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Hiring for Culture or Skill?

Contributor: Melanie DePaoli
Posted: 06/26/2010
Melanie DePaoli
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Deciding between hiring a candidate that is a strong fit with your company culture or a candidate with an impressive skill set can feel like a no-win situation. So, don’t put yourself in a situation where you need to choose! Instead, change how you think about announcing your intention to hire, the hiring process and onboarding the new employee.

Most hiring announcements are based on specific tangible items: job title, job requirements, years’ experience and then a blurb about the company. Makes sense right? Yes it does, but it fails to take into account the personality of the person who will be doing the job.

How often have you heard of someone hiring or have hired the perfect employee based on the job description, only to discover they did not fit with the rest of the crew; they turned out to be a disaster. By changing how you reach out to potential employees and by the words that are used, it is possible to find employees who fit your skill requirements and can mesh with your team.

Two aspects that need to be considered when hiring—culture and skills:

When a company hires for culture they do so based on chemistry, personality aspects, drive, and other key elements that make working at the company desirable. The lingering question throughout the interview process ends up being "Will they fit in?" People can learn the skills necessary to do the job, but if the person’s personality is not a fit, they will not remain with the company.

When a company hires for skill, they are trying to ensure that the new employee is ready and able to do the job from day one. Here, the lingering question is "Do they have the past experience to help us achieve our goals?" Skills alone are not sufficient and are all that can be determine from a resume or application. A potential’s techniques and standards still need to be considered to see if they are at the same level as your company’s and how they will work with other employees.

Balancing the two approaches is not easy and normally results in one of them out weighing the other—usually with skill out weighing culture. The reason is because skill is easier to prove while most techniques to assess personality and thinking patterns are illegal and unreliable at best, to use during the interview process. This is normally the case until a system or technique custom to a company’s culture is identified and implemented.

The perception of skill-fit or culture-fit often stops when an offer to hire is made to the potential employee. If a company uses a skill-based hiring process they automatically assume the culture will mold them while a company whose focus is more culture-based tends to assume they have the skills to get up and running on their own.

Most employees who leave a company within in the first year leave in the first 30 days—primarily because of a poor onboarding process. Onboarding in many ways is more important than the hiring process. How a new employee experiences a company in the first 30-120 days determines their perception of the company. The onboarding process should be used to define and solidify what the company places the most value in.

If a company values skill, then onboarding should be very task focused and specific to the new employee’s job and expectations. If culture is the predominate value, then onboarding normally takes longer, includes the history of the company and interaction with various employees. Both approaches hold value, but it is important to find balance as this process creates the perception of the company in the minds of each new hire.

Approach onboarding as a story to be shared with others and not just a manual handed out for maximum retention and positive perception.

First published on Human Resources IQ.


Thank you, for your interest in Hiring for Culture or Skill?.
Melanie DePaoli
Contributor: Melanie DePaoli