Hiring for Emotional Intelligence

We’ve all seen bright and technically competent people fail in managerial/leadership roles because of poor or non-existent people skills. The study of this phenomena finds that success in a leadership role is strongly correlated with above average people skills or what has come to be known as, high emotional intelligence. Indeed, at the top levels of any organization, where most people are bright and technically competent, the only variable that reliably predicts success is emotional intelligence (not book smarts or “expertise”).

The trouble is, hiring decisions are often made on the basis of cognitive ability (smarts) and technical expertise (competence). If you are hiring for a mid-level technical role, an emphasis on smarts and competence is fine. But, if you are hiring a future manager or executive, you had better be evaluating the candidate’s emotional intelligence. If you don’t, you miss a read on the most important predictor of their success.

How do you assess emotional intelligence and the leadership potential of a candidate? You focus on their self-awareness, their ability to manage their feelings, their awareness of the feelings of others AND their history of managing their relationships with others.

Ask about times when they were frustrated or angry. Why did they feel that way? What did they do about it? Ask about conflict with others. Did they deal with it or ignore it? How did they resolve the conflict if they did? What did they think about how the other person felt (the one who they had conflict with)? What did they say/do to move beyond the conflict? How do they approach motivating others? What is their primary leadership style (the way they approach the task of getting others working)?

This is just a sample of the questions you might use to assess for emotional intelligence. The idea is to evaluate how the person navigates the emotional world of self and others.

Ignoring how the person navigates this emotional world leaves you at a huge disadvantage when the time comes to judge how the candidate will lead or manage others.

Contact us if you have questions, feedback or want some help assessing emotional intelligence.