Technical Skills or Culture Fit – What Makes The Better Hire?

  • by kaibizzen
  • Jan 29, 2020
  • Blog

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

Jim CollinsGood to Great 

A question I’m regularly asked by clients is “when I’m recruiting, what should I prioritise – the applicant’s technical skill or how they fit into our business?”   

My short answer response is, “both”.   

Obviously, when hiring, you want the best of both worlds. You want someone who is both technically skilled in the contexts your business operates in AND has an attitude and behaviours that match with your company culture.  

However, it’s not always possible to hire the perfect recruit. So, when faced with the decision to choose either a better technical skill or a better cultural fit, what should you do?  


“Everybody’s got a different circle of competence. The important thing is not how big the circle is. The important thing is staying inside the circle.” 

Warren Buffett

With any employee that is recruited into your business, it is absolutely imperative that you recruit and select the right person with the right skills and experience.  When making your initial selections, usually the only the thing you have available to you is the person’s resume or curriculum vitae (CV).   

In this shortlisting process you will be selecting the people who have both the necessary qualifications and proven experience in the area you are looking for.  For example, you would not hire a mechanical engineer who has not got the necessary qualifications.  Additionally, unless you are looking to fill a graduate role, you will also want to see who else they’ve worked for and what they did in those roles. 

In an interview situation ask them scenario-based questions about their experience.  This means you’ll be asking them how they have dealt with a certain situation and what the outcome was. Anyone can come up with a decent theoretical answer to a hypothetical situation. It’s more valuable for you to know how much of the skill, knowledge and experience they’re actually bringing to the role.  


During your recruitment process, you also want to be on the look-out for how much their behaviour is a reflection of the culture you have in your business. For example, if within your business you are promoting a no-blame or no-excuse culture, your ears will be pricked for language that is laden with blaming others or things.  Are they talking about other employees who didn’t do their job properly? A boss who didn’t know what they were doing? Do they seem reluctant to own their part in failures?  Hearing any of these things reflects entrenched patterns of behaviour that you should consider seriously before making an offer to that person.   

“You can’t know enough in a one-hour interview. So, in the end, it’s ultimately based on your gut. How do I feel about this person? What are they like when they’re challenged? Why are they here? I ask everybody that: ‘Why are you here?’ The answers themselves are not what you’re looking for. It’s the meta-data.” 

Steve Jobs

Unfortunately, many business owners only do an interview in their selection process. Studies have shown that this only gives you a 10% chance of finding the right person for the job. 

A simple way of determining whether the person is a right fit for your business is, as part of the recruitment process, have them meet the other team members. This feedback could give you critical insight in to how the person really behaves when not “on show”. We’ve had clients pass on technically competent candidates because of how they behaved towards others in the team, such as males not looking females in the eye when talking to them or behaving rudely towards the reception team.  

Does this mean we will never recruit anyone because no-one is perfect?  Definitely not.  Doesn’t it make sense, though, that we bring together a team of the right people working for us who not only have the right skill but also come to our business with a similar pattern of behaviours as what we need?  

“You can’t teach employees to smile. They have to smile before you hire them.”

Arte Nathan, Wynn Las Vegas 


Cultural fit is not simply whether or not you ‘like’ the person in the interview or you support the same sporting team. One of the BIGGEST MISTAKES business owners make is that they hire people just like them to perform roles that don’t include owning the company. 

If you hire only those people you understand, the company will never get people better than you are. Always remember that you often find outstanding people among those you don’t particularly like.” 

Soichiro Honda, Honda Motor Co. Ltd 


Personally, if I’m having to choose between 2 people of similar skills and experience, hands down my first choice will be the person who, from our discussions and team feedback is the better fit for our business. In fact, even if their skill level is a little less than the first person, I’d still choose the better cultural fit.  

But what if you don’t have a good an applicant who’s a good cultural fit?  

Then, if at all possible, wait. Re-run the ad, try another avenue, but do not hire anyone you think will negatively impact the culture of your business. The short-term relief is never worth the inevitable hit to your business’ productivity and profitability as their negative influence radiates through your people. Ultimately, you cannot create the team you do want if you continue to hire the people you don’t really want.  

If you want to know more about how you can have your people effectively and profitably perform the necessary roles your business, giving you the freedom you originally went into business for, then contact us. We’d love to help you get the business and the life you deserve.   

02 Oct

Panel Discussion

Tuesday, 6:30pm Quest Cannon Hill

What does it take to actually remove yourself from the day-to-day grind of business? Learn from our panel of Business Owners who've Been There, Done That.



Submit a comment