Culture Fit vs. Skill Set: What’s More Important?

January 23, 2018
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The U.S. economy added 2.1 million jobs in 2017. Wages grew by 2.5%. Economists predict unemployment will drop to the low 4% range, possibly even in the high 3% in 2018.

It's safe to say the economy is doing pretty dang well. More people are employed, awesome. But this also means that more people will be moving jobs/transitioning into other roles. I’m sure recruiters feel this pressure every single day.

In a perfect world, the ideal candidate has a combination of the right culture fit and skill set. However, a perfect world is a farfetched one. Recruiters have to decide (often with risks) which is more valuable: culture or skills? Let's find out.

Skills alone are limiting

Recruiters have no time to spare; we all know that. The obvious choice is to make a decision based on what's already in front of them: a resume. But see, there are 3 big problems with that.

1. The average recruiter spends as little as 6 seconds reviewing an individual resume.
I'm hard-pressed to believe an adequate decision is made in that little time. There are always those must-have skills, but there is also the lower priority (still priority!) skills. How can a recruiter possibly organize and compare priority skills to a resume in 6 seconds? Surprise: They can’t.

2. Recruiters and companies get hung up on education.
While there is merit in earning a degree, an ivy league education (wrongly) overshadows valuable skills, learning experiences, and role-related accomplishments. That's where the focus should be: experience and accomplishments.

3. Resumes don't offer the opportunity to showcase personality.
Sure, candidates can add a splash of color here and there. That’s by no means a well-rounded depiction of who they are. As we’ll learn later, personality is important. Like, really important.

Culture alone is also limiting

As much as companies claim they "hire based on culture," it's way more common for companies to not hire someone based on culture. Here are a couple reasons why:

1. Companies have varying interpretations of "culture."
When companies fail to define their cultures, it can be tough to locate a candidate who fits that culture.

2. Since culture is so fluid, the decision comes down to a gut instinct.
In other words, it becomes a personal preference; not an objective one. This subjectivity brings me to my next point.

3. The more personal we get, the more room for biases.
Biased hiring decisions are bad news all around. Doesn't matter how you look at it.

Since culture is so all over the place, here are some quick tips to identify true culture fit.

How to measure culture fit the right way

First, find out how the company defines its culture (even though it'll probably sound vastly different from company to company). If you receive a vague answer, push for more elaboration. If all else fails, scour websites, social accounts, etc. to find a concrete narrative.

Okay, so, structured interviews guarantee that candidates receive the same evaluation criteria. It’s still important to have an actual conversation though. You know, be a human. Work in X-amount of time to talk culture. For example, ask questions like:

1. Tell me about a time you [exhibited core value].
If the company values teamwork and the candidate tells a story about a time she led a team to victory, bingo. Culture fit.

2. What did you enjoy most about your previous roles?
If a company values agility and a candidate thrived in a fast-paced environment that required quick-thinking, perfect. Culture fit.

3. What did you enjoy the least?
If a candidate left a job because there were no leadership opportunities, she wouldn't be a great fit for a company with little room for advancement.

4. What's your long-term career goal?
For a company that values an entrepreneurial spirit, a candidate who wants to start her own company is a good bet. For a company looking for long-term and dedicated employees, she might not be a top choice.

How to measure skill sets the right way

Regardless of those problems, skills do matter. The best advice I can give you is to keep an eye out for keywords, but dig a bit deeper. Find out how the candidate used the skills. How long did it take her to learn them? What did she actually accomplish using those skills? What an applicant writes on a resume doesn’t prove that she can apply those skills effectively.

Finally. What’s more important: skills or culture?

Long story short: if you have to choose between culture and skill, culture wins. Here's why.

A candidate who has awesome skills won’t need as much training. She can quickly and seamlessly jump right into projects and deliver results. However, a candidate who fits the culture is more likely to integrate well with the team, produce stronger work, and increase morale.

A study by ClearCompany discovered that 86% of employees and executives blame workplace failures on a lack of collaboration/poor communication. The study also revealed that 97% of employees and execs cite a lack of alignment within teams negatively influence the outcome of a project.

Yes, someone who lacks all of the desired skills might need more training. More training means additional investment in both time and money. But, aren't all employees an investment?

Culture & skills assessments at Qualigence

If you can't already tell, we value objective analysis at Qualigence. Our recruiters use the Core 4 Methodology, a proprietary candidate analysis system, to get a well-rounded picture of who candidates are at their core and how those traits and skills compare to the client's needs. Intrigued? Reach out for more information.
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Sam Sandler
Sam Sandler
Sam is a copywriter and strategist at Qualigence International. She enjoys exercising, eating pizza, and long walks through her Netflix queue.

1 Comment

  1. Hello,
    In my thinking, culture fit is more important then skills set. It’s very important for the hiring process in an organization. Through this, it provides great job satisfaction.
    Thanks for share this post.

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