Without the right skills, you can’t achieve your goals. Without the right cultural fit, you can smother the rest of the team. So, the answer to the question is, you need both. But which is more important?
Most people hire first for skill, then they determine if the candidate is a cultural fit. I disagree with this approach. When you take this approach, you fall in love with a candidate and then justify their cultural fit. It is my strong opinion that cultural fit is more important than skill. To be clear, you must have both—you can’t build a company with a bunch of cultural fits who don’t possess the requisite skills. But, fit is more important than skill and here’s why:
- A person with the right skills, who doesn’t fit your culture, can do a LOT of damage—driving away employees, customers and profits
- A person with the right fit who doesn’t have the right skills will slow the company’s progress, but will likely not threaten the company’s existence
- A person with the right fit can be taught the right skills more easily than a person with the right skills can be taught how to fit—that’s a big part of why they don’t fit—they aren’t teachable!
Whether you’re in stage two, three, four, or five, do yourself a favor and assess first for fit. If the candidate doesn’t fit, don’t move forward in the interview process. My approach to this may be unconventional, but I’m not alone. Patrick Lencioni (“The Advantage, “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team), Geoff Smart (“Who”), Jim Collins, and other experts agree: Don’t waste your time with talented people who don’t fit your culture.
SBS Idea of the Day: Do you have a process for screening for cultural fit early in the interview process? I recommend a short list of questions that will assess the candidate against your purpose, values, and mission. You or an assistant you trust should do this 15-minute interview by phone. If the candidate doesn’t pass the initial cultural screening, don’t even bring them in for an interview.