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Cultural Fit is Important – But Adding New Can Also be Good

By: Barry R. Cesafsky LFACHE

What is the best predictor of success? Success in life. Success in career achievements. Success through academics. Success in a marriage or in a family. Or, triumph in just about any endeavor, to name just a few. Many believe the crucial aspect in any key executive hiring decision is “The Fit.”  At HealthSearch Partners, we believe that culture fit is very important. Nevertheless, we also know there is more to it than just culture fit alone.

Remember, as a child, when we attempted to put the wooden Playskool puzzles together. Each piece would only fit a certain way. When we learned what pieces fit where, we were successful, and we giggled with a sense of pride. We’d found the perfect fit.

Leaders of organizations attempt to make sure the right people are in the right positions to ensure that the organization will thrive, that it will be successful and fulfill its core mission to serve. A wise graduate school professor, Ed Arlinghaus, once told me, “If you put a square peg in a round hole, you’ll have problems from day one.” He implied that even the smartest, most skilled executive may not have the personal values to match the culture of the organization.

Job fit looks beyond skills and knowledge. It also considers personality traits such as teamwork, confidence, and honesty. These can be suitable predictors of how well a person may perform in a role. It is easy to compare job descriptions with resumes. The challenge, when it comes to job fit, is accurately assessing personality traits and matching culture to the individual. Accurate information about a candidate along with relevant, well-defined job criteria are necessary before job fit can be determined. Candidate information can be obtained from behavior-based interviews, personal references, and sometimes from personality tests.

Focusing on culture fit means that a person who is being hired shares the values of the organization and, therefore, will fit perfectly in the leadership team. But, as often is the case, soon issues can arise. Culture fit means matching the current culture, but it can also bring to the organization people who think the same. This can lead to groupthink, poor innovation, or a simple lack of diverse perspectives, which can be quite limiting for the organization.

By adding some diverse perspective, a candidate’s “fit,” for an organization can actually enhance its culture in ways that will lift the organization to a new level. It’s about finding candidates who culturally fit, but who also bring in fresh ideas and different perspectives on how things are done.

So, the question is: “Do you hire candidates who fit into the established culture, or do you seek out individuals who add to it in meaningful ways that may challenge existing structures?” The answer is: Both.

Hiring executives who can both fit into and add to the culture can and should be done. The solution is simple. First, you need to understand and be able to define your culture. You probably already know it and describe it when talking about
your organization to others. Focus on this and on the characteristics that are associated with the actions of others around you that reflect your culture. Then measure these qualities when evaluating a new executive. Select people who share cultural attributes, but who also have desired characteristics that might not be abundant in the culture. A good balance of cultural fit and diversity is absolutely the best.

HealthSearch Partners is eager to assist you in finding the best candidate that’s the right fit to fill your next leadership position. With a foundation of more than 100 years’ combined experience, HealthSearch principals are adept at matching leaders with clients, particularly with CEO searches. We focus on finding individuals whose background and track record demonstrate high performance in all areas of importance to healthcare organizations: high quality care, customer satisfaction, operational improvement and financial success. Most important, we understand what is necessary to determine both cultural fit and diversity.


About the author: Barry Cesafsky is the Co-Founder of HealthSearch Partners. With more than 35 years of experience in the executive search field he brings a wealth of insight and knowledge to each executive search assignment. Contact Barry:, or 630.645.6501.

About HealthSearch Partners: HealthSearch Partners is a nationally recognized healthcare executive search firm. We partner with mission-driven hospitals and health systems to find leaders who are focused on success. As a mid-sized firm, our senior search leaders work with clients throughout the engagement, accessing a larger pool of talent, to find the right candidate that is the right fit for the client.