hire for fit and match

How to Hire for Fit and Match Instead of Experience and Education


Do you hire for fit? Many companies say they do, but not all of them are executing it well. Here’s a look at how and why you should hire for fit, and why we think it trumps experience and education.

At VisionSpark, we often refer to hiring for fit and match as “hiring for your Who.” You should never hire anyone that doesn’t have the right “Who” for your company.

Your “Who” is defined by:

  • Behaviors
  • Values
  • Traits
  • Character

All of these are identified through assessment and informed by your unique company culture.


A hiring-for-fit process gives you a competent candidate who is most likely to succeed, perform, and be most productive in your role. This delivers maximum value per hire and helps you avoid the high costs of mis-hiring and employee turnover. Cultural fit is associated with positive outcomes that include greater employee commitment, superior job performance, longevity with the organization, and greater job satisfaction (see, for example, this 2005 study by Kristof-Brown, Zimmerman and Johnson).


Pre-definition is key to hiring for fit and match. It requires that you have:

  • Your company culture clearly articulated and agreed upon
  • The characteristics necessary for success in this role spelled out
  • Agreement from the team on the role and its characteristics

To better understand how your corporate values inform the hiring process, a great place to start is our post on the EOS process.


Why hire for fit and match over education and experience?

Experience and education are certainly important, but they aren’t the only thing you should be looking at — above all others —  when making a hiring decision.  Here are four things employers need to know about fixating on education and experience at the expense of other candidate qualities.


  1. The problem with relying on education:

The smartest, most highly-educated candidate may not fill the necessary job functions best out of all your candidates, and they may not play as nicely with others. Pick the candidate best for your job, at your company, not the one with the most impressive degrees.


  1. The problem with excluding candidates based on strict education and experience requirements:

Often, employers will start out with an idea that the best person for their role should have a tightly-defined educational background or a certain number of years’ worth of experience in a specific industry. The danger is that you will define away your perfect candidate. If you find someone who fits your “Who” to the letter, but they have experience in another industry, or a degree in a different field, or haven’t met your minimum years of experience, wouldn’t you still want to meet them? Being overly conservative with your hiring requirements limits your candidate pool. You are better off being able to consider, compare and contrast options from a rich pool of applicants.


  1. The problem with relying on resumes:

Resumes are marketing documents that present candidates’ exaggerated versions of their education and experience. Beware the charms of a resume. Instead, get excited about the degree to which a candidate matches your “Who” and the requirements of your role.


  1. What you need to know about education and experience “premiums”:

Keep in mind that if you do find a candidate who is a perfect fit for your “Who” and also has a highly credentialed resume, with strong education and experience, they are likely to command a high salary. On the other hand, a candidate who is a great fit for your “Who” but has a more average background can still offer strong potential to your company. Plus, they deliver greater value, as you aren’t paying a premium for first-class education and experience that you don’t actually need. In fact, this “sweet spot” is where we recommend most companies to focus their hiring.


hiring for cultural fit and match correctlyAre your attempts to hire for fit and match missing the mark?

This is a common problem: a company believes they are hiring for fit and match, but actually “poor fit” is being used as an excuse when a candidate just doesn’t “feel right.”

How do you know if this applies to your company?

If you don’t have:

1) A tightly defined company culture; and

2) Prior team agreement on the specific, defined qualities a successful hire would have in this role . . .

Then you can’t be rejecting candidates for poor fit and cultural mismatch — yours aren’t even defined!

Hiring for fit and match is not an excuse to pick favorites.


Employers in this situation who claim to be motivated by fit and match are likely making decisions based on gut instinct and personal affinity. Such hiring methods still have a 50% chance of resulting in a mis-hire, are a poor gauge of future performance, and are prone to bias. Worse, because these employers believe they are already hiring for fit and match, correcting their hiring process is not even on their radar.

How does your hiring process stack up? Are you well-positioned to make the “right-fit” hires your business needs to compete? A new year is the perfect time to re-evaluate and start fresh.

VisionSpark is hosting a Choosing Winners Systems Training in Columbus on Friday, January 29th. This is a chance for employers to learn how to implement their own strategic hiring process. Read the great things workshop attendees have said about this training here.


It’s Coming! Sign up for the Choosing Winners Systems Training Here:

Choosing Winners System Training VisionSpark


Read more about defining company values and finding your “Who”:


Image credits: Man perplexed ©bowie15 / 123RF Stock Photo;  Paper cutouts ©eliber / 123RF Stock Photo; both modified by resizing, filters and text overlay.