Cultural Fit vs Diversity

One of the top trends today in hiring for university jobs is cultural fit. The idea is that as long as you have someone who meets the minimum qualifications for the job, the most important measure of success in the job is how the person will fit into the organization. That might be true, however there is the risk that “cultural fit” may be a barrier to hiring a diverse workforce.

According to Glassdoor, some of the most common interview questions include, “What is the last book you read for fun?” and “What types of movies do you like?” These questions don’t have much to do with one’s ability to perform a job; but they have a lot to do with how one fits into an organization. Someone who prefers art house foreign films might not fit in with a group who have committed all the dialogue of the Lord of the Rings trilogy to memory and who meet up after work to re-enact the Battle of Helms-Deep.

However, such questions can also winnow out candidates of certain demographics. For instance, studies have shown that older people are less likely to view 3D movies, and candidates with young children seldom have time to go to a lot of movies. According to Nielson, African Americans are most likely to prefer Action/Adventure movies, and Hispanics are less likely to like Horror movies, so if everyone in your office enjoys discussing Chuckie’s latest exploits, such a question could winnow out Latino candidates.

The bottom line is that such questions have nothing to do with whether or not a person can do the job, so when developing interview questions for your higher ed jobs, stick with those that are job related.  Otherwise you run the risk of eliminating  diverse groups of candidates from your positions.

Dindy Robinson has many years of human resources experience in higher education institutions.

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