So Long, “Culture Fit,” Veterans Make Superior “Culture Adds”

Embedded in corporate hiring processes for years, the term “culture fit” began as a way of assessing whether a potential employee could sufficiently meld into a company’s work vibe. However, the practice of hiring based on cultural fit has increasingly become viewed as fraught with unconscious bias and as a roadblock to inclusivity and diversity.

The term is now being replaced with examining whether a candidate is a “culture add.”

Although America has come a long way in recognizing military talent and hiring veterans, harmful stereotypes and whisper campaigns about veterans have not been completely erased. These misconceptions continue, albeit on a lesser scale than a decade ago. Veterans are still being passed over because they’re not a “cultural fit,” a determination that can be grounded in ignorance about the military experience and the multitude of skills veterans bring to the table.

So, what do veterans bring to the workplace that make them great culture-adds for any company?

  • Leadership
  • Both ethnic and gender diversity
  • Extraordinary dedication
  • Heightened sense of teamwork
  • Loyalty
  • Ability to pivot and think outside the box
  • And more


What’s the difference?

A hiring process based on cultural fit examines whether candidates will “fit in.” However, that determination can vary widely by hiring manager and relies too much on likability. Do they think like me? Do they share my worldview? Are they too “different”?  It’s too much of a popularity contest. You might really like being around this person, but that doesn’t guarantee he/she will be successful or enhance the organization. Data suggests that companies with a strong emphasis on cultural fit can struggle when it comes to innovation.

In contrast, a culture-add assessment looks at ways to bring in diverse candidates and incorporate their different worldviews. According to Forbes, Pandora sought to rework its approach to culture by creating a concept known as “culture add.” It means that a company’s voice and values should reflect the views, backgrounds, and voices of its personnel.

A culture-add philosophy seeks out candidates that can add to a company’s culture rather than blend in with it. Veterans are great culture “adds” and are too often dismissed because they are not culture “fits.”

To truly assess whether a candidate is a culture-add requires delving into company culture early in the hiring process. First, a company’s values must be identified with clearly-defined traits a candidate should embody before the interview ever happens. Interview questions must connect to these values. For example, if a company values integrity, asking candidates to talk about how they’ve stood up for something they believed in is a great way to connect the dots. Of course, veterans will have the best answer of all to this question: “I served my country.”