Should you hire for skills or cultural fit?

Should you hire for skills or cultural fit? Many employers are beginning to understand the importance of hiring for cultural fit. Traditional recruitment leans towards hiring for skills first, and then determining whether or not a candidate is a good cultural fit. The risk with this approach is that you may become attached to the candidate, due to their desirable skills, and try to justify their cultural fit even when it doesn’t feel right.

Do the candidate’s values align with those of your company?

At its core, cultural fit means that employees' beliefs and behaviours align with their employer's core values and company culture. Culture can vary so much from company to company that the most qualified candidate can do damage to a firm if their values clash with the company’s culture. They can drive away customers, profits and other employees.

Conversely, people who fit well into their companies enjoy greater job satisfaction, perform better and are more likely to remain with the same organisation for a longer period of time.

Skills and cultural fit are both important. You can’t build a business with employees who fit the culture but lack the prerequisite skills. A person with the right fit but lacking in skills might slow down progress temporarily, but are unlikely to do serious damage. Up to a point, a person who is culturally aligned with your company can be taught the skills needed to perform the job. Qualifications and skills can be taught, honed and developed, but cultural fit is not teachable and can make or break a candidate. So, it makes sense to screen first for fit and then for skills.

How to hire for cultural fit.

 Start with detailed job descriptions, focusing on the specific tasks a role demands, and the qualities you are looking for, rather than over-used phrases and clichés.

 The use of psychometric or job-fit tests are becoming increasingly popular. These tests are a somewhat more scientific way to measure something that is, in reality, immeasurable.

 Finally, a list of questions that will assess the candidate against your purpose, values and mission will help guide you through the selection process. Interview question guides can be tailored to a given role, and geared towards gauging a candidate’s cultural fit with your organisation. You can download a sample interview guide here, or contact one of our friendly distributors to find out more.