The most important candidate attribute

By Peter Weddle

What Have We Learned (WHWL) is a weekly column by TAtech CEO Peter Weddle that examines what will endure after the Covid-19 pandemic ends. It asks what positive can we extract from the negative experience of this contagion? And, it answers that question with this simple truth: The best way to recover from a crisis is to focus on the knowledge we have gained while passing through it.

So, What Have We Learned from the Covid-19 pandemic: For all the talk about talent in recruitment, the most important candidate attribute is character.

As we’ve seen expressed by healthcare workers and bus drivers, cops and fire fighters and grocery store cashiers, famous musicians and just regular folks in our neighborhoods, character is something special in our species. It is an innate kindness, a deep-seated optimism, a proactive generosity and a reliable courage – all expressed in the millions of different ways we humans interact with one another.

Character is a neighbor offering to do the grocery shopping for an elderly person living next door.

It is the bus driver showing up to ferry essential workers to their jobs even though their route takes them through a city’s virus hot spot.

It is a nurse who is working long shifts amid dangerous conditions and pauses to hold the hand of a desperately sick patient.

It is a school teacher leading her elementary school students through their lessons online and then driving past their homes each week to wave and wish them well.

Character is all of these simple yet powerful acts and millions more that demonstrate and quietly celebrate the best of humankind.


For recruiters, candidates with character are the persons of talent their coworkers depend on, day-in, day-out. They do all those things we value but seldom recognize formally: they go the extra mile, they step up when times get tough, they do more than what’s required, and they are there for others come what may.

Character multiplies the skills of a person and enables, empowers and encourages them to apply that talent whenever and wherever they can on-the-job.

Candidates without character, on the other hand, are a trojan horse for recruiters. They appear to have great talent; they check all the skill and experience boxes on a job req. And yet, inside beneath that surface persona, there’s no empathy, no connection with or concern for others.

The sole focus of a person without character – even one with talent – is their own performance and advancement. Their goal is to be an individual champion, not part of a championship team.

So, What Have We Learned from our Covid-19 experience? Talent is a measure of capability; Character is a measure of accountability.

Peter Weddle is the CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions, the trade organization for the global talent acquisition technology industry. He is the author or editor of over two dozen books and has been a columnist for National Business Employment Weekly and the interactive edition of The Wall Street Journal. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and holds advanced degrees from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

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