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Skill Set vs. Cultural Fit: Which One Wins?

Skill Set vs. Cultural Fit: Which One Wins?

One of the great debates amongst many hiring managers is the importance of skill set versus cultural fit.  Quite a few of you will probably lean more towards skill set.  However, a new hire with the ideal skill set but no cultural fit can be detrimental not only to your team, but to your business.

Let’s take a look at the differences in hiring someone first with only skill set versus a candidate with only cultural fit. 

Hiring a Candidate with Skill Set Only

In my hiring experience, I have fallen into the trap of hiring for skill set with no regard towards cultural fit.  As a hiring manager pressed with limited time for training, it can be very tempting to hire someone you believe can “hit the ground running” with little to no training.  However, regardless of the amount of experience or skill level, every new hire will require some form of training.

In the past, I have hired candidates with high skill level, only to find that I have added someone who does not fit in with my team or company culture.  Believe me, these are not easy situations to deal with as it is nearly impossible to make this kind of situation workout.  While you can often train someone to develop new skills, it is not always possible to alter someone’s attitude or cultural fit.

An employee can have all the skill set and smarts in the world, but that doesn’t mean that he will add team value.  The damage that one negative person can do to your team is unbelievable.  This person can affect the entire team’s attitude and drive, costing your company time and money.

Hiring a Candidate with Cultural Fit Only

In my opinion and experience, I believe that cultural fit is of great importance when it comes to hiring for a successful team.

Quite often, in my hiring experience, there were times when I would hire someone lacking a full skill set due to their great potential to fit in with my team.  As long as the individual had the drive and ability to learn, I found that I had greater success rather than with someone with high skill level and zero cultural fit.

Having the opportunity to train someone according to your specific way of business and company culture is often the best way to go.  With these new hires, you have no old habits to break when you are able to lay the foundation of their initial training.

I have noticed in the past that the track record and success of my employees who were hired for cultural fit versus skill set were often the ones who were the most successful.  These employees went the furthest in the business and industry.

In a perfect world, you would hire a candidate with some skill set and great cultural fit.  However, when this is not possible, I encourage you to consider candidates who will mesh well with your culture first.

Which do you typically hire for – cultural fit or skill set?  Please share your tips in the comments below.

Image: Wavebreak Media Ltd/

Julia Weeks

Julia is a skilled Recruiter with over 8 years of experience in sourcing, interviewing, and hiring within many industries globally. She works closely with hiring managers and job seekers to understand needs and desires, while offering guidance and ensuring the right fit. When not recruiting or writing, Julia enjoys spending time outside cycling, taking her dog for walks, or honing her sailing skills.

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