Employers Hire Based on “Cultural Fit” Segregation 2.0



New York Times article by Lauren A. Rivera, Guess Who Doesn’t Fit In At Work, highlighted a troubling trend in hiring practices. According to Rivera’s research, most employers select applicants based on “who they want to hang out with.” It’s called assessing an applicant’s “cultural fit,” i.e. segregation 2.0/you can’t sit with us.

ACROSS cultures and industries, managers strongly prize “cultural fit” — the idea that the best employees are like-minded. One recent survey found that more than 80 percent of employers worldwide named cultural fit as a top hiring priority.

When done carefully, selecting new workers this way can make organizations more productive and profitable. But cultural fit has morphed into a far more nebulous and potentially dangerous concept. It has shifted from systematic analysis of who will thrive in a given workplace to snap judgments by managers about who they’d rather hang out with. In the process, fit has become a catchall used to justify hiring people who are similar to decision makers and rejecting people who are not.

Wanting to work with people like ourselves is not new. In the past, employers overtly restricted job opportunities based on sex, race and religion, which is now illegal. But cultural fit has become a new form of discrimination that keeps demographic and cultural diversity down, all in the name of employee enjoyment and fun.

These are exclusionary practices that demonstrate the inner workings of structural racism and privilege. I’ve actually had a close friend that was extremely qualified for a job be told, “You’re great and you’re qualified, but we don’t think you’d fit in here.” How exactly is a Black woman supposed to take that? Perhaps we could say it might be personality based, but studies prove it’s not.

The perceived cultural affinity of a job applicant is a high determinate in their employability. This means that marginalized people that often do not have the privilege of insider hookups and perceived cultural fit, will have a substantially harder time finding a job regardless of qualifications or education.

Once again priests in the sainthood of respectability politics are discredited. Laziness or apathy has never been why African American men and women have higher unemployment rates. Many have just been shutout and denied opportunities. The fact remains that there are subtle and not so subtle practices that uphold exclusion and provide a stealthy barrier to upward mobility.

If you’ve been paying attention, you knew this already.

Here are some additional articles that touch on this issue further.

The University of Chicago – Racial Bias in Hiring: Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?

“…study attributes the employment gap mainly to hiring discrimination, high incarceration rates for black people, and African Americans’ lack of inherited wealth from past generations due to a long history of discrimination.”

African-Americans With College Degrees Are Twice As Likely to Be Unemployed as Other Graduates

Study: Even for college-educated blacks, road to full-time work is rocky

“Silicon Valley has a major diversity problem.”

Jam-FBJAM’s PICKS features articles and videos around the web that highlight cultural and social justice issues. Have an article or video for JAM to share? Email JessicaMitchellpr@gmail.com.


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