Of course, no one feels comfortable having to choose between the two. And yet, we don’t live in a perfect world and candidates bring different things to the interview table.
To even start thinking this topic through, it’s important we understand what a skill set is and what makes up the cultural fit.
Are skill sets important?
A skill set is a particular category of skills or abilities necessary to perform a job. Skill sets are easy to showcase based on previous jobs, numbers, achievements or in other words quantifiable facts. A good recruiter would have no problem to assess these looking at a resume, through interviews or tests.
So why even have any debates when a candidate can fit the job from a skills point of view?
After all, they will require less hand-holding, less training, and a shorter ramp-up period in the new job. They are people that hold a certain level of expertise that can just be plugged into an organization and bring immediate results.
What about culture fit?
It’s very tempting for recruiters who spend merely seconds to pick and choose what candidates will make it forward in the selections process. Candidates have complex personalities and unique combinations of upbringing and experiences.
When searching for new hires, hiring managers and recruiters want to ensure that the person who’ll join the organization will have preferences, personal and work styles that aren’t far from the hiring organization’s culture. Organizational psychology guru Adrian Furnham offers a definition for the cultural fit in his seminal academic textbook, “The Psychology of Behaviour at Work”: “A fit is where there is congruence between the norms and values of the organization and those of the person.”
Asking candidate’s questions such as the following will help you uncover their, likes, dislikes and expectations:
-> Why do you want to work here?
-> How would you describe your ideal workplace?
-> What makes the work environment frustrating to you?
-> Do you prefer working in a team or alone/as a sole contributor?
-> Who was your best boss and what made them so great?
It’s critical however you take these questions and customize them to help you compare with your organization’s culture. Some companies are more loose when it comes to time and make results the sole main requirement, some are very eclectic and laid back wanting to foster creativity and outside-the-box thinking, and some that are very formal such as banks and other financial institutions.
If he/she is a fit, then they will feel good working for the company’s goals. The importance of cultural fit will reflect in the employee’s productivity. They will also be interested in the results they bring.
So what now?
You do need people to bring the right skills to the table to fulfill their jobs, and you also want a great alignment between the person’s and the organization’s values. However, as mentioned we don’t live in a perfect work: What if you had to choose between the skill set and culture alignment?
Culture always comes first.
Culture is the glue that holds an organization together, and the cost of poor culture fit can cost that organization between 50% to 60% of the person’s annual salary. So before you start vetting candidates, it’s critical that you define and articulate the organization’s culture (values, goals, practices, etc.). Only then will the recruiting process highlight the best candidates according that fit the culture.
Everything considered, culture fit should never be at the expense of different personalities, backgrounds, and a diverse workforce.
However, you do need to prioritize. First, make sure the values, ethics, morals, principles, etc. are there. Otherwise, you may find yourself hiring someone who has outstanding skills with a poor cultural fit. They will challenge your organization’s existence at every step of the way, either silently, or vocally. Sometimes it’s useful to have a new and constructive perspective on things. But if you have a culture that has proven time and time again to be beneficial for the organization’s development, for its employees and not the least its customers, then you should stick to it. Someone new who will not integrate with the team and organization will only cause unnecessary friction.
Lastly, in order to decrease the probability that you need to be in such a tough situation to choose between skill set and culture, hire continuously. Always be on the lookout for people who are shining in their current roles, who are delivering value to their customers and enjoy being part of something greater than themselves and their jobs.
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