• Estimated read time: 6 mins
  • Date posted:24/02/2020
  • Share:

Finding candidates with both technical and cultural fit is the ‘holy grail’ of hiring. It’s rare to find candidates that are an exact fit and have the desired combination of both. While technical fit was once king, cultural fit has risen up the agenda. It’s no longer good enough for candidates to just tick all of the skills boxes. Hiring managers are now on the lookout for candidates that align with their organisation’s culture and values; someone that will fit in with the organisation and what it stands for. After all, you can learn technical skills, but soft skills are more difficult to teach, often requiring a change of mindset and working practice.

More and more organisations are considering their culture (including their mission and values) when determining whether a candidate would be a good fit for the role and their team. Hiring managers are aware that the wrong hire can have ramifications across the entire organisation. This is especially the case with executive-level hires. Recovering from the mistakes brought about by poor leadership will cost an organisation dearly in capital, resources and reputation; a risk no discerning life science organisation can afford. This makes assessing cultural and technical fit absolutely essential.

What is the definition of technical fit?

Technical fit is an indicator of a candidate’s technical skills, experience and ability. It determines whether a candidate has the required skills, experience and ability to perform the role. This information can be obtained throughout the hiring process from their job search touchpoints (CV, pain letter and LinkedIn profile) during the prequalification stage right through to reference checks prior to extending a job offer. Hiring managers can observe their educational background and previous experience to determine whether they are capable of doing the job and whether they’ve accomplished similar feats in the past.

How do you determine technical fit? 

Technical fit is also assessed during the candidate’s interviews. Hiring managers should ask specific questions to determine whether they’re qualified for the position. Here are a few questions that could be asked to help you determine the technical fit of a candidate:

  1. Tell me about a situation in which you encountered a challenge and overcame it?
  2. What are the three most important skills you need in your current job?
  3. What are your core strengths and how do you play to them?

These questions assess whether a candidate is an expert in their field. Hiring managers can then make a judgement about the suitability of the candidate and whether they’d be able to perform the job in question.

If you ever find yourself in the enviable position of two candidates with exceptional technical ability, ask yourself the following three questions about the role and the candidates:

  1. What is the number one thing you need/want in this hire?
  2. Where do the candidate’s skills and experience overlap?
  3. Where do the candidate’s skills and experience differ?

For more information on choosing between two exceptional candidates, check out our blog: How To Choose Between Two Exceptional Leadership-Level Candidates.

What is the definition of cultural fit?

Cultural fit, also known as organisational fit, refers to the extent to which a candidate’s values, beliefs, outlook and conduct align with that of the hiring organisation. An employee with good cultural fit tends to ‘gel’ with their coworkers and benefits from increased job performance, job satisfaction and retention. An employee with poor cultural fit tends to leave for pastures new.

Think of organisational culture as the personality of the organisation. It’s the values and beliefs lived and breathed by the organisation’s founders and the people who serve them. Culture determines the way in which employees work and collaborate. For this reason, it shapes and harmonises the behaviour of its workforce.

Culture varies from organisation to organisation. The founders and leadership team will inject their values into the bones of the organisation, for better or for worse. There are companies with exceptional, inclusive cultures, and those with toxic cultures where everyone lives in fear and motivation and retention rates are rock bottom. Over time, organisational culture can be adapted and transformed collectively by the workforce.

In terms of hiring, the aim is to identify and hire candidates that align with the company culture. In a saturated job market, candidates are increasingly aware that to stand out, they need to ensure their personality shines on their CV and during their interview. The hiring manager can then assess whether their personality and values mesh with their company culture. Hiring a candidate who isn’t a good cultural fit could result in consequences for the individual and the organisation as a whole. Thus getting this right is crucial.

Why is it important?

Candidates that align with the organisation’s cultural fit are more likely to work well with other employees. While a diverse workforce is beneficial to your organisation, productivity and morale can be at an all-time low if their personal values don’t align. In fact, 97% of employees believe the lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task. The more attuned the candidate is to your values, the more valuable an asset they will be to the organisation.

RELATED: Increase quality-of-hire by partnering with a reputable boutique executive search firm

Find out more

Additionally, staff retention will be increased if employees feel personally connected and aligned to the company culture. Organisations with leaders who are micromanagers could put off talented employees who don’t thrive or enjoy this style of management. On the other hand, organisations with a more open leadership style could be just the ticket. A workforce comprised of culturally aligned employees helps to improve employee engagement and retention. If your workplace culture encourages employees to have their voices heard and makes them feel valued, this will create loyalty and they’ll be less likely to resign.

While skills can be learned on the job, enthusiasm and passion come from within. Generally speaking, the more passionate you are about something, the more productive and successful you’ll be. This demonstrates the advantages of hiring candidates that are a good cultural fit.

How do you determine cultural fit?

Cultural fit can be determined by evaluating a candidate’s soft skills, such as communication, leadership or decision-making. While a candidate can inject their personality into their job search touchpoints, cultural fit and soft skills can be more easily established during a face-to-face interview. Hiring managers should take the opportunity to assess soft skills during the interview by asking specific questions. We’ve included five below to get you started:

  1. Can you tell me about a time when you successfully led a team through a challenging time? (Leadership, management and teamwork)
  2. How do you cope when you have too much work on your plate? (Timekeeping, organisation)
  3. Can you tell me an example of when you’ve successfully solved a problem? (Problem-solving)


As the hiring manager, it’s your responsibility to understand how your organisation is structured, its work ethic (for example, if it offers flexible working) and how it measures success. You can then reflect on this when it comes to assessing a candidate’s answers to your questions. The extent to which a candidate will merge with your company culture can be determined by asking questions that identify their work ethic and motivations.

Below are a list of further questions to identify their cultural fit:

  1. What attracted you to this position? (Why do you want to work here? Why do you think this culture will be different to your previous positions?)
  2. What are three things that are most important to you in a job? (What makes you tick and motivates you?)
  3. What’s the culture like in your current organisation? (Does it make you thrive? Why doesn’t it?)


These in-depth questions will help to establish their values and beliefs, which you can measure against the organisations.

If you ever find yourself in the enviable position of two candidates with cultural fit, ask yourself the following three questions about the role and the candidates:

  1. Which candidate demonstrated the most enthusiasm about the position and the organisation?
  2. Who appeared the most engaged or asked the most questions during the interview?
  3. Which candidate would you rather take out for lunch or have a drink with after work?


For more information on choosing between two exceptional candidates, check out our blog: How To Choose Between Two Exceptional Leadership-Level Candidates.

Why are candidates judged on technical and cultural fit?

A combination of technical and cultural fit is hard to ascertain but is generally preferred. While technical fit is something that can be trained and developed, softer skills are intangible. They come naturally to the candidate and are at the roots of their identity. However, for many life science executives and senior managers, technical skills are a prerequisite. A master’s degree, other qualifications or previous experience in a specific position is essential to do the role. So while there’s an increasing urge for hiring managers to hire with cultural fit in mind, technical skills shouldn’t be discarded. The hiring process should be all about finding candidates that not only possess the hard skills but also gels with the company culture.

A general rule of thumb is to hire in terms of a candidate’s potential, rather than their judging their ability based on previous experience. While a strong track record of their performance in previous roles is advantageous, keep in mind that hiring the wrong candidate can be detrimental. The hiring manager will need to weigh up the pros and cons of each candidate in terms of their technical and cultural fit.

For more hiring advice tailored to hiring managers in the life science industry…

Read Longlisting Vs Shortlisting: What’s The Difference?
View our executive search solutions to see how we can help you grow your team and your business.

* Fraser Dove International is a specialist executive search firm operating exclusively in the Life Science industry. Passionate about people, we take pride in helping exceptional life science organisations source the talent they need to design, manufacture and distribute life-changing drugs, treatments and devices which transform and save patient lives.

Got a question?

Get in touch

Our FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) contain answers to the most common questions our clients and candidates ask our consultants about executive search. Should you have any specific questions that we have not yet answered, please contact us using the form below or call us on +44 (0)203 355 7050. We endeavour to respond to all enquiries within 1 business day.