Finding Fit: How to Go Beyond Skillset

Assessing soft skills might be the toughest part for a hiring manager to master. But the reality is that making sure a candidate fits beyond their technical abilities is crucial to hiring the best person for the job, and in the process avoiding wasting time and money.

Assessing job candidates is an art, and it takes more than just algorithms and checklists. A Forbes interview with Mark Murphy asserts that, while technical skills are easy to measure in the hiring process, the most effective measures of a candidate’s potential success are quite hard to gauge. I completely agree. The process of finding fit with an organization is incredibly important.


The worst hiring process selects someone with the technical skills but no way of fitting into your organization. The hiring managers I’ve spoken with would much rather have someone who fits well and only hits 95% of the required skillset than one who is 100% on paper and a team-killer in person.

If your new hire’s style doesn’t fit, the company will suffer.

Murphy argues that a drive to learn and willingness to own their mistakes make candidates much more desirable. I agree, and often point out that management and work style are underestimated requirements. Intense workplaces do not benefit from those who seek joy and camaraderie above quantifiable results; nor do teams who function primarily on synergy and creative flow benefit from rigid, unbending candidates. Both those candidates have a brilliant future in a company that understands them, but they both stand to fail in the wrong work environment.

There’s a lot to be said for bringing creativity to data-driven cultures and rule-following to lax cultures. But only if the variance from the culture is slight enough that nobody is made uncomfortable with the new addition. Challenging toward growth is good. Challenging toward dissatisfaction and anger is not.

How do you find the line that separates useful challenge from excessive challenge? How do you protect your team by giving them the candidate who fits the job?

Careful interviewing. Thoughtful weighing of skills versus soft skills. Experience.

If you have trouble finding the right balance, let me have a go.


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