Are you searching for too much similarity? - Michelle Gibbings

It’s natural to want to work with people you like and find easy to work with, and consequently when you are building a team or forming work groups you often seek out such people.

This is either done consciously or subconsciously. In the case of recruitment, for example, search criteria often specifically reference the desire to find a candidate where there is cultural fit.

Cultural fit can mean different things to different people. Typically, if you ask people how they define cultural fit they will give comments such as, someone who:

  • Lives the organisation’s values
  • Is able to work well in the team
  • Will fit in with the rest of the group
  • Understands the organisation’s objectives and buys into its vision

However, when you strip away the layers and get to the base level drivers what the person is looking for is someone who they feel comfortable with. That is, someone who they connect with because they can see aspects of themselves in that person.

Very early in my career I was told that the key success criteria for a job interview was to ensure I was likeable. The premise being the hiring manager has already positively assessed my CV for the required technical skills because they invited me to be interviewed. Now, all they want to know is if they want to work with me.

This likeability isn’t just about being friendly and a nice person. It’s about whether the hiring manager finds similarities with the person they are interviewing. Research shows we like people who are similar to us in terms of interests, backgrounds and experiences, and this has consequential impacts for hiring decisions.

Kellogg University found that getting hired for a job was not so much about the “soft or hard dimensions of the role”, but rather how similar the person being interviewed was to the person conducting the interview.

There’s a danger with this. When you hire people like yourself, you are filling the team or work group with people who have similar backgrounds, experiences and thought processes.

This homogeneity has flow on impacts to how decisions are made. The more alike people are, the more likely they are to think along the same lines and therefore there is less room for debate, discernment and disagreement.

Diverse teams make better decisions.

Research reveals that diverse groups outperform more homogeneous groups not because of an influx of new ideas, but because the diversity triggers more careful processing of the information that’s discussed.

The challenge of course, is it’s very hard to see your own bias, and we can think our decision-making process is rational and objective, when in fact it’s not.

To shift this scenario, it’s important to:

  • Acknowledge your bias because we all have it to varying degrees
  • Actively seek diversity of experience, background, ethnicity, age and gender when forming teams and work groups
  • Recognise that the person at work who really annoys you is often the person you need to spend more time with. Why? Because the source of tension comes from their seeing the world differently to you and this challenge to your frame of reference is good for your thought processes
  • Invite other people into the decision-making process who can shift and provide alternate perspectives

As you do this, it can pay to remember the quote from someone who is probably unknown to you – Doug Floyd: “You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note”.

Getting you ready for tomorrow, today.

Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian.  Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career’. For more information: or contact

Publication: | | |