Here’s a common story. A job candidate looks great “on paper” – educated, experienced, and bearing letters of reference. But when the candidate comes in for an interview, something just doesn’t click with the hiring manager.
The problem could be that the candidate doesn’t have high “emotional intelligence.”
But what is emotional intelligence? And how can hiring managers screen for it?
Scholars coined the term “emotional intelligence” – also called EQ – in the early 1990s. The term refers to qualities like perseverance and self-control. EQ is also a trait that predicts how well a person may or may not get along with others.
Workers with high EQ are better able to work in teams, adjust to change, and be flexible. No matter how impressive a candidate’s qualifications are, she won’t succeed as either a team player or a team leader without these emotional qualities.
But EQ can be difficult to define and screen for in a job candidate. Because the traits associated with EQ are subjective, there’s no simple test that will reveal who has high emotional intelligence and who doesn’t. So what can hiring managers do?
1) Talk To References – Don’t Just Read Letters
It takes a while to build friendships and successful professional partnerships. When a candidate is able to provide letters of reference, it’s a good sign that she has the interpersonal skills necessary to foster these kinds of relationships.
However, just reading a letter isn’t enough. Taking the time to also speak to the reference allows a hiring manager to get a more detailed picture of how the job seeker conducted herself in her previous workplace. Specifically, a hiring manager should ask the reference for detailed examples of how the candidate treated her former coworkers.
2) Ask Candidates To Tell Stories
Questions about how a candidate might feel about a certain work situation give the hiring manager insight into the candidate’s priorities, values, and integrity.
During an interview, a manager should ask the candidate to tell two stories. One should be about how the person successfully overcame an obstacle at work. The other should be about an unsuccessful attempt.
Have the candidate briefly explain each situation and what she did to address them. Ask specific questions about what the candidate thought, did, and felt throughout.
This technique allows the interviewer to hear the candidate talk about situations involving stress, challenges, and other people. These elements are crucial to determining how high a candidate’s emotional intelligence is.
3) Consider Curiosity
An important part of assessing a candidate’s EQ is gauging what he or she doesn’t know.
A candidate who naturally asks questions after meeting someone – and who is also curious about the goals, values, and workplace culture of a company – likely has a certain degree of empathy. And empathy is one of the main components of EQ.
“Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own,” says Roman Krznaric in his book Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution.
The most important thing to remember about EQ is that, at it’s core, its about how people interact with each other. So beware of written tests or checklists that promise to easily measure a job seeker’s EQ. That’s because savvy test-takers can all too easily “game” the assessment by choosing whichever answers they think the interviewer most wants to hear.
The best way to assess someone’s EQ isn’t through testing. It’s to have a conversation in a setting that makes all parties feel comfortable and welcome.
“Helping our clients get jobs done since 1998.”