Specifically Vague

The importance of cultural fit in recruitment

Google the words ‘hiring for cultural fit’ and you’ll be overwhelmed with results, about 1.18 million of them last time I checked. Recruiters and HR people talk about this stuff, a lot. I appreciate the desire to hire people who will ‘fit in around here’, and at the same time, the world of work needs its dissenting voices too, unless it is to become a whirlpool like hellhole of groupthink.

For cultural fit to have relevance, there needs to be clarity about the culture people are being hired to fit into. I stumbled upon this job vacancy yesterday, please take a minute to have a read through it…

“This is a great opportunity to partner with a demanding corporate audience of around 200 within an international head office environment. It’s a busy generalist role by nature, a key theme of it being the building of close relationships across a range of Directors and providing them with guidance and coaching through the full range of cyclical HR processes and in managing the subtleties of a range of performance and ER issues and any change agendas.

Candidates should possess really solid generalist HR experience developed within a sophisticated corporate environment where HR is used to partnering the business in an evolved HR model, ideally with exposure to matrix business structures. Above all you should possess the gravitas, maturity and resilience to work effectively with demanding senior business stakeholders, combined with a proactive and pragmatic approach that ensures effective, commercial on time delivery.”

Impressive huh? Demanding, international, close relationships, guidance, cyclical HR, change agendas, solid, sophisticated, matrix business structures, gravitas, maturity, resilience, demanding (again), proactive, pragmatic.

This job advert says everything and nothing. It is meaningfully meaningless, specifically vague, and people will be applying for this role. I posted the advert text onto Facebook yesterday; here are some of the excellent comments I received:

It means that once you accept the job they can make you do anything they want. It’s fuzzy logic.

It would read like the role is to dig the directors out of the hole they keep on digging…

1915. Please join us in the trenches. It is a complete clusterfuck over here. We require someone to run messages to and from the incompetents. You will need experience acting as a human shield and serving as cannon fodder.

And companies wonder why they have people issues when this is the best they can do.

I’m not a huge fan of wasting people’s time – yet I am tempted to craft an application for the role which reflects back all the specifically vague buzzword junk contained in the job advert. If I do – I will let you know the outcome. In the meantime, if you are fortunate to be involved in the hiring process, please, do better than this. Unless the cultural fit you are looking for is total befuddlement, in which case, pour yourself a fresh cup of gravitas and get proactively pragmatic.

What do you do?

What do you do?

Before I ask this question out loud, I like to put on the voice of the Queen of England and ask it in my head. It is fun (yeah I need to get out a lot more) and you might like to try it.

I think “what do you do?” is a very interesting question. It is nearly always answered incorrectly. Here’s what usually happens:

Me: “Hello I’m Doug”

You: “Hello I’m Fran”

Me: “Pleased to meet you Fran. What do you do?”

Fran: “I’m a Senior Information Manager

Me: “And what do you do?”

And Fran repeats his or her previous answer.

I persist gently and in the end we have a great conversation and I find out what Fran does.

It interests me that when I ask folk this question they tell me their job title. And in a lot of cases – that means nothing to me, and it probably doesn’t mean much more to them and their colleagues.

Yes it’s a hackneyed tale – but I like the story about President Kennedy asking the dude with the broom, “What do you do?” Broom dude famously replies “I’m helping to put a man on the moon”.

I find it rather underwhelming that folk feel defined by their job title. By all means have one, but please don’t confuse it with what you do. Good folk consider and help to create a structure that recognises the what and the how that integrates with the title. That helps give people purpose.

So what am I doing? Currently I am helping people to make work better, one conversation at a time. Next week, I’ll be doing something slightly different.

What do you do?