Fit is by far the number one criterion to use when hiring for your team. More times than I would like to admit in my career, I've "fallen in love" with a candidate on paper and hired them quickly to avoid the pain of not having their skill set in the company. More often than not, it ends up not working. It's not because they didn't have the skills to do the job, but rather they were not the right fit for our company culture.
At The Tie Bar we like to focus on cultural fit before we ever dig into someone's skills or abilities. We've even developed a set of common criteria to draw from when interviewing a candidate to test for cultural fit. Things like brand curiosity, possessing an ownership mentality, being a team player, and willingness to take calculated risk are all attributes I weigh potential hires against. As a result we've passed on a number of candidates who possess the right skills and abilities but we felt were just not a match with our environment. It doesn't mean they're not a good worker or bad people, just that they would possibly be unhappy or not fit well within our company.
Once you have a qualified candidate and know they would be a good fit, you have to determine whether you want to hire leaning more towards their ability or more towards their skills. You will find that the decision to lean more towards skills or ability is situational. I always rely more on current skills when we need results and/or change quickly-particularly when a department or area is under intense pressure to perform. In these situations you should choose skills over ability, as you don't really have time to allow them to develop what you need. For example, if you have a department that is experiencing accelerated volume, is underperforming, or has high staff turnover, you need to make sure your new hire has the skills on day one to tackle the situation at hand.
Conversely, if that same department finds itself functioning at an acceptable level, you can afford to bring in someone with a broader scope of abilities. One who is capable of growing into a bigger role than the current one you are hiring. Someone with a "longer runway" if you will, since you have the luxury of time for them to get up to speed and learn the skills specific to their new role. This is a way to grow the depth of your management team without having to hire more staff than you currently need.
We all know that in the "ideal world" you would hire someone with the right fit, who possesses both the skills and ability to handle the job today, tomorrow, and moving forward. But in the real world, running a business requires making choices based on the needs of today weighed against the available talent pool. You need to fill your needed roles, sometimes faster than others, so we must make trade-offs between choosing someone with the right skills today versus the ability to do the role and much more in the future.
Just make sure that as you balance these two factors you consider cultural fit first and foremost. If not, in my experience, you will be settling and likely disappointed in the long-term. Think back on the employees that have not been successful in your company and ask yourself why was that? How many of them were not successful because they didn't fit versus they did not have the abilities or skills to do the job? I'd be willing to bet that fit was the problem, or a major part of the problem, in most if not all cases.