How to hire emotionally intelligent people

Since the early 90s, there has been much awareness of the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace. The term is used to define how well someone can identify with and control their emotions. It describes someone’s capacity for self-control, self-motivation and perseverance and inter-personal skills.

Although emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that it’s more beneficial to hire staff who already have high levels of emotional intelligence, than those that don’t. Higher levels of emotional intelligence far outweigh how many on-paper qualifications a person has, as an indicator of how successful they will be. Emotionally intelligent people make stronger team players, are more flexible and more adaptable to change, so much more likely to be a good fit for your company.

So how do you make sure you hire emotionally intelligent people?

If you have been in an interview environment yourself, you’ll know it’s not the most natural of environments. Candidates are on their best behaviour and pulling all stops to impress, charm and win over their interviewer. As a hiring manager it can be quite hard to see what that person will be like working in your company day in, day out, what they are like under pressure, how they will respond to change and how they will fit in with the rest of the team. Going into an interview, hiring managers often focus primarily on the candidate’s skill-set and past achievements to determine their ability to perform the role, without really taking into consideration where they might be in terms of emotional intelligence. By having a good understanding of the components that make up emotional intelligence, you are much better equipped to make a judgement about their level of emotional intelligence.

To hire the right people, try to get a gauge on their capacity for these five components that make up emotional intelligence:

  1. Are they self-aware?
    Do they have a good understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses? Can they express their strengths in a healthy way that isn’t egotistical and likewise when they talk about weaknesses are they being honest and open without being too sensitive? During their responses to your questions, look for insights into their levels of resilience and self-awareness. Someone who is self-aware is going to be much better at receiving feedback and criticism and learning from their mistakes as an employee.
  2. Can they control their emotions? 
    Someone with high emotional intelligence can display their emotions in a healthy controlled way and can regulate them when needed. You don’t want to hire someone who is prone to emotional outbursts, so try to see if you can get a good feeling for their ability to regulate their emotions in the workplace. Ideally you want someone who can express their emotions in a mature way, with the ability to be assertive without being confrontational and aggressive. As well as looking for indications of this ability within their responses to your general questions, you can always ask them outright to give you an example of a time they faced a challenging situation and how they handled it. Were they able to express their feelings effectively? Do they seem to be able to be assertive and express themselves or do they avoid conflict altogether?
  3. Are they self-motivated?
    Emotionally intelligent people are naturally resilient when they encounter set-backs. They have an inner-drive and are self-motivated. Try to get insights into their ability to self-motivate in general and particularly during challenging times and set-backs. It makes much more sense to have self-motivated people on your team and the reality is some people simply aren’t. You want to make sure you have naturally self-motivated people in your team without having to rely completely on motivating them with salary increases, bonuses, rewards and promotions. During the interview it is essential you determine whether they are self-motivated or not to avoid hiring someone who brought out all the bells and whistles in the interview but lacks motivation.
  4. Do they have empathy?
    Having people who are compassionate, and understanding is crucial to the well-being and success of your team. Someone lacking empathy can be detrimental to your company in so many ways. It’s one of the hardest things to gauge about someone in an interview, as people lacking empathy can easily fake it for an hour or so during an interview. Ask questions to specifically gauge their levels of empathy to see how they may have worked within a team environment before and try to gain insight into their responses to see if they have genuine compassion and empathy as part of their personality trait. It’s a good thing to double check about your preferred candidates when you contact referees.
  5. Do they have good interpersonal skills?
    People who are emotionally intelligent generally enjoy the company of other people, are outgoing and are keen to build rapport and trust quickly with others on their teams. They don’t buy into gossip and power struggles and avoid talking badly about others behind their backs, even when coaxed. They are motivated to fit in and work well with their peers, leaders and direct reports. These are the kind of people you want to hire, naturally, so use your instincts to get a good feel for how well they are likely to fit in with your specific group. Are they culturally the right fit? A lot of this can be gauged simply by meeting and talking with the person. See how quickly you can build rapport with them as this will give you an indication of how well they will slot into the company and become part of the team.

It’s much better to have a company filled with emotionally intelligent people at all levels of the organisation. Whilst we can all work to improve our emotional intelligence and it can be learned, it makes sense when it comes to hiring new people, to put as much importance on their level of emotional intelligence as their on-paper skills.

Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.

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