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Hiring with a Focus on Emotional Intelligence

Abudi Consulting Group has been working with an increasing number of our clients to focus their hiring practices on emotional intelligence. Research has shown that emotional intelligence (EQ) is necessary for organizations who focus on consensus building, relationship building and collaboration to achieve goals.

A study done by LinkedIn in 2016 of 291 hiring managers in the United States noted that 59% of those surveyed believe that soft skills are difficult to find. 1  A CareerBuilder survey done in 2011 of over 2,000 hiring managers noted that 71% of those surveyed noted they valued EQ over IQ.

Why EQ Matters

When individuals have high EQ they:

  • Are less likely to enter into negative conflict and, if they do, resolve it more effectively
  • Build strong teams through empathy and connecting with others, building relationships and collaborating
  • Make decisions for the good of the whole rather than for themselves
  • Manage their emotions so that their emotions don’t rule them
  • Communicate more effectively, using active listening skills and engaging others in ways that work for them (adapting their communication style)
  • Receive and give feedback well
  • Manage stress when under pressure, not lashing out at others
  • Don’t blame others for mistakes they make, but rather learn from their mistakes and take ownership of them

Hiring Individuals with Strong EQ
Individuals who recognize, understand, acknowledge and manage their emotions make the best employees. They manage through stress and deal with conflicts, collaborate effectively as part of a larger team and adapt well to change. They care about their fellow workers.

Unfortunately, too often organizations hire intellect above emotional intelligence. One doesn’t have to be chosen over the other. There is no reason organizations can’t hire for intellect and for high emotional intelligence.

To hire for emotional intelligence, use behavioral interviewing techniques 2. Ask for stories – about a challenge that the individual successfully overcame, about a situation that didn’t go as well as they would have liked, about a team project on which they were involved. Ask detailed questions – how did it make them feel, how did they manage the challenge, what did they actually say, what did they actually do, etc. This will enable you to get to how effectively the individual manages their emotions and the emotions of others.

Some examples of behavioral interviewing type questions that enable for better understanding a candidate’s emotional intelligence level are:

  • Tell me about a time when you were surprised about a negative impact your behavior or words had on a co-worker or a customer. How did you learn this information? What did you do once you learned the information?
  • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work. What happened? What did you do once you found out you made a mistake?
  • Describe situations in the workplace that can make you angry or frustrated. What do you do in those situations?
  • Tell me about a time when you sensed something was bothering a co-worker. What did you do or say?
  • Tell me about a time when you knew a co-worker was overwhelmed. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when someone in the workplace said something to you but their tone and expression did not match the words coming out of their mouth. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you were able to get something done because of a relationship you had with someone at work.
  • Describe a time when you had to work on a problem or issue that impacted others in the organization. What did you do? What was your process?

The more you can learn about a candidate during the hiring process, the better you can gauge the individual’s emotional intelligence level and how effectively (s)he will adapt to the organizational culture. If there are common issues that occur in the organization, use those as examples to understand how the candidate might react in such a situation. If change is frequent, ask for examples that enable you to understand how (s)he reacts to and manages through change (which can often be stressful.)

Remember – IQ is certainly important, but EQ enables for individuals to more effectively engage and collaborate with others in the workplace. The stronger an individual’s EQ, the more likely they can manage through continuous change, manage conflict situations and more effectively collaborate to accomplish the goals of the organization.

2 Behavioral interviewing is a job interviewing technique where applicants are asked to describe past behavior in order to gauge suitability for a position. (

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