Hire first for cultural fit, then skills

By: Magda Walczak

When you look at a candidate’s resume, what do you look for first: skills or personality? When you interview a potential hire, do you first screen them for abilities or for cultural fit?

According to my very brilliant friend and people guru Carel Nolte, for a win-win relationship between your company and employees, you should check for cultural fit before anything else.

The following is a recent interview with Carel on the topic. It originally appeared in The Star in Carel’s native South Africa, but for some reason that newspaper doesn’t publish their stories online, so I did! I thought this article was a worthwhile read for anyone who’s ever hired anyone or applied for a job themselves.

Hiring right person vital for corporate culture

The right person for the task is more about personality than skill

carelFar too much importance is placed on searching for mechanical skills and not nearly enough on matching personalities to a corporate culture.

So says Carel Nolte, Head of People and Brand at Etana Insurance.  “Skills can be learnt, while individual personalities and passion are the life blood and energy of a company and need to fit,” he says.

“That’s the real human resource challenge: achieving a perfect personality fit and that needs to be a high priority.  Failure to make who-people-are more important than what they can already do has no long-term benefits for insightful companies or individuals in search of a satisfying career and a balanced life.”

On top of that, Nolte believes, even in the area of personality assessment, highly sophisticated psychometric testing has taken the place of good, old-fashioned personal judgment.

“Whatever happened to looking someone in the eye and having a proper conversation about things that are personally important and vital to that person’s happiness?” he asks.

“At Etana we rely more on heart and human responsiveness than what sophisticated tests say.  We are looking for people to share and increase our energy and that rarely, if ever, comes across on paper.”

Nolte believes HR professionals rely too heavily on various tests, diplomas and training certification.

“Selecting people based on paper has a high failure rate, and documents can also be easily forged or inflated,” he says.

“In searching for talent we need to have much more faith in our instincts and personal judgment and focus on the human being’s personality and how neatly it fits into our company culture.”

Failure to create cultural cohesion means you are faced with the impossible task of continuously trying to match multiple types of personalities to a team leader or manager and the team they will be working with.

“By making the corporate culture the priority, all your players have a much better chance of getting along — most of the time.”

Job seekers would benefit enormously by doing their homework on the culture of the organisation.

“At Etana, I am impressed when I get a CV that gives meaningful insight into the personality of a candidate, rather than shallow and trite answers about their favourite sport or activity.” Nolte says.

‘A candidate has two empowering choices to make: explain on paper or in the interview how they would fit into our culture and add to our energy, or decide that they prefer a more conventional and predictable nine-to-five existence and decide to target a more conservative organisation, and save themselves some time.”

Nolte says personality matches to corporate culture benefit individuals in the following ways:

• Job satisfaction is made possible and multiplied.

• Unnecessary stress is removed.

• Better career progression is yours because when you’re happy nine-to-five you are more creative and attract positive attention.

• You don’t dread coming to work each day.

• You don’t spend your life job-hopping without stability.  Instead you can concentrate on building a career within an environment that stimulates and re-energises you every day.

It should be obvious – but doesn’t appear to be – that finding the right person for the task is more about personality than skill, says Nolte.

The corporate advantages are:

• Customer service depends on harmony within the workplace flowing outward.

• Innovation and creativity is enhanced.

• The cultural energy is positive.

• Less personality clashes to manage.

• Staff retention improves.

• The constant expense of retraining diminishes.

“It’s time to bring match-making into the workplace on a human and emotional level that is highly personal,” Nolte concludes.

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Always hungry. Nuts for dogs. Love to travel. I write about marketing, food, web, travel and whatever else strikes my fancy.

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