Should you hire for culture fit, or should you hire for skill set? It is an ongoing debate in the recruiting space, and both sides have advantages and disadvantages.
If you hire for skill set, you’re guaranteed to get an employee who can do the job. However, even if a candidate has the ideal skill set, they can be a detriment to the function of both the team and the business if they don’t fit the company culture.
On the other hand, if you recruit for culture fit, your new hire will fit in with their team and get along well with their colleagues. However, their skills may not be up to snuff, and they may struggle with the responsibilities of their job.
So, why not hire for both? Culture fit and skill set are both vital to a new hire’s success in their own ways. Instead of prioritizing one over the other, HR pros should be taking both sets of criteria seriously.
Hiring for Skill Set
Some hiring managers assess candidates based on skill set alone without giving much thought to a prospective hire’s cultural fit. It’s easy to understand why: Skill sets can be much easier to define, identify, and analyze than culture fit. On average, it only takes recruiters about six seconds to scan a resume — because that’s all you need to determine whether or not a candidate has the right skills.
Many hiring managers find it tempting to employ someone who has the skill set to hit the ground running because doing so means the organization will have to spend less time and money on training the new hire. Instead, the new employee can start delivering value to the company right away.
However, there is a downside to this approach. The new hire may have all the highly valuable skills you need, but if they don’t fit with the culture, their presence can be destructive to your team. A lousy culture fit can affect overall morale, causing conflicts with other team members. They may even spread their toxicity to their colleagues. While you can train an individual to develop new skills, you can’t alter someone’s attitude to coincide with your organization.
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Hiring for Culture Fit
While a new hire who has excellent skills requires less on-the-job training, cultural fit is of the utmost importance when it comes to developing successful teams. That said, it’s crucial to understand hiring for culture fit doesn’t mean hiring individuals who look, act, and think like everyone else in your company. Instead, it means finding someone who shares your company’s values and exhibits the essential characteristics that will serve your organization’s mission.
A good culture-fit hire is compatible with other members of their team, but that doesn’t mean they are the same as those teams members. The best culture-fit hires are those who can bring new, diverse perspectives to your company, and your organization can leverage their unique insights for increased innovation.
Another benefit of hiring for culture fit is that employees who fit show higher job satisfaction and, as a result, tend to stay with an organization for longer. Employees who remain with your business become more loyal to your company and stick with you for the long run, helping you save time, money, and additional resources that you won’t have to spend on sourcing new candidates to fill their positions.
Often, if you can’t find someone who is both a skills and culture fit, it’s best to prioritize culture. However, your culture-fit candidate will have to be trained for skills before they can start delivering their full value, and that training will cost time and money.
Hiring for Both
The ideal situation is not hiring for skills or culture fit, but hiring for both at the same time. Previously, this was quite difficult to do — which could be why the debate began in the first place. However, thanks to advances in technology, it’s much easier for companies to accomplish this today.
In particular, organizations that want to hire for both culture fit and skill set should implement psychometric assessments in their hiring processes. With the right psychometric assessments, employers can gain an in-depth understanding of a candidate’s behavioral traits and skills simultaneously. When you have access to all that information, you no longer have to choose skills over culture fit or vice versa. You can choose both.
If you want an innovative organization, it’s time to do away with the standard, two-dimensional hiring process. Instead, hire candidates who bring both cultural contributions and adaptable skill sets to your team. You really can have it all.
Samar Birwadker is CEO and cofounder of Good&Co.
Driven by the goal to help the American workplace become happier, healthier, and more efficient for both employees and employers, Samar Birwadker cooked up the concept for Good&Co in 2012. As CEO, he has led diverse teams of technologists, designers, and researchers to drive breakthrough product innovation, a role that aligns perfectly with his Good&Co Persona: an innovative blend of Maverick, Visionary, and Go-Getter. He is responsible for scaling the company after it was acquired by Axel Springer GmBH in 2016.