Hiring for the emotional intelligence
by Joana Eltjona Ymeraj
22 November 2021
One of the main reasons that we see far too little emotional intelligence and emotionally intelligent people in the workplace is that companies don’t really hire for it. Of course smart and experienced people are needed in our teams, but we also need more people who are better at dealing with change, who will motivate others, and be able to manage both positive and negative emotions to create a good atmosphere where every person can be at their best.
Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient (EQ) is described as the ability to be aware, manage and express your emotions. Emotionally intelligent people tend to approach relationships and work-related interactions in an empathetic way. People with a high EQ tend to be more emotionally aware and sensitive to the feelings of the other people around them. This quality helps them solve problems effectively and in a compassionate manner.
Emotional intelligence greatly affects how individuals make personal decisions, manage their behavior, and navigate everyday social complexities. EQ represents a person’s skills in two areas: personal competence and social competence. In these areas, an emotionally intelligent person has skills that allow him to manage relationships, relate to the emotions of others, practice self-awareness, and be able to manage their own emotions and behavior.
We’re not saying that IQ and technical skills aren’t important when applying for a job, but they are just threshold competencies: Any person needs a certain amount of them to do any job, and once they are over the threshold, getting more IQ and technical skills doesn’t significantly improve their performance.
Traditionally, the decision to hire someone is made based primarily upon his pedigree, aka the university he attended, grades earned and the status of his last employer—without any consideration of emotional intelligence. This could be why you notice so many companies are full of cut-throat, toxic coworkers and bosses. A lot of companies demonstrate a preference for hiring the so-called “rock stars” who oftentimes are borderline lunatics, but are given a pass because they bring in revenue or perform a vital function that’s in strong demand in the company.
Studies show that workers with a high EQ make better decisions, are able to maintain their cool under pressure and stress, deftly resolve conflicts, respond more positively to constructive feedback, work well with other people and demonstrate more leadership abilities. Additionally, high EQ people tend to do very well and advance faster and further within organisations.
A survey showed that “90% of the top performers in America’s most successful companies scored higher in emotional intelligence, and had a higher average income per year.” It further indicated that the emotional intelligence of people was responsible for up to 60% of the good job performance for supervisors all the way to CEOs.”
Hiring emotionally intelligent people is indeed quite a challenge. Everyone turns up their positivity during interviews and the first few months on the job. But that will wear off once they’ve settled in and the honeymoon phase has passed.
It’s important to look for candidates who have qualities your company values, and you actually can hire for emotional intelligence — without it costing an arm and a leg. So let’s start with the dos and don’ts when it comes to hiring emotionally intelligent people.
As a hiring manager, you must avoid using personality tests to screen applicants for emotional intelligence. A false misconception exists that states that EQ and personality are the same thing, and we know from multiple studies that this isn’t the case.
The use of self-report tests and 360-feedback instruments to measure EQ should also be avoided by companies. Self-reporting does not work most of the time, whilst 360-feedback can be easily manipulated in order to reach the desired outcome.
A great way to screen applicants for EQ is through behavioural questioning interviews. This type of approach allows the candidate to describe real-life situations in which they demonstrated skills related to emotional intelligence but also dealt with such things as failure, conflicts, and overcoming obstacles.
Interviewers can dig deeper with their questions for emotional intelligence and ask questions that will allow candidates to demonstrate their level of self-awareness and emotional maturity. Hiring for emotional intelligence is one more way to position a company for success. Asking the right questions in interviews is very important and, in time, identifying top job candidates with a high degree of emotional intelligence will become easier for hiring managers.
An emotionally intelligent person is so much more than a good worker. They are the ones who will put out fires instead of fanning the flames. And they will lift the spirits of the people around them by staying level-headed during difficult situations. Which organisation wouldn’t want an employee like that?