07/03/2013 05:38 pm ET Updated Sep 02, 2013

Hiring for Skills Is Hurting Your Culture

Finding the right balance between a candidate's skills and other traits is an eternal struggle for hiring managers. Which qualities should carry more weight in these decisions?

Well, according to a study of 20,000 employees, nearly half (46 percent) of new hires failed within 18 months, and 89 percent of the time it was for attitudinal reasons rather than lack of skills.

"It's not that skills aren't important, but when the top predictor of a new hire's success or failure is dependent on attitude, attitude is clearly what we need to be hiring for," said Mark Murphy, the author of this study, in an interview with BusinessNewsDaily.

Another study determined 14 percent of hires don't last because of a failure to fit the company culture. In other words, employees with a strong cultural match last longer than those hired based on hard skills.

Based on these studies, it is clear that focusing hiring decisions solely on skills is not the answer. Instead, look for candidates who best fit your company. Skills can be improved over time. Cultural fit cannot.

Hire candidates who have the potential to be amazing. These people fit well with your culture and have the right attitude about the job. With a little more guidance and training, these people will be determined enough to bring their skills up to the level of the most skilled candidates you saw. But this way, they'll have the best of both sides of the spectrum.

Some things to look out for to ensure a cultural fit include soft skills like collaboration, leadership, and communication. These skills are important because they are what make a person fit in with the established team. If candidates do well with the team, they will be more likely to succeed in your company.

Use the interview to get to know each candidate as a person and determine if they would fit with your company's culture. Ask questions to help you determine the candidate's ambition, interpretation of success, and work ethic.

These might include why they want to work for your company, why they are the best person for the job, how they define success, and what super power they'd want if they could have one. Find out what they value about their work environment. Mix up the questions to see how they would fit in at your company.

You should also ask behavioral questions to learn how a candidate approached situations in the past. For example, "When you work with a team, describe the role that you are most likely to play on the team." Or, "Tell me about a decision you made that was based primarily on customer needs and input." Compare their answers to the way your company would normally handle those situations.

Clearly, hard skills are necessary qualifiers in the hiring process, but it's essential to give them an equal weight with a candidate's attitude and personality. Otherwise, you risk a cultural mismatch.

How do you balance skills with culture in your company's hiring process?