Equally important: Both.
When hiring, most companies tend to focus on one or the other of these options as a priority.
And indeed both must be considered. On the other hand, at some point you have to choose which consideration outweighs the other, and either answer presents its limitations.
Technical Skill – The Good
Technical skill is fairly easy to identify.
A candidate will present past work experience and titles, and interviewers can ask about responsibilities and projects to get a concrete idea of the candidate’s actual experience. Educational certificates and titles will also apply here.
A smattering of technical jargon will also help determine the person’s true understanding of the subject matter.
Technical Skill – The Bad
It is not enough. Work is made up of the every day, of interactions, of incentives, of deadlines and milestones.
If a new employee does not have the same work ethic as the rest of the team, resentment will ensue.
If a new employee does not represent and live up to the company’s values and standards, then clients will move away.
If a new employee does not meld with the other personalities present, then workplace politics creep in.
Cultural Fit – The Good
Personalities and motivation can not be taught. Hiring somebody with the correct temper and nature to fit in with the company values provides more options for adaptability.
A fair amount of technical ability can be taught on the job (more or less depending on the role, of course). Once a new hire is in place and a confirmed team member, the role can be adapted over time to his or her particular skills, as they are enhanced.
Cultural Fit – The Bad
How do you define a corporate culture, and then identify it in a candidate? Especially in the fairly superficial interaction one gets during the hiring process?
Companies struggle enough with defining their own company culture – more often than not, with three people in the room you will find five opinions about the culture. Let alone interviewing in a way to positively view those traits in a candidate.
It is, ultimately a gamble.
What to do
Yes: you do need to consider both technical skill and cultural fit when hiring. Weighing the pros and cons mentioned above, and being realistic about what you can apply to the hiring process.
But what if there was a more structured way to define and search for candidates, that also incorporates these factors?
Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we delve into the idea of Competencies for the workplace.