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Why Emotional Intelligence Should be a Key Part of Your Hiring Strategy

By Clayton Dean, Last Modified
Sep 09, 2016
> Human Resources

We have a tendency to believe that having a high IQ is a way to guarantee success in life.

But if fact, emotional intelligence is actually the strongest predictor of performance when compared with 33 other workplace skills, according to a study by TalentSmart.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a person’s ability to identify their own emotions and the emotions of others and then use that information to guide their thinking and actions. It affects how they manage their behavior, navigate social settings, and make personal decisions.

Related Article:5 Ways Emotional Intelligence Predicts Your Success

Those with emotional intelligence generally exhibit five key attributes: 

  1. Self-awareness is how well you understand your emotions and manage them. It’s about recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and accepting them as part of who you are or working to improve them. Self-awareness can be tied to self-confidence, which is an important aspect of emotional intelligence.
  2. Self-regulation is your ability to control your emotions and impulses. It’s the discipline to not make rash decisions and react without thinking especially in extremely stressful situations. It’s also your ability to bounce back even when you experience a failure or setback.
  3. Empathy is how well you can put yourself in someone’s shoes to understand how they feel or react to a specific situation. Empathetic people avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly and try to understand what motivates or upsets the people around them.
  4. Motivation is what drives emotionally intelligent people to achieve long-term results rather than settle for immediate rewards like money or status. It’s what helps you achieve results, remain optimistic in times of failure, and face challenges as they arise. 
  5. Social skills reflect your ability to develop and maintain relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work as part of a team, and manage conflict. 

Emotional intelligence can help you navigate the social aspects of the workplace, lead and motivate others, and excel in your career.

Hiring Those With Emotional Intelligence 

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the average cost of poor hiring decisions can equal 30 percent of the individual’s first-year potential earnings. This further emphasizes the need to make strategic and smart hiring decisions that go beyond what a candidate looks like on paper.

Hiring emotionally intelligence individuals can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. In fact, 90 percent of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. That’s why more and more employers are looking for employees that exhibit both technical ability and emotional intelligence. 

Related Article:Tap Into Your Emotions: Why EQ Could Be More Important Than IQ

When interviewing potential employees, you should assess their emotional intelligence by looking for candidates who: 

  • Are passionate about their work
  • Offer a variety of experiences and perspectives
  • Interact well with others
  • Listen to what is being said and then responds
  • Are interested in continuing to develop their own social-emotional intelligence skills
  • Uses nonverbal communication that matches what they say
  • Talk about others in a positive light
  • Answer questions honestly
  • Have the ability to work independently as well as with others
  • Have the ability to be in control under stressful situations

Here are some tips to help employers identify the five attributes of emotional intelligence in the traditional interview setting:

  • You’ll recognize self-aware applicants by their willingness to talk about themselves in a frank, non-defensive manner. They may use self-deprecating humor to talk about themselves. A good interview question is about a time the interviewee got carried away by their emotions and did something they later regretted or asking about a skill or expertise they feel like they’re missing.
  • People who self-regulate can wait until their emotions pass before responding to a situation rather than just reacting to the feelings. In the interview, look for candidates who take a little time to reflect and think before answering your questions.
  • A good way to look for empathy in an interview is to ask your applicant about a situation where a co-worker was angry with them and how they dealt with it. A candidate who’s willing to understand the source of the anger even though they may not agree with the reasons for it exhibits emotional intelligence.
  • Assess your candidate’s motivation by asking about the top three values of a company they would like to work for. It’s a good way to determine if their values align with yours and can give an insight into what motivates them.
  • It’s pretty clear in an interview which candidates bring strong social skills to the table. They discuss how they worked as part of a team to accomplish a goal rather than how they were the hero in every situation. They key into the emotions of the interviewer and respond to it. They are genuine and honest in their interactions.  If in doubt, ask questions about projects and how they responded to conflict in a team setting and how they get people to buy into their goals.

Related Article:A Deeper Commitment: 5 Ways to Create Emotionally Intelligent Teams

When a candidate has the qualities of emotional intelligence, they can work well with others, accomplish organizational goals, and be effective in business and social settings.

Clayton Dean
Clayton Dean
See Clayton Dean's Profile
Clayton is the Co-Founder, President, and COO of Circa Interactive, a digital marketing agency specializing in higher education. He is also the Director of Marketing Operations at Indigenous, an all-in-one website platform geared toward small businesses and the Co-Owner of Helm's Brewery Co. Outside of work, Clayton is an active board member of two San Diego non-profit organizations.
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