Skill Vs. Culture Fit – What’s Your Take?

Skill Vs. Culture Fit – What’s Your Take?

Anuradha Vellal is a global talent acquisition leader and a talent architect with over a decade of experience in FMCG/Technology/Telecom/ Ecommerce & Automobile Industry, across APAC, US & EMEA regions. She is currently working as the National Head- Talent Attraction and Employer Brand at Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Ltd. Prior to HCCB, she has held HR leadership positions in organisations such as Ford Motor Company, eBay and Microsoft. She specialises in the areas of TA thought leadership, technology solutions & business driven models.

In a perfect world, hiring a candidate with the ideal skillset and great cultural fit would be easy. But in reality, it is hard to find a candidate who will mesh well with your culture and also has the desired skills. So, which should you typically hire for –cultural fit or skill set? Let’s find out.

When it comes to hiring for a skill set or cultural fit is it possible to have your cake and eat it too? In a perfect world, not only would job candidates have resumes that boast all of the necessary skills for a position but their personality would also weave seamlessly into the cultural fabric of the organization.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and, more often than not, we are faced with decisions between hiring a candidate that matches either the desired skill set or our culture. So, which one is more valuable?

Skill Vs. Culture

We may be divided on between arguments that say skills trump cultural fit and those that say the cultural fit is the be-all-end-all in hiring. But the truth is – both cultural fit and skills are equally important for hiring the best talent.

Compared to the cultural fit, the skill set is easier to define and identify. Most, if not all, of a candidate’s resume, is dedicated to showcasing skills and work-related accomplishments. These skills, or lack thereof, listed on a resume can make or break a recruiter’s decision about a candidate in as little as fifteen seconds.

Not only will the absence of certain skills and qualifications work against the candidate, but the presence of personal information (things that may indicate whether the candidate would be a good cultural fit) could too. According to Monster’s “Common Resume Blunders” Listing irrelevant information, such as personal interests that are unrelated to the job, is one of the top 10 things to avoid when constructing a resume.

So does skillset trump cultural fit? Not exactly.

It can be tempting to hire for skill set with no regard towards cultural fit since a candidate with great skills will require less on-the-job training. However, a candidate with great cultural fit possesses something that is oftentimes untrainable – the embodiment of your organization’s values and the ability to mesh with the team. Also, regardless of the amount of experience or skill level, every new hire will require some form of training.

If you cannot have a candidate that encompasses both categories, then the cultural fit is more important. It is easier to learn specific job duties than to learn how to work well with a super aggressive team or highly innovative team and with the organization as a whole.

In fact, teams that work well together are proven to be more successful than those that do not. According to Aberdeen Group, 86% of employees and executives cite a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures and 97% of employees and executives believe that the lack of alignment within a team affects the outcome of a task or project. While you can often train someone to develop new skills and most people can pick up new skills with relative ease, it is not always possible to alter someone’s attitude or cultural fit. Cultural fit is not easily trainable.

One study found out that 84% of recruiters surveyed agree that cultural fit — not the time and cost to hire for a role — is one of the most important recruitment factors, and nine out of 10 have reported passing on applicants who didn’t feel aligned with their companies’ cultures.

Organisations need to assess their culture first and communicate those cultural needs with employees and job candidates. They need to ascertain what values and beliefs map back to their company’s mission. Maybe the company puts a large emphasis on professional development. Make these things known, include them in your mission and values and communicate. Doing this can certainly help organisations to attract like-minded candidates.

Most of us are not lucky enough to find a candidate that perfectly aligns with our organizational culture and has all of the desired skills and qualifications. Similarly for a candidate too. Just remember- each employee who initially lacked certain abilities, but fit in perfectly with the organization, can flourish into a skilled team member.

Looks like you can have your cake and eat it too!


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