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[flagged] Facebook did not hire Black employees because they were not a culture fit (businessinsider.com)
35 points by NN88 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments

Not hiring because somebody because they're not a cultural fit is fine (if for some reason you like monoculture).

Determining they're not a cultural fit because they're black, is most definitely not.

"..article published Tuesday said three Black applicants were rejected from jobs at Facebook despite having met all the qualifications."

I presume Facebook mainly interviews people who've met their stated qualifications, rejects more than they accept, so I'm really not sure what the point here is.

"one HR expert said "culture fit" is subjective and indicates the hiring decision is largely not based "on the candidate's ability to deliver results."

Yes, cultural fit is subjective - but so are interviews. If you're using interviews to assess the candidates ability to deliver, then it all gets a bit recursive as you're only testing them on their ability to be interviewed (and you'd hope the best people, don't have much practice at taking interviews)

Now I'm not for one moment saying that Facebook doesn't run regular KKK meetings around the ping-pong table - but I'm just getting a bit tired of contentless content.

> Not hiring because somebody because they're not a cultural fit is fine

While proof of violation may in some cases be difficult, because its very hard to measure the impact of one among several subjective criteria, I find it difficult to believe that there are actual “culture fit” decisions that are not disparate-impact discrimination. To wit, I do not believe that it is ever the case that “culture fit” decisions either:

(1) fail to have a substantial adverse impact on one or another protected class, or

(2) have such an impact but, in fact, effectively measure the minimum qualifications for successful performance of the job in question, so as to fall within the “business necessity” defense.

In fact, I think the predominant purpose of “culture fit” is to provide a cover for arbitrary discrimination by hiring decisionmakers with which unlawful discrimination can be masked in a way which makes it more difficult to litigate, as a liability risk mitigation technique.

and I would partially agree with your last point.

I think is used for arbitrary discrimination (unlawful or otherwise), but I'd suspect the majority of what's folded in there is just stuff that you don't want to put into official response.

I've conducted interviews as a chair-filler (not my interview, not my decision, but just to chip in and discuss the victim afterwards).

I have awarded negative points for: Mentioning your father's job 3 times. Continuing to draw on a whiteboard with a marker that's run out, when there were 4 others next to the pen you selected. Being rude to the receptionist. Telling me to be quiet until you'd finished drawing, when I tried to nudge you back to answering the question I actually asked. Not being able to provide any response/elaboration on a CV bullet-point.

Some of these you could shape into constructive feedback, but easier to just say they "don't fit"

> Not hiring because somebody because they're not a cultural fit is fine (if for some reason you like monoculture).

No, it is absolutely not fine.

One's livelihood should not be determined by an ability to fit into some monocultural clique based on one hiring manager's subjective view of a culture they are not familiar with. I thought companies were trying to accomplish certain business goals, and not build cultural/ideological echo chambers (unless they build that as a product, which I guess Facebook does).

> Determining they're not a cultural fit because they're black, is most definitely not.

Yes, and culture is most certainly intertwined with ethnicity, or at the very least - by location. Should companies be allowed to screen candidates from, say...Vermont, or Louisiana just because it's not a protected discriminatory attribute. Sorry, people of Vermont. You're just not a great culture fit for us.

I'm honestly struggling with trying to come up for any good reason to hold this opinion in the first place.

> Yes, cultural fit is subjective - but so are interviews.

This isn't a reason to throw out one with the other. Just because interviews are flawed is no excuse to discriminate based on culture. Not to mention there at least exist frameworks for testing skills and ability (no matter how flawed they are). There are no frameworks for testing "cultural fit", and, at least as of now, 99% of hiring managers would not be equipped to be a good judge of culture.

You misunderstood me (or I wasn't clear, sorry).

When I said it was "Fine" - I didn't mean it was 'fair' or in any way a sensible thing to do. Just that you legally could if you wanted to (but it would be stupid).

There is no good reason for anybody to hold this opinion.

You're right, I did misunderstand.

In this day and age, this should be regulated and it's unfortunate that companies found a loophole to basically deny any applicant based on some arbitrary preferences.

Speaking from a googler's pov, our interview training explicitly instructs us to recommend hires based on "Culture Add", not "Culture Fit", which is a much more enlightened approach. It's a core component of our overall DEI initiatives, and I respect the fact that our organizational development folks think cultural diversity is such a notable hallmark of strong teams to reinforce the messaging across the board.

I was about to write something sarcastic about semantics - but then I engaged my brain.

If your company is a bowl of 999 blue M&Ms and somebody asks you to find a new M&M that will Fit That Bowl I know what I'd be reaching for (feels like question #1 on an IQ test)

I still think I dislike the 'Culture' word though. The company has a culture & minority staff have a culture - but these are not the same things. The actual company culture isn't even the same thing as individual summation of individuals in it.

Back to the M&M bowl. Each person that added the previous 999 M&Ms didn't hate the other colours - they just fitted that +1 Blue that fit what they found.

Then edict comes down that the big-blue bowl looks really unappetizing, and doesn't actually look like M&Ms. This bowl is not representative of M&Ms! Oh I'll stop now..

..I just had mental picture of an experiment. Send people into a room with an unopened M&M packet and instructions to fit or add to the bowl. Then maybe vary the bowl contents (number in it, skew the colours). Then further fiddle with the ratio in their 'sealed' packet... OK, I said I'd stop..

Have they given guidance on what that means?

In the abstract, it sounds really good: "We're hiring you because you're different and we want that over another person who brings more of the same." In practice, it sounds like an opportunity to have managers add "s/Culture Fit/Culture Add/" to an outgoing message filter.

You'll know it's real when managers start pushing back: "I don't want that person because they sound like a real jackass". That's what "culture fit" was supposed to mean. That's where the rubber really meets the road: teaching people to distinguish between the discomfort they feel because somebody is a jerk versus the discomfort they feel because they're attuned to people like them and everybody else introduces a tiny, almost subconscious air of uncertainty.

It's really hard to do, because a lot of people don't want to think of themselves as racist/sexist/homophobic, but the cumulative effect of those tiny nudges causes a lot of harm.

Guidance & case studies, yes.

And yes, it's hard to do.

This was flagged/dead and I vouched this because I think it is an interesting issue that we should be able to have a reasonable discussion around. Currently we have on the front page of HN an article talking about what makes a great company culture, so clearly culture screening needs to happen before you hire someone. There also needs to be a check on this very subjective metric though, otherwise it is a way for conscious or unconscious biases to sneak into the process.

> clearly culture screening needs to happen before you hire someone

No, it doesn’t. An actually strong culture at a company is something that that will be adopted by new employees regardless of whether they completely fit preconceived notions or not. Over emphasis on culture fit during the screening process generally leads to mono cultures that only appear to be strong, but are actually quite weak because they are never challenged.

> strong culture at a company is something that that will be adopted by new employees

This is not true. The relationship is bi-directional. Yes, culture can influence new hires, but the reverse is also true. I've seen first hand that the addition of one toxic individual to a small to mid-size team can massively harm the culture of that team. Heck, this is just as true in our personal lives. We've all had that one person who brings down an otherwise healthy group text.

Obviously, you need to have safeguards against discrimination. However, you also need to give hiring managers leeway to go with their instincts. Often when interviewing someone you'll have a gut feeling about them, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Those times when I've had a bad gut feeling about a candidate and ignored it, I've later come to regret it.

If managers can't have discretion without consulting a decision matrix, lest they be accused of some "ism", you might as well just get rid of the interview process and save both the applicants and the interviewers a lot of time and stress.

It's hard to separate gut feeling from unconscious bias.

Those times you remember not listening to your gut and regretting it are susceptible to confirmation bias.

Personally, I've had great gut feelings about people that turned out to be terrible hires. I've had bad feelings about people who turned out great. I've had direct work experience with folks that were amazing, and then at a future job they performed quite poorly.

There's no removing subjectivity from interviews probably, but I highly recommend you turn down your gut feelings if you have an interest in unbiased or at least less biased hiring decisions.

Facebook's official policy for a while has been, don't use the phrase "culture fit". The interviews previously known as "culture fit" are mostly asking you questions designed to answer things like, do you work hard, are you good at working with other people, are you an asshole. In my experience as an interviewer at Facebook, most people rejected for cultural reasons were either jerks during the interview in some way, or expressed that they weren't really interested in the job. Really nothing to do with ethnic background.

That is how I use the term culture fit. It doesn't mean do they have the same hobbies, interests, or likes. That isn't important, what I care about is their ability to work with others, respectfully disagree, ignore/cross boundaries to solve problems, admit when they don't know something, be invested in the problems/products they are building/solving. If I just wanted a cog to churn out code that meets requirements I could get that for half the price by outsourcing.

If culture fit is just code-speak for 'gets along with people and isn't a jerk' (aka agreeableness) then it's fine.

But things like sports, music, food--these are all highly culture associated. Even if you aren't mentioning race and even if you are not trying to discriminate--you probably are.

If it's the latter, then it's wrong (and probably illegal too). If it's the former, why call it culture fit?

That's typically that way I've seen it used. You can't put in a formal applicant eval, "So-and-so is an a--h--- who you couldn't pay me enough to work with".

I wish society could reject Facebook as "not a culture fit." I can't imagine why anyone wants to work there or feels good about doing so. Just the fact that you are okay with working for Facebook is reason enough that I don't want to work with you.

On the topic at hand, not to be too controversial, but what's stopping an unscrupulous black person from applying to jobs, getting rejected, and then publicly claiming to be a victim of racism? Our culture encourages this attitude of victimhood so it's not like such a claim would meet any resistance. Apparently it earns you an article in Business Insider. Now consider that the kind of person who would actually be "not a culture fit" (i.e. an asshole, jerk in the interview, etc.) is the same kind of person who would run to Business Insider when they didn't get a job they wanted.

Is there any particular reason to think these no-hires were disproportionate?

A lot of white and asian applicants are also rejected for culture fit.

That's very much true. When I first got out of school, I found myself in an industry where I was very much not a good cultural fit. While I did find a job, I had trouble advancing and I was never able to get a job anywhere else in that industry.

I eventually changed to an industry where I was a better cultural fit and it was like night and day. I enjoyed the work more, my career picked up, and I just generally liked my coworkers better. It was still a job, so things weren't and aren't perfect, but everything does improve when you're in a place that's a good fit for you.

Those companies that we rejecting me as "Not a good cultural fit", were right, and I would have been less happy in the long term had they ignored the cultural fit issues and hired me anyway. Like a lot of young people, I didn't know myself well at the time.

Sometimes people aren't a good fit for an industry or a company, and nobody wants to hire someone who they think is ultimately going to be unhappy in the role. That doesn't do anyone any good.

>Critics have criticized the idea of a "culture fit," arguing it sidelines people of color

Is there any room left in our society to acknowledge cultural clash? It feels like I'm being gaslit when the imperative is to "celebrate diversity" and simultaneously deny that positive differences between cultures mathematically implies negative differences, which among other things can hinder cooperation.

There are differences in people-group cultures - trivial examples being music genres, manner of speaking, how loud parties get, etc. Substantive group culture differences might include how much education is valued. All this being on average, taken as a group.

But group cultural distinctives/values are very different from corporate culture. Corporate culture goes to how decisions are made, forgiveness vs. permission, what behavior is rewarded, etc. I don't think you can get that from a job interview. I don't believe you can interview for "corporate culture fit" and I don't think it correlates to people-group.

I'm pretty confident it's correlated.

One issue I have personal experience with is what's called "cooperative overlapping". In most corporate cultures, you're expected to nod along to what people say and reply only when they're finished talking. But in many people-group cultures, including my native one, talking over people is a neutral to positive thing showing your engagement with a conversation. (In fact, failing to interject can be negative in some contexts, signaling that you don't care at all what they have to say and you're just waiting for the babbling to stop.) I've learned to adapt to the degree that I'm seen as impatient rather than simply rude, but it requires substantial effort, and I'll probably never be able to do it as well as people who grew up with this style of conversation.

It’s a dishonest political cudgel:

Notice how companies like Google, FB, etc that advocate “diversity and inclusion” tend to have highly skewed politics, such as harassing and firing conservative employees.

The calls for “diversity” are the exact opposite — a call for cultural hegemony by far left views and racistly color-coordinating the population, so we have “balance” in the view of avowed racists.

The purpose is to bully anyone who opposes their racist ideology by labeling them as “against diversity” — a standard language game from fascists.

You are being gaslit.

cannot resist that delicious bait

Google and all the rest have many people all over the spectrum, claiming they were being fired for being too left, too right, gay, straight, white, a minority etc - and whenever it happens that little side of the identity-internet jumps up and down in indignation.

I rarely see the "couldn't do the job I was asked to do" or "wound up my co-workers to the point of disruption" - or really any story where there's acceptance of any personal blame.

You do not know what a fascist is - I'd recommend you lookup "Khmer Rouge" for any future arguments you might wish to make against 'leftists'

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