Whichever side of the divide you are on – either hiring or applying for a position, cultural fit is something that comes into play, and that you have experienced.
Cultural fit is the likelihood that a job candidate will be able to conform and adapt to the core values and collective behaviours that make up an organization. (http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/Cultural-fit).
This fit is part of what companies and hiring mangers call “soft skills” – sometimes intangibles, based on subjective impressions, the candidate’s long term goals, personality, and sadly, can be a euphemism for age or gender. Some companies use psychological testing to try to determine these factors.
Whereas hard skills are easy to delineate on a resume, and can be tested for in most situations, a candidate matching the hard skills requirements better than all other candidates may not get the job. Hiring managers will say s/he was not a fit. It is often hard to elaborate, as the answer lies between the lines.
You may be too serious, too light-hearted, be out of the average age range (unless you are applying for a management position). In fact, if you are applying for a management position, they may not like your management style, even if you have managed many such projects, types of people, or departments before. Or as a manager, you may feel this way about an applicant.
Cultural fit may also reflect your own insecurities if you are the hiring manager – Do you feel threatened by his/her knowledge and skills? Do you feel you will be supplanted? You may feel that you cannot give her/him orders, or that you will be uncomfortable working with her/him.
Recently we were asked to recruit a department director for a company. The VP to whom the position reported chose to hire the least experienced person, as she felt she could only influence this person, and she was not comfortable having someone close to being her equal in the position. Truly this does not benefit the company, but it is not a rare occurrence.
In another instance, we sent five programmers to be interviewed for a position. The manager again chose the least experienced, who would require the steepest learning curve. Why? He said he liked him best. He could work with him, plain and simple.
No explaining love, really.
But some of this could border on discrimination. “Discrimination is an action or a decision that treats a person or a group negatively for reasons such as their race, age or disability. These reasons are known as grounds of discrimination. Federal employers and service providers, as well as employers and service providers of private companies that are regulated by the federal government, cannot discriminate against individuals for these reasons.” (http://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/eng/content/what-discrimination) Please also refer to this web site for employer obligation and human rights protection in Canada, as this is a very complicated issue.