Cultural fit trumps skills

According to experts, candidates with the right skills are being overlooked by employers more interested in "cultural fit" and alignment of core values with their company. In fact, cultural fit has become so important to hiring managers that it now often rates above a 100 percent match to the necessary technical skills.

In a recent article it was stated that this trend is being seen across a wide range of industries and even in highly-skilled roles like project management. Experts are saying that for most roles, soft skills and cultural alignment is more important than technical ability. 

While “cultural fit” can cover a range of skills, it’s been said that employers are mainly looking to align the candidate with the values of the company (think Zappos) – whether it’s entrepreneurial attitude, the proper work-life balance, creativity or how they communicate with others.

Let’s take a look at Zappos. Although they pride themselves on exceptional customer service, their number one priority when recruiting for the Zappos family is company culture. During his keynote at last year’s SHRM Conference, CEO Tony Hsieh opened with the statement “If you hire the right people in the strategic culture plan everything else will fall into place.” They want employees who feel this is the right culture for them and are looking to be there long term.

Even Zappos' HR Manager says it’s important for employers to use whatever ways are culturally appropriate to find the right people, and defines culture as simply being the personality of an organization. She is quoted in Employee Benefit News as saying “It doesn’t matter how qualified the candidate is; it’s who fits the culture, is there to enhance it, to fit in or completely change it.”

While some believe cultural fit is just a fad, the Hays Quarterly Report reveals that employees are also choosing jobs based on the culture of the organizations.

Sue Ellen Mackintosh-Dixon, CEO of PeepToe, ranks cultural fit higher than an exact skills match when hiring – and not just in roles like customer service and sales, and says, “If the person has the right attitude and they really want to be in your business - which is critical to a company's cultural success - the rest can be learned.”

According a recent study of 20,000 new hires, 46 percent of them failed within 18 months. More importantly when new hires failed, 89 percent of the time it was for attitudinal reasons and only 11 percent of the time due to lack of skill. (Hiring for Attitude, CEO of Leadership IQ, Mark Murphy)

In the end, it doesn’t matter what your core values are for your organizational culture -- it’s about committing to them all the way, aligning your organization around those core values, developing your culture accordingly and finding the people that align with those values.

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