Do you hire for cultural fit over skills and experience?

Written by Marianna Tuccia – Recruitment Consultant (Legal Professional), Sydney NSW

With this war on talent that seems to be never-ending, the question becomes should you hire for cultural fit over skills & knowledge? Ideally, you want to get both exactly right. But more often than not you will interview a candidate that is the perfect cultural fit but doesn’t have quite the amount of experience that you were looking for.

Cultural fit is just as important as skills and knowledge, if not more important. Education, experience and skills comprise only a part of what makes a candidate successful. Values, style and behaviour are equally important in making a candidate successful within an organization.

If there is time and resources to train and upskill a candidate, in the long term it is probably better to hire on cultural fit above skills and knowledge. Hiring the wrong candidate on cultural fit can also impact adversely existing employees and their engagement levels.

The question then becomes, how do you ensure candidates are a good cultural fit? The answer is as easy as being thorough and strategic in the recruitment and selection process. It goes without saying that there should be multiple interviews and the entire team should be involved in the interview process. You need time to grasp who the candidate really is. But before embarking on the interview process, you really need to understand what your culture means and ask interview questions that relate to this. Behavioral based questions will also assist you in giving you an insight into a candidate’s cultural fit.

Questions you might like to ask include:

  • From the list of our company’s values which one resonated with you most? Which one resonated with you least? Why?
  • How do you see yourself contributing to the company’s values?
  • Describe to me, from previous positions you have held, the values of a company where you have thrived in?
  • Leaving aside the role and the nature of the role, why do you want to work for our company?

Personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (a questionnaire which indicates psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions) can also be helpful in assessing a candidate’s cultural fit.

Candidates will be well prepared for interviews and some candidates even rehearse their answers. Try not to stick to the “usual” interview questions. Discuss unexpected topics e.g. news headlines, or ask questions like “how honest are you?”, “what is the funniest thing that happened to you recently?”, “who is your favorite movie character?” This will give you a better grip of the candidate’s personality and cultural fit. Additionally, allow the candidate to lead for most of the interview. If they have trouble leading in the interview and they have difficulty with communication, the candidate may not be a good cultural fit.

Hiring for cultural fit over skills and knowledge can be a great idea as you never know how much a candidate will develop and grow into the role. In 12 months’ time, you might be surprised as to where the candidate’s skill levels and knowledge base have developed.