Hiring for Emotional Intelligence – One of the most important skills employers look for in an employee

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence, also known as EI or EQ, refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions.

A survey produced by the World Economic Forum in 2016 considered emotional intelligence to be one of the most important skills employers would look for in an employee by 2020.

High levels of communication, collaboration and empathy often make the difference between making a good or bad hire, ultimately helping the business to improve employee engagement and productivity whilst reducing staff turnover and avoiding the hidden costs of recruitment.

Incorporating EQ into the recruitment process can help you understand how a potential hire may fit into your business and handle situations, for example:

• High pressure environments
• Working with different team members and departments
• Stakeholder engagement and liaising with various levels of management
• Remote, flexible or un-supervised working
• Customer interaction – sales, customer service, complaints

These measures also give a good idea about their attitude, learning style, how they like to be managed and whether they share the values of the organisation, which can potentially offer insights into their level of commitment to the role.

What is important is how we recognise and implement our understanding of emotional intelligence to improve the quality of our hires.

A person’s ability to manage their feelings is hard to screen. During the interview process, we are unconsciously measuring a candidate’s responses, both verbal and physical, their mannerisms and how well they portray themselves. What we are really doing is assessing their emotional intelligence.

Here are five suggestions to incorporate into your recruitment process to identify emotional intelligence:

1. Pay attention to the language used when describing emotions – the more specific the language, the more likely they are to demonstrate emotionally intelligent behaviours.
2. Observe their level of self-awareness – are they open about their strengths and weaknesses? Can they give an example of when they have been open to self-improvement? Did they describe a time when they received negative feedback or criticism? Watch out for cliched language or signs they take offence easily or appear to hold grudges.
3. Note whether they demonstrate empathetic behaviours – do they show interest about other employees, the team or how they will fit in?
4. Can the candidate describe a frustrating or conflicting situation in the workplace and how they dealt with it? Did they explain their rationale for how they chose to handle it? Did they take responsibility or steps to understand the other person’s point of view/feelings?
5. Observe reactions when asked to explain and re-explain a situation. A candidate with high levels of EQ will be able to easily adapt their explanation for clearer understanding.

Great people hire other great people. Make emotional intelligence a priority when hiring and it will benefit your business long-term. Not only will it provide useful insight into candidates’ mindsets and attitudes, which can be as important as their skillset and qualifications, it will also become an indispensable tool for future recruitment practice – by making sure you’re assessing the full package.