Hiring for innovation? Look for a misfit

Does cultural “fit” represent too strong an emphasis on homogeneity if we're hiring for innovation?

Adam Grant teed up a point of view that resonated with me at this week’s Annual SHRM conference. He essentially argues that cultural “fit” represents too strong an emphasis on homogeneity and that if we are hiring for innovation, we should really be looking for candidates who make a cultural “contribution.” This SHRM summary – How to Unleash Originality in Your Organization –  is a great read and worth some serious discussion by every employer bent on assessing candidates for their cultural fit. I’ll admit, he’s not really suggesting we pivot to hire misfits but lets at least imagine the possibilities we typically fail to consider.

Grant is a well-known Wharton Professor and author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World (I love the book). During his presentation, he offered several ways organizations could help original thinkers contribute including:

  • Substituting a ‘Problem Box’ instead of a Suggestion Box
  • Making the Unfamiliar Familiar
  • Embracing Grumpy Givers
  • Conducting ‘Entry’ Interviews Instead of Relying on ‘Exit’ Interviews

I’ve never liked the term ‘cultural fit’ and always felt it was too loose a phrase to define operationally. As a consequence, I’m convinced it too often unintentionally contributes to unconscious bias.

[How to evaluate what you offer candidates with disabilities]

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Chris Hoyt

Chris Hoyt

A veteran of recruiting and HR, Hoyt is a sought-after speaker with presentations including national conferences with SHRM, LinkedIn, HR Technology and others in the USA as well as iRecruit, Australasian Talent Conference and more abroad. Chris has been promoting and leading full scale and enterprise-wide integrations of social media and mobile marketing within workforce strategies for his entire career. His expertise and passion for interactive/social recruiting, candidate experience, and both national and international recruiting strategies are all areas that Hoyt now leverages as co-owner and President at CareerXroads, a Recruiting/Staffing consulting and think tank organization that works with corporate leaders from around the world to break out of traditional recruitment practices and push the envelope in an effort to win the ongoing war for top talent.


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