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If “Fit” Is So Important, Why Do We Hire Based On Experience?

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

This post comes from a thought I had while teaching a management course. The topic was the importance of cultural fit and how to judge it when hiring. I couldn’t help but feel some disconnect from what I have seen in the marketplace having spent so much time in the recruiting industry.

This is how most companies hire:

  • Determine what the duties will be, then spread the word through advertising or requests for referrals.

  • Collect outlines of applicants’ experience and education (resumes).

  • Interview candidates that seem to have the best experience and education versus the salary budget.

  • Out of those candidates, select the individual with whom they are most comfortable.

It’s a very experience-based approach to hiring. Culture fit is considered, but due to the hiring process itself, consideration is limited to only those candidates with the best education and experience. For this reason, companies end up hiring a candidate that is somewhat-of-a-cultural-fit out of the most experienced candidates available. They miss candidates that may ultimately be better long-term employees because their values are more in line with those of the organization, because they weren’t in the top-tier when it came to experience.

Instead of starting by narrowing down the applicant pool based on resume qualifications, what if we reversed the hiring process to cast the widest net available based on cultural fit? If we did, I think we would end up with a hiring process something like this:

  • Determine the minimal amount of background necessary to either do, or learn, the job.

  • Spread the word, including the fact that we are willing to train.

  • Collect ‘proof of interest’ in the job from candidates. This could be a resume, but also could simply be a letter or other form of communication that states interest.

  • Conduct brief interviews to determine basic cultural fit first, talking to anyone that meets the minimal background threshold.

  • Then conduct longer interviews to ascertain deeper cultural fit, as well as the ability to learn the job.

  • Hire the person that is the best cultural fit, without regard to the amount of experience or education they have, as long as we are confident that they could learn the job in a reasonable period of time.

The only issues I see with this approach is that 1) it potentially takes more time, and 2) we don’t necessarily end up with the most experienced individual because we may weed them out early based on cultural fit. These two issues shouldn’t matter though. If someone has a superior background, but is not as good of a cultural fit, then they won’t be long-lived at the company anyway. If we are justifying the hire based on productivity reasons, then this approach doesn’t work. Even though a more experienced person may be more productive initially, if they leave sooner, then the overall benefit to the organization is greatly diminished.

The fact that this approach would take more time is definitely true, but it also doesn’t hold up to scrutiny if we truly believe that our teams are our greatest asset. If our teams truly are that important, then it makes sense to invest more time in selecting the right team members in the beginning, versus having to replace them sooner due to an expedient hiring process. A short-term hire ultimately does no one any good.

I would welcome your thoughts on this. Hiring well is a complex topic. Please message me or email me at mark@4610ent.com

Until next time, I wish you the best in all your endeavors.


Mark Goldman


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