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How to Screen for Emotional Intelligence During the Hiring Process

May 03 , 2018


Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, manage and evaluate emotions, both your own and other people's. EI can become as important or even more important than skills specific to a particular job in situations involving teamwork and high levels of interpersonal contact in the workplace. Additionally, research suggests that candidates who are highly emotionally intelligent may perform better in their professional roles.

But how do you screen for emotional intelligence during the hiring process? 

Unconsciously, many interviewers do look at emotional intelligence when they interview, testing whether someone seems to be able to build rapport and shows appropriate body language, but these are only some of the aspects of EI to consider during the recruitment process. 

Include EI in the Job Description

A good place to start is to include EI traits in the job description. Instead of just listing technical skill and experience requirements, listing softer skills like the ability to communicate well, adapt to changing circumstances, and influence key stakeholders may demonstrate the EI skills or traits you are looking for in a strong candidate. 

Listing EI traits in the job description also sends the message that EI is an important part of the job and that EI skills or abilities will be expected in the position. 

Use Psychometric Assessments

Many recruiters and hiring teams are now using psychometric assessments that can measure the EI of candidates and be a screening tool to help narrow down the candidate pool. In a field where many candidates meet the technical qualifications for a position, assessments can be a valuable tool to identify those candidates that stand out from the rest by having strong EI traits that will make them better at their jobs.

Although assessments can be helpful, however, they are limited because they are self-reporting. Many candidates know how to answer assessments in the right way in order to "pass," and they also may have a "rose-colored" view of themselves that doesn't match reality. 


Ask EI-Revealing Interview Questions

Behavioral event interviewing gets past the idealized views of themselves people often put forward during interviews. Instead of focusing on theoretical situations and what people say they "would" do, behavioral event interviewing gets them to talk about an event that has actually happened and what they did do. 

Unlike most interviews, behavioral event interviewing is very detailed and asks a lot of specific questions about the event described by the candidate, which gives insight into the way they have handled things and whether they have strong EI abilities. This type of interviewing also involves at least three different events, so it provides a great deal of insight into a candidate's skills. 

Although interviews are, by definition, self-reporting like assessments, most candidates will reveal unintended information about themselves as they tell their stories and answer questions. 

Talk to References

Most reference checks are perfunctory exercises designed to make sure you don't hire someone who lied about their previous experience and that the references have a generally positive view of the candidate. References can provide a wealth of information about a candidate, however, if you ask specific questions designed to reveal how the candidate treats other people, adapts to changes in the workplace, and otherwise demonstrates EI traits. 

GDH provides recruiting services and can tailor the process to revealing emotional intelligence along with core technical skills. Contact us for more information about our recruitment process and how we can help your company with recruiting.