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The Likeability Factor: Hiring for Culture Fit



If you're in the process of job hunting, you may have encountered the disappointing phrase, "You're not a good fit." While receiving this feedback from a potential employer can be disheartening, it's important to recognize that in many cases, it has little to do with your qualifications or abilities. Instead, it's often a generic statement used to politely decline a candidate. The frustrating part is that it leaves you wondering what you could have done differently.


So, what does "not a good fit" really mean? Essentially, it's a reflection of how the employer perceives you in terms of personality and cultural alignment, rather than your skill set or suitability for the role.


The Likeability Factor

The "likeability factor" is a term used to describe the degree to which someone is perceived as being pleasant, appealing, or easy to like by others. It's often considered an important trait in interpersonal relationships and can have an impact on how people perceive and interact with each other. In the context of business or professional settings, the likeability factor can play an important role in networking, sales, and leadership. People who are perceived as likeable are often more successful in these areas because they are able to build rapport and establish trust more easily with others.


However, it's important to note that likeability is a subjective concept and can vary depending on individual preferences and cultural norms. Additionally, it's possible for people to overemphasize the importance of likeability at the expense of other important qualities such as competence or integrity. Ultimately, while likeability can be a valuable asset in many situations, it's not the only factor that should be considered when evaluating someone's suitability for a particular role or task.


When it comes to diverse organizational cultures, "fit" can be a complex and nuanced concept. On one hand, it's important for employees to feel like they belong within their organization. This can include shared values, goals, and ways of working that create a sense of unity and purpose. However, it's also important to recognize that diversity and inclusivity are key components of a healthy organizational culture. In order to truly embrace diversity, organizations should be willing to challenge their assumptions about what a "good fit" looks like and be open to different perspectives and ways of working.


Rather than focusing solely on whether someone fits into the existing organizational culture, it may be more productive to consider how they can contribute to and enrich the culture in new ways. This can involve creating an inclusive environment where people from different backgrounds feel valued and supported, and where diverse perspectives are encouraged and respected. Ultimately, the goal should be to create a culture that is both diverse and inclusive, where everyone can feel like they belong and have the opportunity to contribute their unique talents and perspectives. By doing so, organizations can foster a more creative, innovative, and effective workforce that is better equipped to navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex and interconnected world.


Unconscious Bias

According to research, people can quickly form first impressions of others based on nonverbal cues like facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language, often within milliseconds of meeting them, which is what I like to refer to as the "likeability factor." However, as people interact and get to know each other better, their feelings and perceptions of the other person may change over time.


These initial impressions are often influenced by unconscious biases which may have nothing to do with any of the prohibited grounds for discrimination but also may not accurately reflect the true personality of the person. In an interview situation when you only have 30-60 minutes to reverse that initial impression which according to research is almost impossible. Studies have shown that it typically takes several interactions and conversations before people can form more accurate and stable impressions of others.


Our natural inclination is to gravitate toward people who are similar to us. Research shows that we associate positive traits and behaviours with people who are similar to ourselves while perceiving those who are different as less favourable. This in-group favouritism can lead to discrimination based on social identity. There are various other psychological, social, and cultural factors can influence this tendency:


Similarity leads to familiarity: People tend to feel more comfortable and at ease with those who share similar interests, values, beliefs, and backgrounds. We tend to view those similar to us as more predictable and trustworthy, which can help establish a sense of rapport and mutual understanding. They feel familiar because they are similar.


Validation of our own beliefs and values: Being around people who are like ourselves can help validate our own beliefs and values and is based on the notion of social identity theory. According to this theory, people tend to form social groups based on shared characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, religion, and other factors. These groups help individuals establish a sense of belonging and identity, which can be an important source of social support and validation.


Shared experiences and interests: People tend to feel more comfortable and at ease with those who share similar interests, values, beliefs, and backgrounds. When we share common experiences or interests with others, it can help establish a sense of camaraderie and connection and is particularly important for building friendships or forming social groups.


Reduction of cognitive dissonance: People tend to seek out information and experiences that confirm their existing beliefs and values while avoiding information that contradicts them. By surrounding ourselves with people who share similar beliefs and values, we can reduce cognitive dissonance and maintain a sense of consistency and coherence in our worldviews.


While these tendencies can help us form close relationships and maintain a sense of identity and belonging based on a person's likeability, they can also form a homogeneous workforce culture. Having a homogeneous workforce can limit the diversity of thought and perspectives, which can hinder creativity and innovation. It can also create an environment in which those who are different from the majority may feel excluded and less likely to speak up or share their ideas. Conversely, a diverse workforce can bring a range of perspectives and experiences that can lead to more innovative solutions and a better understanding of diverse customer needs. Therefore it is my resolve that hiring for "fit" has no place in the recruiting process, because even if the recruiter has been trained to be aware of unconscious bias, the hiring manager or the decision maker may not. There has to be a better way of doing this that is more equitable, diverse and inclusive.


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