Want to Hire People With High Emotional Intelligence? Look for These 5 Things

Smart employers recognize the value of emotional intelligence in the workplace. In a survey of more than 2,600 hiring managers and HR professionals, HR company CareerBuilder found that:

  • 71% said they value emotional intelligence more than IQ in an employee
  • 75% said they were more likely to promote a candidate with high emotional intelligence over one with a high IQ

Emotionally intelligent employees are invaluable because they help build chemistry. Great chemistry leads to great teams. And great teams do great work.

But as an employer, how can you identify emotional intelligence when you see it?

Here are five things to look for.

1. Look for “learn-it-alls.” Not “know-it-alls.”

As an employer, you want to see candidates who are confident in their skills. But you also want people  who aren’t full of themselves and are willing to learn from others.

That’s because every company lives and dies by the success of your teams. A great team can accomplish much more than a single person, no matter how talented. And a single “brilliant jerk” can totally ruin a potentially high-performing team.

Yes, look for a candidate to communicate what they do well. But also look for those who share what they’ve learned from mentors and colleagues, who give others credit for helping them to become the person they are today.

2. Look for people who work on themselves.

Think “What is your greatest weakness?” is an old and useless interview question? Think again. It’s actually a chance to identify emotional intelligence in job candidates.

Experienced interviewers know that only a precious few job-seekers can identify a true weakness. And even fewer have developed plans to strengthen those weaknesses. To do so takes intense self-reflection, critical thinking, and the ability to accept negative feedback-;qualities that take years to develop.

3. Look for people who embrace the rule of awkward silence.

Most job candidates try to answer every interview question right away. They’re afraid that if they pause before answering, they’ll appear unqualified or stupid.

But you know what’s really stupid? Trying to answer a difficult question without thinking it through.

In contrast, look for applicants who embrace the rule of awkward silence. They aren’t afraid to pause a few seconds-;even if slightly uncomfortable-;if it means getting their emotions under control to give a more thoughtful answer.

4. Look for relationship-builders.

You might speak with hundreds of candidates in the course of a job search. If the qualifications and experience are comparable, how can you tell who stands out?

Maybe they write a handwritten note after the interview. Maybe they mention something they liked about the company … or even a question they wish they answered differently.

Candidates who do this early on show they know how to use the power of emotion to build connection-;a sign of great relationship management skills.

5. Look for great questions.

Remember that a good job interview shouldn’t just be for the benefit of the company. It should also be a chance for the candidate to determine if the job is the right fit for their goals and skill set.

So, look for applicants who use thoughtful questions to gather information about your company and its culture. They might ask what their first days on the job look like. They might ask about company values, and show how these align with their own. They may even ask about the challenges of working at your company.

By asking difficult questions, these job seekers show they aren’t just going through the motions-;they’ve given thought to the process. And that type of preparation and careful thought helps keep emotions in balance.

Hiring for emotional intelligence isn’t easy, but it is possible-;if you know what to look for. So, if you’re conducting interviews, remember:

1. Look for “learn-it-alls.” Not “know-it-alls.”

2. Look for people who work on themselves.

3. Look for people who embrace the rule of awkward silence.

4. Look for relationship builders.

5. Look for those who ask great questions.

Do this right, and your company will be able to hire, not just for IQ, but for EQ. And that’s a brilliant combination.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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