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Homophily and hiring

by Miki Saxon

Sometimes having the things you know instinctively, or from casual observation, confirmed by expert studies is downright depressing.

I noticed it while growing up, fought it over my 25 years headhunting, wrote and article about it in 1999 called Hiring in Your Comfort Zone, and blogged about it last March in People like me.

Studies looking at its origins and insidiousness were reported Monday by Shankar Vedantam.

“It” is homophily, it’s been around forever, it’s an attitude I personally dislike and it keeps getting worse.

“Smith-Lovin’s research, for example, shows that homophily is on the rise in the United States on nearly every dimension of social identity. Ever larger numbers of people seem to be sealing themselves off in worlds where everyone thinks the way they do.”

As deplorable as this is from the social science perspective, it can be the kiss of a very slow death for companies.

Managers who, unconsciously or not, hire in their own image, no matter how they define that, do their employers harm.

A workforce that homoginizes along any lines is a workforce that will either miss, ignore, or be unable to reach a part of their market.

14 Responses to “Homophily and hiring”
  1. OlessyaNo Gravatar Says:

    A relatively new term to me – not the notion though. Homophily deprives us of sound challenge, decreases the necessary critical thinking and can cause boredom, but on the other hand, it makes life more orderly and comfortable, and sometimes we so much crave for simple BEING UNDERSTOOD! And understanding and empathy comes the easiest from similar ones, doesn’t it?

  2. MikiNo Gravatar Says:

    The word was new to me, too. Actually, I like my term better, PLM (people like me); and we all know that PLM (as you pointed out) = understanding, empathy, and boredom.

    Interestingly, in the course of my life, I’ve found most of my real friends are not PLMs, possibly because we could never take each other for granted and had to really LISTEN to keep the friendship.

  3. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] Mental homogeny is the bastion of lazy managers (it’s self-propagating, too, since managers frequently hire in their own image)—lazy, because it takes little talent and less effort to manage a homogenous group. […]

  4. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] Hire all the same types, most often “people like me;” […]

  5. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] tend to hire in their comfort zone, but more and more that refers to how people think, rather than how they […]

  6. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] homophily— […]

  7. Hiring Creativity Says:

    […] homophily, it’s been around forever and it’s an attitude I run into frequently when it comes to hiring, although it’s rarely intentional. It’s a word you should learn just so you can avoid […]

  8. Ducks In A Row: More On Creating A Culture Of Innovation Says:

    […] Hire all the same types, most often “people like me;” […]

  9. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] Hire all the same types, most often “people like me;” […]

  10. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] homophily, it’s been around forever and it’s an attitude I run into frequently when it comes to hiring, although it’s rarely intentional. It’s a word you should learn just so you can avoid […]

  11. How To Build A High Performance Agile Team Says:

    […] homophily, it’s been around forever and it’s an attitude I run into frequently when it comes to hiring, although it’s rarely intentional. It’s a word you should learn just so you can avoid it. […]

  12. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] drives homophily, not just in people, but skills; is grounded in assumptions and negates the diversity that leads to […]

  13. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] homophily […]

  14. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] It’s been 15 years since I first wrote about the proclivity of managers to hire people like themselves and more over the years showing it leads to homophily and the negative impact that has on a company. […]

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