Hiring for Culture vs. Skills: Which Is the Better Option?

April 19, 2019 at 10:18 pm
Potential employee being interviewed.

Balancing the value of skills and cultural fit is the best way for companies to handle hiring.

The two primary hiring considerations of most hiring teams continue to be the candidate’s skills and cultural fit within the organization. While skills have been the foundation of hiring for just about all of history, cultural fit as a formal hiring criterion is a fairly new but important part of the hiring process.

Culture vs. Skills: Which One is Most Important?

Deciding which aspect of hiring is most important isn’t an easy task. Skills are critical, and without them, a new hire will not be able to do a job very well. Most companies don’t have the time or ability to train their new employees in all the needed skills, either.

On the other hand, cultural fit can be every bit as important as having the right skills. It is extremely common for someone who was enthusiastically hired for their technical skills to be let go because they don’t fit in with the workplace culture.

For a number of reasons, a hybrid approach to hiring that considers both skills and cultural fit is the best course of action, with some flexibility in how these dual objectives are achieved. In an ideal world, hiring teams will always find candidates with the right skills and a great cultural fit, but a recent dearth of candidates in the current labor market could mean settling for less than ideal, at least some of the time.

Evaluating Skills

A well-done resume shows a candidate’s educational background and experience. Someone who has the right qualifications and whose references confirm has held similar positions successfully should inspire confidence that they indeed possess the skills needed for the job.

If more substantiation is needed, it may be possible in some cases to have the candidate perform a task or two on a trial basis so that skills can be better evaluated by a department head or team leader. Certification in an area of expertise, such as IT, education, or project management, shows that the candidate has already passed an examination of skills, so no further proof may be needed.

Employer interviewing potential employee.

Assessments can help to determine cultural fit in a fair and objective way.

Evaluating Cultural Fit

It isn’t nearly as easy to determine the cultural fit of a prospective employee as it is to verify their skills. Cultural fit can be a slippery concept for many hiring teams to understand, and even harder to assess when meeting someone for the first or second time under the stress and pressure of an interview situation. How can hiring teams cut through the candidate’s interview-best behavior and see what they are really like?

It is important to remember that cultural fit is not primarily about a person’s personality or whether they have the right hobbies or charitable pursuits. Evaluating cultural fit is much more about whether the candidate will be a quality employee whose soft skills will allow them to perform well in the job over the long term.

How Pre-Employment Assessments Reveal Cultural Fit

Interview situations typically don’t provide enough time to accurately gauge cultural fit, but a pre-employment assessment can give the hiring team a better view of whether the candidate is compatible with the work they will be asked to do. When cognitive or behavioral characteristics needed for a particular job are lacking, the assessment can pinpoint these areas so that hiring teams can avoid making hires that won’t work out in the long run.

When assessments are used as part of the hiring process, it makes the process more objective rather than being a subjective determination that could be biased or seem less than fair. Assessments are a fair and unbiased way to help make better hiring decisions that will lead to a stronger organization over time.

Start using assessments today to build a higher performing team.