Cultural norms influence hiring decisions, Stanford study says
- Cultural norms can influence hiring decisions, according to a new report from Stanford’s Jeanne Tsai. The psychology professor and a graduate student studied “how the cultural differences of how emotions are displayed could bias hiring decisions.”
- The data revealed what applicants feel makes a good impression during the interview process. With more than 200 participants, 86% of European Americans wanted to convey excitement rather than calm, compared to 72% of Asian Americans. For Chinese applicants from Hong Kong, the number fell to 48%. But American employers were more likely to hire a candidate who was excited than one who went through the interview process relaxed and calm.
- At issue is that candidates from a range of cultures prefer to present themselves differently and according to their own cultural norms. “Culture fit,” the report suggests, disadvantages some groups over others. For newcomers to the American workplace, Tsai said the differences in presentation could be an explanation for the "bamboo ceiling:" a phenomenon where Asian American’s careers stall at middle management levels.
The study's findings echo the concerns experts have voiced about the focus on "culture fit" in the U.S. workplace. Hiring managers have used the term to cover bias, they say, allowing them to screen out older candidates, for example, without admitting to an Age Discrimination in Employment Act violation.
HR departments should refuse to accept "culture fit" as a reason not to hire, they say. Instead, hiring managers should be asked to evaluate candidates based on a standard set of criteria.
The definition of "culture fit" should be neutral, narrowly tailored and tied to specific company goals, Debra Ellwood Meppen, partner at Gordon & Rees previously told HR Dive. Criteria should be legal and recognizable as a goal that anyone can meet, regardless of their falling within any protected categories.
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