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Cultural Fit in the Workplace: How Personality Affects Hiring and Teamwork

I am a sincere believer that qualifications and experience are not the be-all and end-all of finding the right person to fill a job. Finding the person with the right sort of personality can be just as important and should actually play a major role in your hiring process.

89% of hiring failures are based primarily on a bad cultural fit (Erika Anderson, contributor to, in her article “The Most Important Reason People Fail in a New Job”).

The number one reason that people decide to quit is because of a bad relationship with their manager (from the article “The number one reason people are fired [is the same as the reason they were hired]” by Peter Harris).

Two out of every three dismissals are due to a personality problem or a communication problem (from the article “Can Your Personality Get You Fired?” by Kate Lorenz).

There is no doubt that finding a person with the correct cultural fit can be a challenge. It is a challenge faced by all companies around the world.

Adrian Furnham, in the book “The Psychology of Behaviour at Work”, defines cultural fit as: “A fit is where there is congruence between the norms and values of the organization and those of the person.”

Karin Eldor indicates in “Why do people get fired”, that one of the main reasons people get fired is because they are just not the right fit.

For most of our working lives, we spend on average a third of our time working in our job. It is no wonder that factors such as self-esteem, personal growth, values and ethics, and morals, are just as important as the more commonly thought of factors such as a high salary and job satisfaction.

Personality and Work Behaviour

Shala Munroe, in her article “How Personality Affects Work Behaviour”, suggests four main types of personalities. When hiring, consider carefully the type of person you are looking for, and perhaps attempt to fit them into one of these ‘boxes’:

  • Outgoing or Introverted;
  • Work Ethic;
  • Attention to Detail; and
  • Levels of Motivation.


Decide what factors are most important for the position, as well as what type of individual will fit in best at your company. I urge you to think carefully about how well they would fit in with your current company culture.

Being great at your job doesn’t mean you are safe from being fired. Your personality and cultural fit is often more important. Consider the following three people, listed on, who were hugely successful individuals, but were actually fired from a position:

  • Steve Jobs – fired from Apple Computers
  • Lou Holtz – fired from the University of Arkansas
  • Michael Bloomberg – fired from Salomon Brothers



In many businesses, teamwork is of crucial importance. Over the years, I have seen numerous examples of teamwork that has completely failed within an organisation. One of the biggest reasons is because the individuals that have been put into the team have not been assessed and matched up properly. We often think that putting ‘like-minded’ people in the same team is a good idea. However, in many cases, I have found the exact opposite to work best.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. We are also all able to fulfil different roles. As such, when putting a team together, think about the roles that each member could fulfil. Every group needs a leader. However, a group made up exclusively of ‘leaders’ might not be the best idea. Christina Hamlett, in “How Do Personalities Affect Teamwork”, suggests the following roles that individuals can fulfil within a team. Consider these roles when making your next hire, or when putting together your next team:

  • Leader/s;
  • Creative Thinkers;
  • Analysts; and
  • Pleasers.


What steps can you take?

Poor cultural fit (and the resultant staff turnover) has been suggested to cost a company anywhere between 50-60% of that person’s annual salary (“Recruiting for Cultural Fit” by Katie Bouton).

I believe that right from the start of the hiring process, when you advertise a position, you should make it clear what you are looking for. Yes, you can mention that you are looking for a candidate with a specific qualification and a particular number of years experience. But also make it explicit that you are looking for, for example, somebody who is innovative, or hard-working, or entrepreneurial, or out-going. When actually interviewing the candidates, these factors must also be considered, and must be discussed and assessed with that individual. Mark Babbitt, CEO of YouTern, even suggests taking the candidates for a walk around the office, interacting with existing employees, and then watching and asking for reactions from the candidate. This can be a great measure of a cultural fit.




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