Employers look to hire employees with shared cultural similarities

When hiring a new employee, employers are often more focused on hiring a candidate they would like to spend time with rather than finding the person who can best do the job, according to study results published in the American Sociological Review.

Researchers interviewed 120 professionals involved in undergraduate and graduate hiring in elite US investment banks, law firms and management consulting firms, and observed participants of a recruiting department between 2006 and 2008.

Overall, the researchers found that shared culture between candidates and employers matters. Employers often valued personal feelings of comfort, validation and excitement over identifying candidates with superior cognitive or technical skills, and identified cultural fit as the most important criterion at the interview stage. According to study results, the cultural similarities valued at elite professional service firms have important socioeconomic dimensions. However, the types of cultural similarities employers value may not be the same for all occupations.

“Of course, employers are looking for people who have the baseline of skills to effectively do the job,” Lauren A. Rivera, an assistant professor of management and organizations and sociology at Northwestern University, stated in a press release. “But, beyond that, employers really want people who they will bond with, who they will feel good around, who will be their friend and maybe even their romantic partner. As a result, employers don’t necessarily hire the most skilled candidates.”

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