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When a BAD Culture Match is a Good Thing

Unique-peopleHave you heard (or repeated … or believed) any of these current-day business clichés?

  • Match job candidates to your company’s culture.
  • Hire only those applicants that align with your company’s goals.
  • Don’t hire people who could disrupt your teams.

In most cases, this is great advice. In most cases.

But in most cases, organizations that place high importance on culture haven’t even bothered to measure it. If culture is constantly emphasized yet no one in your organization can accurately define it, much less measure it, how do know you have a good match or a bad match? A gut feeling? A 30 minute interview? An opinion from a former co-worker or boss? A candidate who smiles a lot, seems nice, and has a great resume? . . . seriously?

Hiring reality is that there are no easy rules to follow and clichés can lead you down the wrong path if they’re followed blindly. Business, like humans, is complex, with too many variables and pesky targets that keep moving just when you’re hoping they will be still for a few moments.

If hiring could really be condensed into a few simple “rules” then most companies would succeed wildly.

It would just be a simple matter of following the steps ~ like playing a children’s game or assembling a garage door opener. But precisely because life and business ARE complex, HR managers, recruiters, and hiring managers continue to be duped into believing any idea or cliché that promises to reduce that complexity into a simple code-phrase or mantra or set of steps.

All too often, HR managers and recruiters actually become an impediment to hiring top talent. Why? Because HR people and recruiters tend to know very little about the positions they are “helping” to fill … they know a great deal about HR, FMLA, discrimination, ATS, harassment seminars, and HRIS … but the actual position? They try to understand it by having a 10 minute chat with the hiring manager or by reading a decades old job description, or attempt to condense a position that requires 50+ hours/week to a few snippets of information, or worse, just assume they’re up to speed because they’ve hired other people in similar positions at some point in the past.


Overused business expressions get organizations into trouble because those with limited intellect and/or modest experience can be led to believe that they will actually end up hiring “A” players and improving their organization’s performance by simply following those step-by-step hiring or interviewing instructions to match each candidate to the current company cultural norm.

Sometimes they do hire the best, most times they don’t … yet the “rules” live on forever. Check your own employee turnover rate, your revenue, your profit, your customer retention rate, or any one of dozens of metrics. People produce those metrics ~ the people your company hired.

So, in an attempt to cover their bases, they create check-lists of key words (e.g. Excel, Strategy, Java, SQL-Certified, PowerPoint, multi-unit, etc.) and then screen resumes or job applications robotically against these check-lists.


The results are entirely predictable: they regularly miss highly qualified people who could add substantial value to the organization in favor of hiring people who have the right word-match for the HR search filter but who may be completely incapable of dealing with the business issues at hand. Yet many of the real issues of today’s hiring chaos and organizational dysfunction remain totally unexplored.

One of those issues could be Company Culture … a culture that needs to change.

When a BAD Match is Preferable

1. You need a turnaround

Is your organization looking to hire a turnaround CEO? With the current failure rate of new CEO’s hovering around 50% in the first 18 months, that CEO (or department manager or Executive VP) may need to be a “poor fit” with the prevailing corporate culture if that culture is stagnant or the company is slowly dying because of it.

If your company or department culture is actually detrimental to the organization yet everyone you’ve hired for the past 10 years matches it, where do you think your company is headed?

Kodak went out of business, in part, because it held tightly to a culture where status quo was preferred over disruption. General Motors had to be bailed out by taxpayer money for precisely the same reason. Any company could go out of business in the next few years if its corporate culture is “avoid rocking the boat at any cost.”

Ensuring “a good fit” between the current corporate culture and the new hire could be devastating to a struggling organization under such conditions. Yet these kinds of issues are wholly absent from today’s “MUST MATCH CULTURE” type of thinking.

2. You need to move into a different market or change course

Several years ago a colleague was approached by a very large bank to assist them in developing their current talent to move into a different market segment, one the company hadn’t attempted previously even though their competitors were having success doing just that. He assessed their current culture and each person in the department tasked to make that move.

His response to the executive team? I can’t help you.

They were quite flabbergasted. “We’re paying you how much?”

The issue was the culture of the department in question was one of support, low risk, gathering data, solving problems, and reflection before taking any action. People got along really, really well and enjoyed each other’s company. There was little, if any, challenges to the way another person thought or the actions selected by their committees. But to succeed in this new environment, the company needed drivers, people who were competitive, calculating risk-takers, who didn’t get bogged down with rejection because their ego strength was too high. They needed people who were the opposite of the current group.


After plotting the company’s culture on a chart, the executive team understood what they needed to do: Hire people who didn’t match the culture.

The executive team “GOT IT” and made the needed changes to their hiring practices, allowing current employees to transition to other departments where they fit that culture. Oh, and the company not only moved into that new market with a new set of product offerings, they dominated it.

Most organizations want to find job candidates with an excellent a cultural fit and in the vast majority of cases, it’s exactly what the organization needs. But when leadership fails to measure their culture and communicate it to the recruiting and hiring team, is it any wonder “cultural fit” is one of those hazy, ephemeral, concepts rather than a concrete, clearly understood reality?

When leadership fails to recognize the importance of cultural TALENT diversity within their organization, it can lead to stagnation and in some cases, the death or buyout of a weakened company.

Company culture isn’t a ping-pong table in the break room or unlimited vacation or “open office” concepts. It isn’t free food, an open door policy, or the ability to telecommute. Those are symptoms of the company’s culture. Evidence.

To truly understand your company (or department or division or office) culture, you’ll have to accurately measure it first.

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Certified as a Professional Behavioral, Motivators, and Emotional Intelligence Analyst, Ron Haynes specializes in using the science of TTI’s TriMetrix HD to help companies select and develop their top management talent, create job benchmark solutions, and implement succession planning.

Need a solution to your employee challenges? Contact Ron Haynes at or at 870-761-7881.