I wrote and sent the following letter to DuckDuckGo yesterday, via their “tell us about something you love” form. (They also have a “tell us about something you don’t love” form, but I saw no need for a negative stance…)

Hello! I come here to remark on your hiring page (https://duck.co/help/company/hiring). I’m not looking to apply — I just wanted to say that I was quite impressed with transparently laying out your hiring rubric. I wish more tech companies did that. I must say, I’m so impressed that I do believe I’m driven to start taking DDG for a spin again. Maybe you’ll be hearing from me again in a few months…!

But until then, I would like to suggest a slight change in that page’s word choice. I must admit, following the link from jobs.perl.org and seeing the phrase “culture fit” used so prominently and repeatedly initially got my hackles up. Fortunately the page quite quickly goes on to explain exactly what it means by those two words, voicing a desire to hire mainly from the pool of dedicated DDG users and hackers. This is, as I’ve said, the part that quite pleased and impressed me! It’s also why I feel driven to share my thoughts on why I find the phrase problematic, so that you might consider rethinking its use.

In the tech subculture I find myself in, “culture fit” represents quite a loaded expression, and is often viewed with suspicion when encountered. There’s a sense among my peers that the term is often abused as an excuse to not hire someone because they’re of an unexpected gender, or socioeconomic background, or musical taste or what have you. In blunter terms, it’s seen as a flimsy self-assigned carte blanche for discriminatory hiring practices, and a lack of interest in building or maintaining a diverse team.

Examples of public critique of “culture fit”, the first two of which come up for me in the first ten Google hits for just that quoted phrase:

• http://www.inc.com/barry-schuler/why-hiring-for-fit-is-baloney.html

• http://valleywag.gawker.com/culture-fit-is-a-shitty-excuse-for-marginalizing-wome-1186914306

• http://tommorris.org/posts/8093

Having read through your hiring page, I don’t assume that DDG possesses the negative traits expressed in these articles — which is all the more reason that its use of this yellow-flag expression feels like a mismatch worth telling you about. Consider, perhaps, replacing “culture” with “community”? It is the DDG community, specifically and literally, that you wish to draw new talent from, yes?

Anyway, that is my overly complicated and thornsome “I Love” text for you. Please keep up the excellent work! I look forward to using Duck Duck Go more in 2014.

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