Cultural Fit vs. Skill Set

Written by FG Recruiter Jennifer Sanderson

Work /
Cultural fit vs Skillset

Recruiters and employers can and have for many many years argued this topic to death. There are so many arguments for finding a candidate that aligns perfectly with your culture and blends easily with the team. Equally, there is the argument that it is easier to hire based on a skill set where the person can join the business and hit the ground running and deliver quickly. There actually isn’t a right or wrong answer but there is an answer to this good old debate which I’ll break down for you. 

Before we go there let’s understand the benefits of hiring on each opinion: 

Hiring based on cultural fit: 

  • The candidate’s personality is aligned to live your organisation’s values 
  • There is an instant gel with the team which results in positive and healthy energy in the workplace
  • There is less risk of a clash with most employees and therefore less risk of HR intervention if things go sour 
  • It’s likely collaboration will be encouraged and increase if the candidate works well within the team
  • A culturally strong team are less likely to see a decrease in productivity and motivation 
  • A missing skill set can be overcome by training and development, you can’t teach or enforce personality or cultural fit 

Hiring based on skillset 

  • The candidate can make an impact quickly – they already have the tools and capability 
  • Time and money spent on thorough training are lessened because of the candidate’s expertise and experience 
  • The candidate may be in a position to train others in skill sets that the business does not currently hold 
  • The candidate’s skill set may impress, attract or retain clients 
  • The candidate’s skill set may be sought after or rare which gives the organisation an additional edge 
  • If the candidate is hired due to heavy workloads or deadlines they may be able to create more space and time back for other employees quickly, boosting morale

So what’s the big ‘right answer’ reveal….(insert drum roll)… there isn’t one. The right thing to do in each hiring situation is dependent on the business and your needs.

Facebook for example has completely redesigned its interview process to align with its core company values and has questions that are directly aligned with them. Cultural fit is their most important consideration when making a hire. This isn’t the case for all businesses though. Some businesses are so transactional or specialised that a skillset is key because if it isn’t it can be brutally damaging to reputation. These clients favour ensuring the client/customer experience is at the forefront of their hiring priorities. 

The morale of the story is that hiring preferences are ok. What you do need to consider though is how to manage personality types that may not blend immediately with your team and take time to bloom. You also want to deeply steer away from any candidate that you think would offend or belittle others. If you are making a hire based on a fantastic skill set but you are concerned they may be a little quieter than your typical team member for example, ask HR for advice on how you can onboard that person well and accommodate them to gel with the team in the best way possible. 


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