F*ck Culture Fits, Hire Misfits: 4 Formalities To Disregard

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Written by Jaime Laufer,
• 5 min read

Prior to becoming Director of People Operations, I was a creative and digital recruiter. During that time, I consulted with countless hiring managers, HR directors, and talent acquisition specialists about hiring for culture.  

If I had a nickel for every time someone said they were looking for a culture fit, I would be one rich lady. On the surface, hiring a culture fit sounds like a great plan. Let’s get someone into the organization who not only has the skills, but who also mirrors the culture. It’s a no brainer, right?

Hiring a carbon copy employee is a plug and play option. This person will be able to slide right in on day one because they are already one of you. They look like you, sound like you, and think like you. It’s safe.

And uninspiring.

Hiring a culture fit will give you more of the same. Uniform groups produce uniform thinking.

They will perpetuate the same ideas, the same way of thinking, and the same way of doing. And that’s all well and good … if you are running an assembly line.

This does not work in a world where ideating and concepting pay the bills. At Digital Surgeons, our sole purpose is to transform ideas into reality. You can’t do that well if everyone has the same ideas.

To quote our handbook:

“We hire for that intangible quality that we find at the intersection of passion, fit, and skill. We like to break the mold and find humans that can contribute to our weirdness and add value to our work. We like to go after the students of life — the ones who we can teach, but also who can teach us. Our people are our greatest asset, so this process takes time. And, this means that you are meant to be here. You are now one of our great assets.”

But here’s the challenge in my never-ending quest for creative talent:

How do you hire a misfit without it being a mistake?

We say screw the traditional recruiting process, canned questions, and formal interviews. It’s an antiquated approach that doesn’t leave room for creativity or true dialogue. We do it our way.

1) Education – Doesn’t matter. Life, experience, and will power are precious cryptocoins at our shop. We care more about resilience than GPAs. We don’t care which school you went to, or if you even went to college at all. From high school dropouts to classics PhDs, our team is made up of people, not diplomas.

2) Resumes and Cover Letters – Don’t need ‘em. Our CEO, Pete, is known for tearing resumes up (quite literally). This sounds intense but he knows that you wouldn’t be sitting in front of him if you didn’t have the skill (pats self on back for superior screening skills). Pete is looking for grit and audacity – something you can’t easily capture on a piece of paper.

3) Suits – Don’t wear ‘em.  When I send out directions to our office to prospective candidates , I close the email with, “Don’t wear a suit. We like to be comfortable and want you to be too. This is not a test.” Your authentic self paints a much better picture than a bespoke suit. Wear your favorite band T-shirt or your comfiest sweatshirt. Just make sure to wear heart on your sleeve.

4) Interview Scripts – Don’t use ‘em. We’ll usually hand you a marker, point you towards the whiteboard, and ask you to solve a problem. We are able to see, in real time, how you synthesize information, handle time constraints, and think on your feet.

So, if you take a walk through our office, you will see that we are all different. You’ll meet a dancer, a model, and an Instagram star. You’ll run into a philosopher, a fisherman, and a beer aficionado. We have a soldier, a sneaker geek, and an ancient Greek history PhD (a rare species but they still exist in the wild). You’ll find a yogi, a lawyer, and a golfer. We have people from as far as Brazil, Canada, Poland, England, Uzbekistan, and Turkey.

Yes, we are a motley crew. But our unique experiences, preferences, and frameworks combine in unexpected and magical ways. The end result of this fusion is a recipe for forward thinking.

What unites us is a strong pledge to Digital Surgeons’ values. That is our common thread. We have an energy that pushes us to think harder and to move faster. We break things and take them apart so we can understand how they work. We aren’t afraid to stop the room and ask “why.”  We have each others’ backs. We win together and fail together.

We don’t like complacency. We don’t seek out “yes (wo)men”. We don’t want sheep.

We hire disrupters, movers, shakers, and doers.

We hire misfits.

Check out our band of misfits.