Skill Set vs Cultural Fit

Recently I’ve spoken to a number of people in the Financial Services industry who’ve asked me about the overall health of the GRC labour market, how it looks to someone who’s dealing with it directly every day. Speaking strictly from my experience, it feels like this year has seen a real tension between organisations looking to grow fast and the available skills in the talent pool. With the frequent introduction of tighter and tighter regulations requiring more advanced skill sets than ever before for GRC positions, it’s understandable that high-level candidates who do have the technical know-how and specialised experience are seeking higher salaries.

To be clear, that need for well-developed skills and extensive technical knowledge is understood on the client side too, with many companies extending their recruitment processes, bringing in more rounds of interviews, tests and meetings with very senior staff. Resultantly we’ve seen the time frame on senior permanent hires grow longer. I know that these roles are very demanding and I don’t want to in any way diminish the importance of having the right skills and experience for a high-level GRC position.

However – I do think some organisations have started to seriously underrate cultural fit. They’ll find a candidate who has great rapport with the interviewer, meets the team and gets on well with all of them, has a conversation with the CEO and senior board members that everyone enjoys – only to reject them on the grounds of not having experience of one very specific aspect of the job.   Similarly, I’ve seen clients focus their search requests aggressively on a single highly specialised skill, extending search times until they finally bring in one of the few people who have it despite being a terrible fit for the organisation’s culture and then see that person leave the company within the year.

Cultural fit is more than simply having a personality that meshes well with colleagues, it’s also about finding someone whose core personal values fit well with the values and goals of the wider company, someone whose personal growth plan fits in with the future of their role, someone with a vision for their position and their team that can help push the whole business forward. When I find people like that I’m always so excited to connect them to the client I know they’ll be the perfect fit for – and it’s always disappointing to see them rejected for having only 3 years of experience where the job spec has asked for 5.

Obviously I don’t think anyone should hire someone that doesn’t have the skills they need, but I do think that if you have a candidate who is perfect in every other way, it’s worth considering if they can perhaps gain those extra years of experience in the role, or if you can provide training to get them up to speed. It’s a shame to throw away a candidate who may not be 100% perfect for your role but who is 98% of the way there and is more than capable of making up for that perceived gap.

I’d be interested to hear from people on both sides on how you think the industry is currently handling (or mishandling) the balance between culture and skill set.

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