The Perils of Hiring for “Cultural Fit”

In a blog post entitled “Inside the Mirrortocracy“, Carlos Bueno skewers the notion of hiring for “cultural fit”, where a perfectly qualified candidate can be rejected purely for liking the wrong sports or having the wrong taste in music.

Call­ing it out and mak­ing fun of it is not en­ough. Whatev­er else one can say about the Mir­rortoc­ra­cy, it has the vir­tue of ac­tual­ly work­ing, in the sense that the lucky few who break in have a de­cent rate of suc­cess. Com­pared to what, well, that is careful­ly left un­as­ked. The col­later­al damage of “false negatives” is as large as it is in­visib­le. But it is dif­ficult to argue with suc­cess. It takes a humil­ity and generos­ity that must come from with­in. It can’t be for­ced on oth­ers, only en­couraged to de­velop.

Lest you get the wrong idea, I’m not mak­ing a moral case but a fair­ly amor­al one. It’s hard to argue against the fact that the Val­ley is un­fair­ly ex­clusiona­ry. This im­pl­ies that there is a large un­tap­ped talent pool to be de­veloped. Since the tech war boils down to a talent war, the com­pany that figures out how to get over it­self and tap that pool wins.

Yes, it’s probably far worse in Silicon Valley than perhaps it is in the rest of the world, but I’m sure there are plenty of other places in the world with similar problems. And as Carlos Bueno says, it results in a monoculture so limiting that those inside don’t even realise it.

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3 Responses to The Perils of Hiring for “Cultural Fit”

  1. I actually see this in fandom as well, where people often spurn the possibility of learning about other fandoms — or things entirely outside fandom — because they’re more interested in finding out if the other person meets entirely arbitrary standards of fit than anything else.

  2. Chrissie Caulfield says:

    It’s particularly poisonous in the tech industry because it has such a disproportionate effect on the way we live our lives these days. So much is designed from the point of view of the young while male, and they can’t even see how odd that is.

  3. Tim Hall says:

    Indeed. A monoculture is very vulnerable to having massive blind spots without even realising them. That’s got to be a factor in the problems with sexism in both the tech industry and in SF fandom.