In an ideal world, every round of recruitment would find you candidates who combine the know-how to do the job well with the personality and attitude that will make them a good fit with your team. In reality, however, we often find that the candidates who seem like the best match for your company are not the same as the ones who have the most extensive skills and experience.

This creates a dilemma for HR teams and hiring managers alike. If you have two great candidates, do you choose the one who is a better match on the technical skills needed for the job or do you hire the one who seems like they’ll align best with your existing team and workplace culture?

In this blog post, we’re looking at what matters most in hiring – skills or fit? We’ll discuss when skills and experience should be the deciding factor and examine why it’s important to consider whether a candidate’s values match your company’s.

We’ll also look briefly at the question of how we create diverse workplaces while still prioritizing candidates who will align well with your workplace culture. And we’ll give you some ideas for tools you can use during the recruitment process to determine who is going to be the best fit for your company.

When Do Skills Matter Most?

There’s no denying that skills and experience play a role in how successful a candidate will be in performing their tasks. Once you get beyond entry-level positions, most jobs require a specific range of skills. If they haven’t reached a fundamental level of expertise in these skills, candidates won’t be able to carry out the work well.

Managers hiring for jobs that require specific technical knowledge and ability will need to pay more attention to the skill level of their candidates than those that rely more on soft skills like relationship building, communication, or time management.

For example, if you are hiring a programmer, you’ll expect to see candidates demonstrate proficiency in the specific programming languages that the role requires. Similarly, you wouldn’t expect to hire a doctor without a medical degree, or a bookkeeper who had never mastered double-entry bookkeeping.

So, there’s certainly a requirement for candidates to meet the baseline of skills that are fundamental to performing a role properly.

However, the basic level of skills required to do a role varies hugely from job to job. And in many cases, the line is lower than we think it is.

Many roles don’t need specific qualifications or experience – and making them a requirement can mean we’re missing out on great candidates who can bring new ideas and approaches into our organizations.

What matters more in most roles is that people bring a willingness to learn, the aptitude to grasp new skills when needed, and the creativity to apply the skills and knowledge they do have to new scenarios and areas of work.

When we hire candidates with this kind of mindset, they can easily be trained in the specific skills that your organization requires (as long as those skills aren’t the kind that need years of study to acquire).

Hiring candidates who demonstrate a hunger to learn and develop their skills also helps to future-proof your company. After all, the skills you need right now may not be the skills you need in five years. If your team is full of people who are curious, open-minded, and always eager to learn, you’ll find it much easier to grow in the ways the changing world requires.

On the flip side, candidates who feel they have already mastered the skills they need may end up holding your company back. No one is so expert that they can’t continue to learn, so even in roles where you do need to find candidates with a specific skill set, knowledge and experience alone shouldn’t be enough to secure the position.

You also want to consider a candidate’s attitude, approach, and values before deciding whether someone is the right person for you.

Why Is Fit Important in Hiring?

Often, hiring for the right skills is an easier proposition than determining how well someone will fit your organization. We can see quickly from someone’s resume what their experience is like. Many skills can be tested through assessments early in the recruitment process. It’s an easy filter to use to knock out unsuitable candidates in the early rounds.

Assessing fit, on the other hand, is a far more nuanced process. It is also one that is harder to quantify – unlike skills, which can be measured, fit requires you to delve into the person’s personality, values, and expectations around work. It can feel quite subjective.

Despite these considerations, most companies agree that finding someone who is a good fit for the organization is an important part of the recruitment process. According to research, 90% of employers say that finding candidates who are a good fit with the company’s culture is very important, while 73% of professionals have ended up leaving a role because they felt there was a poor cultural fit.

On a fundamental level, fit can be as simple as whether someone is likely to get on well with other members of the team. When teams share similar values, communication styles, and expectations they find it easier to collaborate. There is less friction and fewer personality clashes to navigate.

People are also more likely to feel happy and engaged at work if they have a good relationship with their colleagues. So, it makes sense to consider how a candidate’s personality will fit with the rest of your team before you hire them.

However, there is also a wider picture to consider when determining whether someone is a good fit for your company. If you are trying to create a certain set of company values, then you need to hire people who align with those values.

This is why many organizations now focus on finding a values fit instead of a cultural fit. Not only does this help us create aligned workplaces where people share a sense of purpose and way of working, but it also supports our employees in finding fulfillment at work.

Studies show that when people feel their employer’s values fit with their own, they find a greater sense of job satisfaction, perform better, and are less likely to leave. So, hiring for fit benefits your new employees as well as your existing team.

Can You Hire for Fit and Still Be Diverse?

A common criticism of hiring for fit is that it can lead to a lack of diversity. If managers are always looking for people who align with their existing team, surely they will end up hiring the same types of people again and again?

This is an important consideration and requires us to really understand what we mean when we talk about hiring for fit. What we’re aiming to find is a candidate who aligns with the values of the company, who has a working style that meshes well with the existing team, and who understands the aims and approach of the organization.

However, there’s space within this to still seek candidates who will bring diversity in skills, experience, perspective, and qualifications. Hiring for fit means considering not just who will work best with your current team, but also who will bring a fresh viewpoint and increase the range of knowledge and experience available to you.

Of course, hiring for fit should never be about demographics. We’re not looking to match our teams based on personal characteristics such as race, gender, sexuality, and age. Instead, hiring for fit should focus on finding the candidates whose values best align with those of your company.

How Do You Determine Fit?

If fit is such an important consideration when hiring new employees, how do you evaluate it during the recruitment process?

Often, fit is considered on a purely subjective basis – interviewers might simply cite a “gut feeling” about one candidate over another.

However, this isn’t a particularly robust way of assessing whether a candidate is a good fit for your organization. It can easily be influenced by the individual preferences of the hiring manager, who may mistake personal compatibility for alignment with the company itself.

Making hiring decisions this way also leaves hiring managers open to being overly influenced by their own conscious or unconscious biases. And it means they don’t have any supporting evidence that can explain their choices to the rest of the organization (or to unsuccessful candidates).

Fortunately, you don’t have to rely solely on interviews to help you determine how good a fit a candidate is for your organization. There are other tools available, such as pre-hire assessments, which are designed to evaluate who a candidate is, how they behave in the workplace, and whether they are a good fit for your company.

At Bartell & Bartell, for example, we offer ASAP™ – a comprehensive pre-hire assessment service that gives you the insights you need to determine whether a candidate is a good fit for your company. Plus, we help you understand the results during a telephone debrief that will provide a full picture of the candidate and allow you to make an informed hiring decision.

Of course, interviews still remain an important part of the hiring process. However, you’ll be in a better place to assess fit if you ask the right questions – and what these are may vary from candidate to candidate. That’s why we also offer Know Thy Hire, a pre-interview process that quickly discovers who your candidate is and selects the best interview questions based on their profile.

Then, when you come to interview the person, you’ll get the insights you need to understand who they are and how they work, allowing you to determine who will be the best fit for your organization. Explore our services to find out more about how we can help you make sure you are hiring the best candidates for your company.