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Experience vs Culture Fit – Have You Done Your Research?

January 26, 2017
Lukas Vanterpool

Even candidates of the highest calibre can be the wrong person for the job if they are a poor fit with the company culture.

Company culture is made up of several elements including the office environment, employee values, the companies’ mission statement, management style and overall shared business objectives.

If a person has an independent and introverted personality, they are most likely to fit in with a company that highly values autonomy and provides individual working space; while extroverts who prefer to work collaboratively will thrive in a lively team environment.

We have compared culture fit vs experience and investigated which quality employers should hold in higher regard when looking to fill a new vacancy.


Experience Over Culture Fit

If a company values experienced candidates over those who are a good culture fit, it can mean they do not need to devote a lot of company resource into training them.

Someone with an impressive CV who has built up a lot of experience in a particular field is likely to be confident and polished when dealing with clients and stakeholders, which is highly valuable to most organisations. They may also be able to get stuck into their workload quickly which can be crucial during peak periods.

It is also important to bear in mind that while some candidate’s personalities may come across as markedly different to the rest of your workforce during an interview, they may still be the best asset to your team.

Hiring a diverse mixture of personalities creates a more productive and creative work environment than continually employing candidates with very similar traits.


Culture Fit Over Experience

Most hiring managers would agree that if it came down to two strong candidates, they would pick the candidate with the best culture fit over greater technical aptitude 9 times out of 10.

The main reason for this is while a person who is a strong culture fit may need additional training, they are more likely to forge strong working relationships with the rest of your team, and most intelligent people can learn new skills relatively quickly.

David Vallance, a Digital Marketing professional from Scotland believes culture fit eclipses experience when it comes to hiring new candidates as culture fit cannot be learned. He claims “You can train experience, but you can’t train personality.”

If someone is enthusiastic but requires upskilling, they are also easier to mould to your companies’ specific values and ways of working.

When candidates have a lot of experience in a single area they can be conditioned into bad habits, making them less susceptible to learning new ways of working.


Finding the Perfect Balance

The dream candidate has the perfect mix of experience and is a great fit with the rest of your team. Finding this perfect candidate may sound like an impossible task, but you are significantly more likely to succeed if you follow a few simple steps.

  • Summarise your company culture – this is an important step to complete ahead of starting the recruitment process. As a Hiring Manager, you will need a good idea of what it is that makes your company tick. You should make a short list of which attributes are most highly valued in your workplace and which skills are required to achieve excellence.


  • Know where you are willing to compromise – it is one thing making a list of the traits which are most desirable in potential candidates, but it can be harder to know which qualities are less desirable but can be worked with. This step is no less important, as with adequate support; many hard-working candidates can quickly surpass your expectations.


  • Ask good interview questions – asking the right questions is crucial in finding the best applicant for the job. Questions should be divided between finding out what skills and experience a candidate possesses and finding out how well they would fit with the company ethos. Good questions to determine culture fit include ‘describe how you prefer to be managed’ ‘How would your friends describe you?’ and ‘What is your chosen working style?’


  • Find a good recruitment agency – this is also vital in finding a candidate that is a great match in both skill set and cultural fit. Many recruitment agents are similar to sales people and live by the motto ‘quantity over quality’. It is important to find an agency that are dedicated to properly getting to know candidates and clients. The Sterling Choice work with some candidates for many years and pride themselves on making thoughtful placements that mutually benefit both employee and employer.


To conclude, in the battle between experience and cultural fit, culture comes out on top.  While an experienced candidate may be highly skilled and have a strong work ethic, if they do not work well with others in your business they are unlikely to last long. This is cemented by the fact that the current most frequent reason for dismissal in the UK is related to a poor attitude and not lack of expertise.

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About The Author

Lukas Vanterpool

I started The Sterling Choice with Gareth Whyatt back in August 2013. We’ve always remained true to ourselves and what it is we’re trying to achieve – A great company with great people and great results! This journey never stops, we are always finding ways to support our colleagues and make sure they leave every day feeling fulfilled.

Over the years I’ve always been asked “what’s your USP??, what makes you different from all the other agencies??”. That’s an easy one for me to answer – “Our culture makes our business and our people make our culture”

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