When I’m hiring, what’s more important – skills, knowledge, experience, or “fit”?

When I’m hiring, what’s more important – skills, knowledge, experience, or “fit”?

by Jeanne Knutzen | December 10, 2014

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Great question…and the answer, of course – it depends. Both talent and “fit” matter, but which is most important in any hiring decision depends on the job you are trying to fill.

For some jobs, “fit” is clearly the most important component of placement success because they are the requirements that make a difference to ultimate job performance.  There are many jobs where the knowledge and skills necessary to do the job are easily trained while the  “soft skills” are not.  Entry level jobs in a customer contact center, for example, lend themselves to selection processes based on “fit”, not necessarily work experience or hard skills.  We have many clients who rely on us to find them the “right fit” rather than specific skills or experience because they know that “the right fit” is what makes the difference – really!

For other jobs, “fit” is less important because very specific knowledge, skills and experience are key to successful job performance….and the client needs those qualifications to be in place at the point of hire.  Many of the  temporary or contract jobs we fill are of this nature.  The client has no time to train and just needs specific work done, NOW!  Focusing too much on “fit” in those scenarios may not be needed which is why many of these clients hire temporary or contract talent on a short term basis to be able to move quickly.    As all recruiters know, finding candidates with the skills, knowledge and experience needed to do the actual work, while also being a  good “fit” for the client’s  work environment, is not a process done quickly.

Putting together great teams  requires hiring managers to consider several factors:

  • The availability of skilled candidates in the marketplace.
  • Costs – how much will a fully qualified “talent” cost compared to hiring someone slightly less talented, but a better “fit?”
  • The business need – how much “ramp up time” is available between point of hire and when the employee can deliver full performance?
  • The training or support resources available for new hires.
  • The uniqueness of the job – how much information and knowledge has to be provided to any candidate, regardless of work experience or education?
  • What candidate characteristics that are considered important to performance are or are not amenable to training? Can you train someone to be more passionate about their work? To want to learn and grow professionally?

From an HR perspective, there can be issues when hiring managers put too much emphasis on “fit” to the point where the company is at risk for charges of discrimination if that “fit” systematically rejects candidates of a particular race, gender, or age will “fit?” While hiring is inherently discriminating (we have to choose one candidate from several), employers run into trouble when their choices are based on factors that are not related to job performance.

The key to hiring smart is a solid identification of the factors that are actually key to performance success.  While evaluating candidates based on their skills, knowledge and work experience is a relatively straight forward process, assessing candidates based on their “fit” involves a more in depth review of what that term means – in objective, job relevant terms.

The recruiters who are part of the PACE Staffing Network are experts at helping clients hire candidates who both have the skills to do the job and are good “fits” for the actual work requirements.  For a “complimentary ” Hiring Smart Guide to Interviewing, contact infodesk@pacestaffing.com or call 425-637-3312.

This article was written by Jeanne Knutzen, founder and CEO of the PACE Staffing Network.


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