Cultural Fit vs Skills: Getting the best of both worlds

November 8, 2019 By Sarah Carter

I read an article the other day which was headlined – ‘Stop Hiring for Cultural Fit’ and was momentarily taken aback. Cultural fit has always been something I’ve considered important in my choice of employers, and I’ve yet to work for an organisation that didn’t have culture at the centre of its people policy. Reading further into the article I realised that the headline was a little misleading.

Its not that Cultural fit is in itself a problem – it’s that it is too narrowly defined in a lot of organisations.

A bit like the adage; people buy from people like them, people tend to recruit people they will get on with. People that they can socialise with easily at company events. People that won’t rock the team boat – even if the team boat could occasionally do with a bit of rocking. Whilst this isn’t in itself a problem – what happens when a whole team of people think and act the same way? Groupthink happens; and this leads to a lack of diversity in ideas and approaches which is dangerous for any business.

Is Cultural Fit enough?

More often than not, no. There are at the very least, some soft skills that are required in most jobs, regardless of their seniority. If you are hiring for a Head of Liquidity, or a Treasury Manager, then its important they have the necessary numerical reasoning skills to do the job. If you are hiring for Asset Portfolio Managers, then a sound understanding of how to build portfolios, and how to talk to clients is important. Someone could have the right value system, attitude to work, and emotional intelligence, but if they can’t add up then they are not going to be a good hire as a Treasury Manager.

Are Skills Enough?

Again, almost always no. Take Sales for example – there’s been a lot of research over the past 10 years that indicates sales people who challenge their customers are more successful than those who build relationships. It therefore follows that you need to exclusively recruit people who are skilled at challenging correct? But how do you figure out if someone is the right kind of challenger? How do you determine if they have the emotional intelligence to know when to challenge and when not to? Challengers without emotional intelligence can be difficult to work with, impossible to manage, and often they end up annoying both customers and colleagues. So, if you only base your hiring decision on someone’s ability to challenge, they might in fact be a bad hire.

Finding the balance

But in a world where there are many more candidates than jobs, how do you narrow down your selections without missing out on golden nuggets?

The first place to start is define what the qualities are that make a person successful in the role you are hiring for. It’s not enough to have a single set of qualities for everyone who works for you, regardless of their role. The qualities needed for a Customer Service Representative are entirely different to those needed for a Category Manager, or for an Asset Manager. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be common characteristics across all roles – Banks for example, will no doubt want to ensure that everyone who works for them has at least a decent level of numerical reasoning regardless of the role they are applying for.

How to define the characteristics of success?

We recommend you look at people who have been successful in a role and define their characteristics. Bearing in mind that success can take different forms, we also recommend you get a range of different types of successful people. By doing this you can get a set of characteristics, and parameters by which to measure if someone could be a good fit for your business. Importantly, these characteristics should be both cultural, and skills based.

Once you have agreed on the set of characteristics, you need to determine the order of preference. For example, in a team-based role, the ability to compromise may be more important than the ability to negotiate. Conversely, you’d probably want your Category Manager to have some pretty hardcore negotiating skills.

This all sounds a bit arduous right? Which is why we have clever technology to help you.

Infor Talent Science can;

  • Help you determine what success looks like so you are asking the right questions - replacing guesswork with objective and predictive data.
  • Target specific strengths and opportunities identified during the pre-employment testing and selection process - reducing your time to hire.
  • Identify future career opportunities where your employees' key strengths are maximised – increasing employee retention
  • Enabling employees to see where they do, and more importantly don’t, have the right fit for the next role they want within your business. Additionally, Talent science can point them towards courses they can take to gain the skills they don’t have.

Like all our solutions, we’ve built a customised version of Talent Science specifically for Financial Services. The customisations are based on anonymised data collected from thousands of assessments carried out, so we can give you a head start on what success looks like in companies like yours. Our customers in the Financial Services sector have realised;

  • A 50% reduction in turnover.
  • 50% faster time to sales goals
  • 62% growth in total sales revenues.

Sound interesting? To find out if Talent Science can help you recruit, and retain the right kind of talent read Talent Science for Financial Services or contact me directly at

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