Cultural Fit and Bias

A while back, I had an interview for a Librarian I position at one of my local libraries. I was really excited and I psyched myself out a bit in all the excitement of wanting the job—exactly what I had reminded myself numerous times not to do. The interview started off well enough, but I was asked some pretty unexpected questions.

For instance, almost the first question was about high school. Granted, it hasn’t been a decade since I was out of high school, but it’s been a solid six years and….my life back then is complicated. I tried to keep it simple. Yadda yadda…I went to four different schools…”Why?” Oh….yadda yadda..My mom wanted to move…”Why?” Um….Well, she didn’t like where we were living…..”Why?” And so on and so forth.

All of the questioning went this way and I was more than happy to answer, but I did start to feel like I was word-vomiting. I had an answer for everything! And it was exhausting!!!! Apparently, they felt the same. I couldn’t exactly blame them, but what I didn’t understand was, if they didn’t want to know the answer, why ask me? Needless to say, it didn’t go well. I felt drained by the end. I was positive I didn’t get the job not only because of the dialogue, but also because at the end I was told in no uncertain terms and by the director themselves that they would not be hiring the candidate with the most education, nor the candidate with the most experience; no, they would be hiring the person who fit in the most.

That’s when it hit me. They didn’t like me. This interview had been about personality, not history. Essentially, I had just lost a personality test.

I really felt that I had done the best anyone could have in answering whatever questions were thrown my way. But I admit that I was so nervous I definitely had had better answers in interviews beforehand.
Either way, I felt a little cheated. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I have a great personality. I love talking, discussing things, having fun. I really love to make people laugh and just generally be amicable to all, but because of the direction in which the questions had gone I had had no opportunity to show who I was, who I am and because of that, I had lost out on the job.

 

Upon reading The insidious nature of “fit” in hiring and the workplace by Meredith Farkas shared by Tris Chandler on her blog, I suddenly realized that it is entirely possible that I had actually experienced cultural fit and bias during this very interview.

 

That possibility is almost surreal to me. That and the fact that, now that I recognize it for what it is, I know that I have experienced it before–certainly once or twice to my benefit, but more often than not the experience was detrimental not only to my opinion of myself as a job seeker, but to my opinion of the companies that I sought work within.

 

Knowing that now makes me wonder how, when I am in a position of hiring in the workplace, do I stay away from that bias myself? Are there others that acknowledge this and try to work on this as well?

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