategies for HR professionals worldwide.

Copyright © 2024 Featured. All rights reserved.