Culture Vs Competency

Joe Weinlick
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In a highly competitive labor market, there are plenty of people with a lot of talent to go around for just one position. However, finding a person who is the right fit for your company's culture may be more difficult. When it comes to culture versus competency, one business leader suggests you should try hiring for the better cultural fit amid a talent war for the best candidates.

William Vanderbloemen, CEO and founder of executive search company Vanderbloemen Search Group, believes culture wins against talent every time in the culture versus competency debate. Part of Vanderbloemen's perspective comes from failed hires in the past when he ran a church at the young age of 31. As the leader of the church filled vital positions on his staff, he looked for the best talent only to find these super-skilled pastors did not fit in with the church's congregants or its culture.


When it comes to culture versus competency, it's more efficient and important to teach people skills after hiring for the right cultural fit to prevent having to rehire for the same position over and over again. That's because Vanderbloemen feels anyone can learn competency, or talent, to land a job. On the other hand, you can't learn or teach culture to someone. A candidate is either a fit with the company culture or not, but any candidate can learn the right skills, qualifications and certifications, especially in the digital age. Candidates can take online courses, attend college classes remotely and read industry-specific articles to sharpen their skills and knowledge. That's why the talent war is so muddled and diluted, because anyone has the opportunity to learn the same skill set as everyone else in the fight of culture versus competency.

Finding the Right Cultural Fit

You can find new hires with the right cultural fit using a few techniques. Start with the company's values or mission statement, but avoid generic terms such as "excellence," "customer-centered" or "team players." Just about every company wants people on its team with those characteristics. Instead, articulate the company culture well enough that anyone can spot it. Values should stand out from other companies and be very specific.

Determine if someone can learn the core competency of a particular position quickly and easily, say within 90 days. If so, then cultural fit wins out over finding a talented person in terms of culture versus competency. When talent is a dime a dozen, search for the right cultural fit to find employees who want to work for your company.

Try reverse psychology on potential candidates when you attempt to find the right characteristics in a hire. List the day-to-day activities that someone should not expect when working for your company. For example, "If you expect to have a structured day with same the routine, then perhaps this job isn't for you."

When it comes to culture versus competency, try hiring people with the best cultural fit first and see what happens. You might just create a better core group of employees and keep hires on board for longer periods of time.

Photo courtesy of Jonn Doe at


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