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Why Hire for Skills, Then Fire for Fit?

Posted by Eric Friedman

skills fit

A major question when hiring today is whether to choose candidates for their skills or for how they’ll fit in with your company culture. When a company hires for a specific skill set, and then finds out that the person isn’t able to work well with other staff members, it can cause a lot of problems. An essential part of the hiring process is figuring out how to hire for both: you want a candidate who has a good skill set along with the people skills that let him or her fit in well with everyone else at your company. Testing for just one or the other only spells disaster. Here are a few suggestions on how you can test for both, and hire smarter.

Take a test drive. This isn’t always possible, but whether through an internship program or a temporary contract, you can sometimes hire someone on a short-term basis, to test for culture fit. This won’t work for every position, but if you implement this kind of approach for at least some positions, in the long-term it can save your company thousands in losses stemming from hiring the wrong candidates.

Reward your referrals. One of the core principals of companies that have been listed as the “Best Places to Work” is to have some type of referral program in place. Not only will you be able to hire more effectively through a referral, but you’ll also be more likely to find someone who’s a better fit for your company. Friends of employees will usually fit in better then strangers off the street.

Pay them to leave. An approach made famous by Zappos was a “paid to leave” program. At the end of the orientation process, if the candidates didn’t feel that they fit in well with the company culture, Zappos would offer them $2,000 to leave. Everyone loves a bonus, and if the job doesn’t feel right, $2,000 will help carry you over to your next placement. This saves Zappos the several more thousands of dollars it would cost to make a bad hire.

Testing for skills can’t be the end-all when you’re hiring. Hiring people who don’t fit in well in other ways can cause rifts among current employees and really be a drag on your company culture.

Some of the interview questions below may also help you decide if a candidate is a good fit.

  • Do you have a best friend at work? How do you feel about becoming friends with your coworkers? Is this a wise practice?
  • What are the three-to-five expectations that you have of senior leaders in an organization where you will be able to work successfully?
  • Describe the management style you think brings forth your best work and efforts.
  • When you work with a team, describe the role that you are most likely to play on the team.

What types of things have you done to test for culture fit? What results have you seen when you’ve hired for skills alone, and not for cultural fit?

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About Eric Friedman


Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of Web-based skills testing for pre-employment and training. With academic degrees in Psychology and Business, and experience with both mature and expansion-stage company growth, Eric has focused on how best to hire and motivate team members to be the best they can be for their companies.

5 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Olivia Jackson December, 26, 2013

    They say that hiring process in lots of companies resembles the choice of friends, not just employees. From the first glance it may seem wrong, but actually it’s a very clever plan. Ensuring that candidates align with your company’s values and workplace environment is very important. First of all a person who doesn’t feel he/she fits into the organization won’t be enthusiastic going to work and moving mountains to succeed and is more likely to leave after a very short period of time for something they align with.

  • Max Wilson December, 26, 2013

    I think the key to every successful hiring decision is in keeping the balance. You can’t hire a person with no experience just because s/he laughs at your jokes and watches the same sitcom as well as you can’t hire someone who is a professional but doesn’t share any of your views. It’s important to find a golden mean and keep to it.

  • Roy December, 27, 2013

    I agree that cultural fit can be sometimes crucial, but how do you evaluate the person’s fit based on just asking a few questions. You must be able to read the person as an open book in order to do so or rely on a simpler way and try to hire through referral program. Relying on employees’ networks to recruit people they know is cost-effective and creates a higher level of assurance that the rest of the team will want to work with the new person.

  • Jess December, 27, 2013

    It’s important for every company to find a candidate who will not only possess great professional skills, but also be of high cultural fit – that’s crystal clear and there are quite a lot of ways to evaluate both competence and fit. But does anyone know how an interviewee can check whether the company they are applying for is a cultural fit for them, since a person interviewing them isn’t always a perfect reflection of company’s culture. Candidates also don’t want to waste their time working somewhere they don’t fit, so what are their options?


Guest September, 22, 2017