Stop Hiring for Cultural Fit

Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Acquisition Officer at Netflix where she was tremendously successful at hiring top performers, offers valuable lessons about building strong teams, quickly.

In short, talent is not fixed, but contextual. An A-player at your company might be a B-player elsewhere and vice versa. A key takeaway is to probe beneath the surface of a candidate to find the right fit. Resumes, technical skills and traditional interviewing don’t provide all of the answers.  

“Finding the right people is also not a matter of “culture fit.” What most people really mean when they say someone is a good fit culturally is that he or she is someone they’d like to have a beer with. But people with all sorts of personalities can be great at the job you need done. This misguided hiring strategy can also contribute to a company’s lack of diversity, since very often the people we enjoy hanging out with have backgrounds much like our own.”

Removing bias from the process is important when establishing a robust hiring process for any organization.

“People don’t have to approach interviewing or recruiting in the same way, but we insisted that they have a plan and not just improvise.”

This approach increases the efficiency of the hiring process and McCord frequently prioritizes speed.

“We acted as quickly as possible once the decision was made: no running the hire by two levels of management, the compensation department, and HR.”

Despite this focus on speed, she doesn’t advocate the same approach for benchmarking salaries based on position. When you do find the right person, be prepared to pay top dollar.

“It’s better to focus on what you can afford to pay for the performance you want and the future you’re heading toward.”

Great advice, but it isn’t always possible to pay top dollar for every position.

“In that case I suggest identifying the positions with the greatest potential to boost your performance and paying top dollar to fill them with the very best people you can get.”

Consider how much faster a candidate with more experience can move your efforts and the unique skills they offer, which your team currently lacks. Focus on the value-add.

“I’ve found that if you focus intently on hiring the best people you can find and pay them top dollar, chances are your business growth will more than make up for what you spend on compensation.”

These are great tips for improving your hiring process. Objectively identifying individuals who possess the aptitudes and traits required for success within your specific roles and interviewing them on that basis can provide greater insight into a candidate’s fit for your team. For help taking your hiring to the next level, contact CRI to learn more about pre-employment assessments today. We help organizations eliminate bias and hire better candidates faster.


Patty McCord was the chief talent officer at Netflix from 1998 to 2012 and now advises start-ups and entrepreneurs. She is the author of Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility (Silicon Guild, 2018).

 You can read the original article here on the Harvard Business Review website here.

A version of the quoted article appeared in the January–February 2018 issue (pp.90–97) of Harvard Business Review.

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