The Importance of Culture Fit

What makes a great candidate? Talent and experience are crucial. A strong track record and reputation help too. But there’s something equally important to companies that candidates often overlook– culture fit. It’s a factor that is hard to define and can be used for disingenuous reasons, but it is important.

I recently sent a resume to a client who expressed immediate interest. The next morning, however, once the team had discussed the resume in question, they decided not to interview him. They were familiar with the candidate from their network, and all agreed he is great. They like him and they know he is talented and effective. But they believed even before interviewing him that it wouldn’t be a good culture fit, so they passed. 

Just as no two candidates are alike, every fund has its own approach to problem-solving, its own appetite for risk, and its own work style. Hiring teams want to see more than whether you can do the work, they want to see if you can do the work their way. Although this can be a source of great frustration for candidates, attention to fit benefits everyone. It is something to pay special attention to during your job search. 

As noted in a recent post, on Wall Street, it’s best to avoid job hopping. Paying attention to culture fit is a critical component of making sure you can stay and grow at a given institution. Are you going to get along with the people you’ll be working with? Do you consider and approach problems in a way that’s compatible with the firm and the other members of your team? Are you in sync with the internal communication style? 

Evaluating culture can be difficult, but there are a few important factors to keep in mind. When you are speaking to the hiring manager and the staff, do you feel like you can communicate effectively? Are there misinterpretations or irritations? Ask questions about work style, how information gets shared (or not), how does management react to and handle errors and problems?

Culture fit is not about homogeneity. Contributing to a diversity of thought is also a way of fitting in. You do not have to do things exactly one way. Rather, it’s about compatibility. 

Imagine a basketball team. My son likes to point out that the Golden State Warriors built a dynasty on elite three-point shooting and ball movement. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry have been the faces of the Warriors for their ability to shoot. They would not have achieved that renown however, without Draymond Green. He is a player who rarely scores but sets screens and passes the ball in ways that make it possible for other players to shoot well. 

Being a strong culture fit doesn’t have to mean being Steph Curry or Klay Thompson. It can also mean being Draymond Green (or Kevin Durant, Andrew Wiggins, or any of the other players who have helped them achieve success). What is most important is thinking about how you can contribute to the team’s success and whether that type of success gets recognition and is valued there.

Culture fit is subjective. It is not about ability, and you should never take a rejection on those grounds as a judgment. You want to be able to stay in a role and find success, and you would not be able to do that at a firm if you do not fit well. Remember to consider fit as you plan the next step of your career.