How Important is Character in a Potential Candidate?

Friends hanging outside

New research, jointly commissioned by the Cabinet Office, the Child Poverty Commission and the Early Intervention Fund shows that candidates from a poorer background lack some character traits sought after by employers. The research suggests that the education system focuses solely on employability through literacy and numeracy skills and not so much ‘life skills’.

After the popularity of ‘soft skills’ emerging as more or just as equally desirable as qualifications and work experience, it’s no surprise to hear that character is becoming a highly prioritised aspect of a candidate’s profile. But character as a word is highly ambiguous and doesn’t really mean a lot. The character traits that are desired by the recruiter will differ greatly depending on the company culture and the requirements of the role. In general, having good character generally suggests being well-rounded, confident, ambitious, creative and having a good sense of individuality.

So this begs the question – do employs rely too much on hard skills to assess their candidates too heavily? It is certainly the case that employers want to recruit the whole package, searching for fully qualified candidates with years of experience – but we all know there are limited amounts of these ready-made candidates in most industries. Hard skills make up the bare bones of a candidate, the skeleton supporting them if you like. But it’s things like personality and soft skills that flesh them out into the finished product.

However, should candidates be judged too much on their character and soft skills if these are things that they struggle to communicate through a job application? A candidate trying to remain professional in their CV is often reluctant to allow too much of their personality be present in it and will often focus solely on their academic credentials and technical skills, leaving a lot of the personality testing to be done at interview stage. This is partially why psychometric testing has become so popular – as it quantifies personal skills rather than leaving it down to the view of the recruiter.

Lots of candidates develop personal or soft skills when in a working environment but similarly, they can develop and learn technical skills needed for the role. Either way, recruiters need to be increasingly aware of the potential a candidate possesses, rather than looking for the complete package.