Cultural fit vs Technical fit, what this means for HR
Blog //13-10-2021

Cultural fit vs Technical fit, what this means for HR

by Alex Arundale, Chief People Officer, Advanced

For all organisations, finding that dream combination of a candidate with the right technical skills as well as being a good cultural fit for the company, can often feel like chasing a unicorn. As with many aspects of life, there will always be some element of compromise when entering the recruitment pool, as in very few instances will a candidate be such a complete fit in both regards.

Traditionally, technical fits ruled the roost, with businesses prioritising potential hires who ticked all their boxes from a skill set perspective, with cultural considerations falling by the wayside. In recent years however, we have seen shifts across all sectors which suggest the recruitment process is becoming more equally weighted to where being a good fit for company culture is as valuable as pre-existing skillsets.

A recent Glassdoor survey found that there is increasing evidence of candidates evaluating a company on the basis of company culture, job satisfaction and diversity and inclusion. 76% of people surveyed stated that they consider a diverse workforce to be an important factor when assessing job offers and an overwhelming 80% of people said that they rank well-being at the top of their priorities.

This is an important distinction for organisations to consider. More traditional businesses may still adhere to a CV first way of recruiting, where the most pertinent information to them may be the more impersonal elements of a candidate- skills certification, formal education etc. This would appear to put them at odds with an emerging majority of potential recruits who wish to evaluate an organisation on their cultural merits. Whilst valuing leverageable skillsets is no bad thing, companies who value these factors above all else, find themselves at risk of falling behind in the modern recruitment race.

With bringing in the right talent to your organisation more vital than ever, knowing which qualities to look for in a potential candidate will be key in helping you hone and refine your recruitment process. It will be important to appreciate how your organisation is viewed by candidates just as much as you will be assessing their value to you.  Ultimately, the burden of contending with cultural shifts in the recruitment process will fall to your HR teams and therefore, it is vital that your organisation is aware of the significance of these changes, in order to be best placed to support them.

What is a Technical Fit?

A Technical fit is the measure of a candidate’s suitability for a role from the standpoint of skillsets and certification. Technical aspects are the belt and braces elements of traditional recruitment and what you would traditionally find making up the majority of a CV.

Technical qualifications are a useful metric for organisations to assess a candidate's suitability and determine whether they have the requisite skill set to perform a role. These offer important touchpoints for HR teams to be able to refine their search, filtering potential candidates via these metrics at a prequalification stage, ensuring only applicants who meet certain requirements make it through to an interview stage.

Technical fits also make themselves evident across social media platforms such as LinkedIn which offer the opportunity for colleagues of a candidate to vouch for their experience and competence, and offering again, another opportunity for hiring managers to pass judgement on their abilities.

Why is a Technical Fit important?

At a fundamental level, the reason you begin the search for talent in the first place is in order to fill gaps within your organisation and to find people with the right skillsets to help you achieve your goals, that do not exist within your talent pipeline. Determining the technical suitability of a candidate is a crucial element in the recruitment stage as it allows you to define a clear set of parameters for potential candidates, and very early on in the process, filter out applicants who don’t fit those requirements. This is a boon for your people teams who will undoubtedly already feel that the recruitment process brings with it heavy demands on their time in terms of administrative tasks.

Whilst not the be-all and end all of a candidate’s suitability, determining a technical fit early on will be crucial in helping ensuring that any new hires will at least hit a base level of competence when you bring them onboard. Depending on your requirements, complete fluency in systems and processes may be a nice to have, as opposed to a concrete requirement- after all, skills can and should be nurtured over time. However, as we’ve already established, the cost of bringing in unsuitable hires can be significant, therefore it pays to be prudent at an early stage.

Determining a technical fit usually occurs fairly early on in the process. A person’s CV is obviously your first port of call for assessing whether a person has the requisite skillsets to perform the role, but as we all know, CVs can often be selective with regards to the information which they offer. With this in mind, many organisations may pre-screen interview candidates with a practical assessment in order to filter out suitability before bringing people in for a discussion. This is common in the world of coding where algorithms and other problem-solving exercises can be easily shared with candidates in order to gauge aptitude.

In the instance where an organisation is faced with equally skilled candidates, the interview process offers another opportunity to hone the process and the questions which you ask should be crafted specifically to determine best fit. In this instance, you may find yourself pitting two candidates against each other.  Make sure questions are consistent to offer a direct point of comparison and try taking a deeper dive beyond base technical aptitude- ask questions around previous experiences, determine how agile and adaptive candidates are to difficult situations which can crop up throughout the working week. After all, a new hire represents a significant investment for your organisation and it is important that you are able to determine the long-term value they are likely to bring to your business.

What is a Cultural Fit?

A Cultural fit is a measure by which an individual’s beliefs, values and outlook align with that of your organisation. At a base level, a cultural fit can determine something as simple as whether a potential candidate would gel well with your existing employees and processes. Cultural fit tends to exist quite separately from technical considerations but it is no less vital in helping to determine whether or not any potential candidates will be a viable long term fit for your organisation.

Your organisational culture forms a vital component of the overall identity of your business. The way in which your values and beliefs are shared amongst your people can very often determine the harmony and productivity of your people. From the perspective of potential new hires, a well defined and embedded company culture is also a good way of getting the measure of an organisation and determining whether it is the sort of place they would enjoy working for.

Unlike Technical fits, determining a candidate’s suitability from a cultural perspective often requires a bit of a deeper dive. CVs are a great way of communicating experience and skillsets and qualifications, but that is all fairly dry information and doesn’t help give an insight into the personality of a candidate. Determining whether a candidate is a good cultural fit for an organisation is something which is often more achievable at an interview stage, where a candidate’s personality can come to the fore.

Cultural fits are also a bit more nebulous than technical requirements- after all, not all organisations work to the same set of values and beliefs. While it is easy to determine a candidate’s suitability on the basis of prerequisite certification, whether they are likely to align with your beliefs or values is another matter entirely.

Many organisations place their culture front and centre, championing inclusive and diverse workforces where others may pride themselves on driving a harder edged working environment, one where pressure is seen as a virtue. Ultimately, the trick with cultural fits is to identify those candidates early on who are likely to gel with your organisation as regardless of technical aptitude, the risks of hiring someone who doesn’t align with your values will ultimately create friction down the line.

Why is a Cultural Fit important?

Fundamentally, candidates who gel with your organisation are more likely to be able to hit the ground running in their new role, working seamlessly with their new colleagues. Research by Forbes has determined that a well-defined company culture plays a key role in determining not only the identity of an organisation but also positively boosting the level of engagement of its people.

Furthermore, if the makeup of your organisation consists of engaged and aligned people then this represents a far lower risk of high employee attrition rates. One of the key elements determining the growth and success of businesses moving forward will be hiring and retaining the talents of individuals to help them achieve their goals. Low retention rates mean organisations will have to return time and time again to the time and cost-intensive recruitment process.

A candidate’s ability to fit in with your culture is also vaguer and harder to define. Afterall, skillsets and prerequisite qualifications are simple to determine, whereas establishing an individual’s passion, drive and overall personality often requires a deeper dive. Skills can be nurtured and developed on an ongoing basis whereas cultural fits aren’t teachable.

For HR teams, the importance of pinning down these qualities is absolutely vital to ensuring the long term success of new hires. Unlike the search for technical requirements, this will require a degree of forecasting on the part of organisations, looking inwards at their business and establishing their values and belief systems. This may seem like a simple concept but if your concept of your organisational culture is vague and ill formed, then how are you able to find people who are a suitable fit?

Interview questions are often weighted towards determining a candidate’s suitability from a personality perspective. Hiring managers should be sure to ask questions based around allowing candidates to demonstrate their enthusiasm and drive. Ask them what attracted them to your organisation- this can serve as a measure not only of an individual’s own personality but also as a reflection of how your organisation is perceived externally.

The interview process is also a great opportunity for you to demonstrate your commitment to an inclusive workforce- many organisations are introducing elements such as office tours or introductions to prospective team mates as part of the interview process. This not only allows candidates to get a feel for their potential workplace, but also allows you to get a feel for how they will interact with others in the business.

Cultural fit or technical?

Undoubtedly, whether cultural or technical requirements will be most valuable in a search for talent will be determined by the needs of your organisation. Broadly speaking, the greatest value will lie in taking a balanced approach, taking into account cultural and technical fit in equal measure.

Organisations have traditionally been more comfortable with technical requirements as they have always been more concrete and easily identifiable HR metrics. Refining and honing talent searches on the basis of prerequisite skills is an easier ask and allows you to ensure a base level of competency. Cultural fits exist in a more nebulous realm as it defies specific codification- the qualities you look for in terms of someone’s personality is often more difficult to pin down as it relates more to their base nature than skills which can be nurtured and developed.

The clear indication is that the ideal approach is to take a balanced approach to considering technical and cultural requirements. Technical aptitude guarantees a level of competency which is absolutely vital in order to help ensure new hires can help hit the ground running. Greater shifts in the working world have ensured that organisations cannot afford to avoid cultural considerations. How your values and beliefs are communicated to the wider world serves as a reflection of your brand as a whole and companies who fail to take this into account run the risk of being viewed as less attractive prospects from a recruitment perspective.

We believe in the power of technology to help support your HR teams develop and hone your recruitment process and understand exactly which qualities you should be prioritising each and every time you begin a search for talent.

We’d love to chat with you about how Advanced Cloud HR Software can help you achieve your goals and get the talent in place you need to drive forward success. If you’d like to find out more about how to balance cultural and technical considerations, Get in touch with one of our friendly team members today.

Blog Human Resource
Alex Arundale

Alex Arundale

PUBLISHED BY

Chief People Officer, Advanced

Alex joined Advanced in February 2016 with a track record in senior HR positions. She has been responsible for innovative strategies to lead the company’s talent management.

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