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You Hire For Skills, But You Fire For Something Else

You hire for skills, but you fire for something else

Would you hire an unqualified person? Would you hire someone that wasn’t a great fit for the role, manager, or team? The former doesn’t happen very often and you probably answered no. The latter (hiring someone who’s a poor fit) happens to 95% of companies, and it’s like an epidemic!

Why do companies make the mistake of hiring bad fits?

More often than not, companies have a very narrow view of what it means to be qualified for a position. The definition of qualified is “Officially recognized as being trained to perform a particular job.”

Most organizations emphasize hiring for skills. Hiring for skills is popular because it’s easy to assess by looking at a resume and conducting an interview. We all know how to do this. But here’s the problem:

“Technical competence remains the most popular subject of interviews because it’s easy to assess. But while technical competence is easy to assess, it’s a lousy predictor of whether a newly-hired employee will succeed or fail.

Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ

Being “qualified” does not predict success

Most companies think of qualified candidates as those with the required skills and relevant experiences to do the job. But as your mutual fund will tell you, past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

The candidates you’re considering gained their skills and experience at different companies, with different customers, with different products in different teams and culture than your own. Not everything is transferable. Ever hire the person that looked great on paper but didn’t work out? Everyone has.

The number one failure point in hiring is fit

Only 11% of mis-hires are related to a skills gap. Again, most of us are good at hiring for skills. The other 89% is a range of circumstances that can best be described as fit. So, if you want to improve hiring success you have to get better at hiring for fit.

All too often, qualified candidates fail in their jobs. We have to face it, qualified isn’t predictive of success and companies hire for skills and fire for fit.

Companies who hire for skill rather than fit hire on skill

Go beyond qualified

Fit isn’t found in most job descriptions, resumes, or discussed in interviews.

“Define and measure culture fit; define and measure team fit; accurately and rigorously establish performance fit.”

—Hart Hillman, Senior Partner, Bedford Group/Transearch International.

Does the role you’re hiring for require the candidate to possess intensity and drive or will they be more successful with a laid-back and methodical approach?

Will the most successful candidate be flexible and comfortable with ambiguity or will they need to follow clearly established processes?

Does the job require developing consensus or will the candidate need to drive the team towards results?

“Remember to keep an eye on the intangibles. A candidate’s skill set isn’t limited to functional abilities.”

—Kelly Marinelli, SHRM-SCP, Solve HR

It’s not about what they’ve done, it’s about who they are

This is about a mindset and process shift from a focus on skills and experience to an emphasis on who the candidate is and how they work best. Think about fit and the traits, behaviors and personal preferences that will lead to success on your team.

Many call these “soft skills.” But they’re much more important than the soft label would suggest. They’re critical to success. Think of them as “critical abilities.”

The ideal candidate will have two things:

Soft Skills Are Really Critical Abilities and should drive your hiring decisions

Competencies (Skills)

Yes, we want you to hire talented people. Certain competencies are required. But don’t forget that skills have a lifespan in a technology-driven workplace and that new skills can be taught.

Critical abilities (Fit)

The right combination of traits, behaviors and personal preferences that will lead to success on your team.


If you’d like to learn a little more about what we call Work Style Fit™, you’re welcome to read our recent piece called Hiring for fit in 3 Easy Steps. It’s full of advice and a handy, downloadable worksheet to get your team started.

About the Author:

Kara Rios founded deltPRO to help organizations identify and place the right people in their open positions using a combination of psychology and technology (along with a large dose of common sense). In doing so, we help people be happier at work and happier in life.