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Hire for Emotional Intelligence

October 13th, 2017

Emotional intelligence (or EQ) has taken on a growing weight during hiring decisions over the last few decades, and the growth of its measured value shows no signs of slowing down. Years ago, EQ was often considered a fringe benefit or tie breaker after other factors (like work ethic and industry-related knowledge) had already been worked into the equation. But at this point, wise hiring managers recognize that this is a make-or break metric that can determine the success of failure of a potential new hire.

So how can you recognize the signs of emotional intelligence in an interview setting? Here are few things to look for.

First, just ask.

If you ask your candidate to rate his or her emotional intelligence and give the reasoning behind the answer, you may be met with a blank stare. You may also be met with a candidate who has heard this term but personally dismisses the weight of this metric or seems uninterested in its value to you as a manager. These are red flags. Look instead for the candidate who understands what the term means, seeks to cultivate this quality, and knows how to recognize and value it in himself and others.

Request answers in narrative form.

To accurately assess emotional intelligence—a subjective quality—ask your candidate to “tell you story”. For example: “Tell me a story about a time you faced a serious challenge and had to rely on your team”, or “Tell me about a time when you had to compromise in order to succeed.” The narrative format allows the question to remain open ended and the candidate to answer in his or her own words. Listen carefully and read between the lines to look for signs of communication skill, listening skill, empathy, and life experience.

Can your candidate read your cues while staying true to her own personality?

You don’t want candidates who will change their answers, feelings, stories, personalities and interests in order to present you with what they think you want to see. But you DO want candidates who understand subtlety and recognize the intention behind your questions and statements. Look for a balance; your ideal candidate will understand your words, take them at face value, and present her own answers with honesty and confidence.

Assess teamwork and leadership skill.

Even if the position in question won’t involve any official leadership and won’t entail a heavy component of teamwork, these two qualities can reveal volumes about a candidate’s emotional intelligence. Determine how she typically approaches leadership and teamwork challenges and assess her growth and current strength in both areas.

For more on how to assess personality and readiness during candidate interviews, turn to the Hartford and Stamford recruiting experts at Merritt.

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