When companies hire people, the most common practice is to go about the process of describing the ideal candidate in a job posting and/or job description. Employers typically identify things like:

  • The essential duties of the position;
  • The ideal set of educational credentials and experiences a candidate should possess; and
  • A set of core competencies the candidate should possess.

The more information provided in the job posting and job description, the more keywords can be utilized to match ideal candidates with the opening.

However, this method of selecting people is missing at least a third of what makes the person a successful fit for a position of interest. And if you are missing a third of each candidate, then both the employer and candidate have increased the likelihood of an unsuccessful employment.

Let me explain. Look at the list above and you can see things that relate to what the person knows and the skills he or she can demonstrate through experience.

Simply put, the job order calls for a specific set of knowledge and skills. Both knowledge and skills can be taught. Theoretically, anything the candidate is missing could be taught by the employer to make them into a "complete" candidate.

However, what about the candidate’s talents and behavioral and cultural fit, both of which cannot be taught? A mismatch between candidate and employer in either of these areas suggests an ineffective employment relationship will follow. Both employer and employee will be uncomfortable.

Let’s explore at a high level what talent and behavioral and cultural fit have to do with job success.


Talent is God-given and people are born with a set of talents. Consider the example of two people who play the piano and who are competing for a position as a piano player:

  • John has studied musical theory and has learned how to read music. He’s gotten to the point that with enough practice he can play a piece of music flawlessly from memory.
  • Charlene can’t read a note of music and doesn’t know much about music theory but whatever she hears, she can reproduce on a piano and then begin improvising from there…she plays “by ear.”

John has highly developed knowledge and skill; Charlene has a highly developed talent. So what does the role call for…more skills and knowledge or more talent?

Depending on this answer, the employer can assess both John and Charlene as to their fit with knowledge, skills and talents.

Behavioral and Cultural Fit

Behavioral and cultural fit has a great deal to do with how well the new person will integrate into the organization or team. Not considering how a particular candidate will behaviorally and culturally fit into the position could lead to an ineffective hire.

Consider two employers with the need for a piano player who are considering John and Charlene. John could be a perfect fit with Employer A but struggle to fit with Employer B. Ditto Charlene.

Both job seekers and employers would increase their success in connecting candidates to careers by giving due consideration to this "missing third." A few action ideas to consider:


Take the time to develop a holistic position posting or job description that considers important elements like talents and behavioral profiles.

Talents to be included on the posting or job description should be developed along the lines of what Marcus Buckingham identified in his masterwork, "First, Break All the Rules."

  • Thinking talents – the HOW of a person…how s/he thinks, makes decisions, etc.
  • Relating talents – the WHO of a person…who s/he trusts, builds relationships with, etc.
  • Striving talents – the WHY of a person…what drives him or her to excel

Behavioral assessments can be effective in identifying fit when comparing a prospective candidate with the employer’s composite profile. Assessing departments, work team, etc. does not have to be a complicated or costly affair, but can save tens of thousands of misspent dollars when hiring a person who does not "fit" the culture.

Job Seekers

Seek out, via the posting and additional research about the employer and position, what the ideal candidate must possess in terms of knowledge, skills and talents, in order to be successful.

Identify how well you will fit in the employer’s culture. The employer will not likely change to accommodate a new employee; it will be the new employee’s responsibility to understand the employer’s culture and be comfortable fitting in.

Only apply to positions where there is a clear fit between your skills, knowledge and talent, and what the position requires.

Build your inventory of examples of how you have applied the knowledge, skills and talents successfully in past situations, in order to ace the interview questions.