Employers want to know you as a candidate. They not only want to determine if you have the technical aptitude and job specific expertise but if you will be a "fit" within their organizational culture. One way they can do this is by interviewing for emotional intelligence (EI) or sometimes referred to as the emotional quotient (EQ). As researchers Mayer and Salovey state, emotional intelligence is "the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions."
Jennifer Shirkani, CEO and president at Penumbra Group, a firm that provides Talent Management Solutions and a frequent speaker on the topic of emotional intelligence explains why EI is so relevant in today's workplace and important for employers to consider. "The emotional intelligence of employees is directly related to their coachability and often shows their willingness to adapt and be open-minded to feedback and change." Employers are looking for people willing to listen thoughtfully, work collaboratively, and get out of their comfort zone as well as people who make thorough decisions and are good role models. Candidates displaying these skills and abilities through high emotional intelligence are more likely to be viewed more favorably.
According to Shirkani, 46% of new hires fail within 18 months. The common reasons are: the inability to accept feedback, inability to understand/manage emotions, lack of motivation, or wrong temperament for job/work environment. Interviewing for emotional intelligence can potentially avoid these errors in hiring the wrong candidate. In fact, according to a survey, many hiring managers (71%) stated they valued EI in an employee over IQ and (59%) claim that they'd pass up a candidate with a high IQ but low emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence in the workplace consists of three R's says Shirkani:
Recognizing and being self-aware. The ability to know your strengths and weaknesses is key.
Reading your environment. Having the ability to be situationally aware of what is happening around you is crucial to strengthening your emotional intelligence.
Responding appropriately and exercising self-control. Managing your own emotions and trying to understand and respond to others emotions are critical.
As a job seeker, you may ask, "How do employers interview for emotional intelligence?" Shirkani says that employers "use the past to predict the future." This can be done through behavior-based interview questions. Shirkani states that "candidates with a high EQ are more comfortable sharing an experience and are ok with who they are."
How do job seekers highlight their EQ in these behavioral interviews? When an employer asks you a question based on a past experience or situation, think of your CAR. No, not the sports or luxury car that you are dreaming of sitting in your driveway, but instead respond by explaining the Circumstance of the event or situation, describe the Action you took to resolve or improve the circumstance, and then elaborate on the Result that was generated. For example, if you were asked to describe a time that you demonstrated problem-solving skills you could say, "Our office did not have a good system to keep track of invoices, receipts, and expenses. I instituted a filing system that allowed everyone to put receipts and invoices in specific folders which I would then electronically scan and cross check against our credit card system and then file in the appropriate digital dropbox. This process resulted in a reduction of late fees as well as a very satisfied supervisor."
Other advice for candidates to succeed in an interview? Research the environment and company culture, know your strengths and weaknesses and be comfortable talking about them. People who are afraid to talk about their weaknesses could be a red flag to employers. Instead, discuss the weakness, but most importantly, what you learned from that weakness. And finally, as Shirkani adds, "Do not try to be someone you aren't."