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High competence vs. Cultural fit

The first people you hire in your startup company are critical to the company’s success. So it’s easy to say that you need to hire the “absolute best people you can find.” But what does this actually mean?

Take two different spectrums – (1) competence and (2) cultural fit. Imagine that you have a spectrum for each person — from low to high.

Recruiting talent. Most companies obviously will not hire someone who is low on both competence and cultural fit. They will try to hire someone who is high on both competence and culture fit. But what about the other two cases? Many companies default into hiring people who have high competence but a low cultural fit. This is a deadly mistake in a startup, as this is exactly the wrong person to hire. While they may have great skills for the role you are looking for, the overhead of managing and integrating this person into your young team will be extremely difficult. This is especially true if they are in a leadership position, as they will hire other people who have a cultural fit with them, rather than with the organization, creating even more polarization within your young company.

In contrast, people with low competence but a high culture fit are also not great hires. But if they have “medium” competence, or have high competence in a related role, or if they’re early in the career and ambitious about learning new skills, they may be worth taking a risk on.

While you always want to shoot for high competence, high cultural-fit people when you are hiring early in your company’s life, it’s always better to choose cultural fit over competence when you have to make a choice. But also later on in corporate life, hiring the right people with the right core values and cultural fit, should be a top priority. It’s very costly to replace a wrong hire, let alone the damage it will do in terms of customer loyalty. Taylor Protocols can identify the right people for you because the CVI assessment bypasses personality and behavior revealing their unchanging motivational drivers and sense for how they are wired to contribute to the company.

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