Look for Emotional Intelligence while hiring for Leadership Roles

By Aditya Mishra | August 24, 2019

Companies look for educational qualification, pedigree, years of experience and track record while hiring top talent. They seek personal chemistry or a sense of comfort in their interactions with potential candidates. These are good indicators for sure, but aren’t necessarily the best one can do. Emotional Intelligence (EI) separates the men from the boys!

Why EI?

Beyond doubt, IQ is important for a leader to measure, analyse, identify patterns, spot trends, think rationally, solve problems and make decisions. Research shows, leaders with high emotional intelligence tend to perform these tasks better, engage with stakeholders better and deliver greater impact.
Daniel Goleman popularised the concept of EI in the 90’s through his research and publications. Now, it has become ubiquitous right from school education to casual conversations. Researchers have shown that leaders with high EI are able to retain their employees better, align them coherently and generate greater productivity in their organizations.
Shouldn’t we be checking on the EI of a candidate while interviewing him or her? After all, it’s a leadership role which impacts our business results greatly.

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How do we assess EI?

Emotional intelligence is about one’s ability to recognize feelings and emotions of others as well as one’s own self. In a practical sense, it is one’s ability to know what behaviours are caused by what emotions and hence, the ability to control those emotions.
How do we assess a candidate’s ability to recognize, understand and manage emotions? What questions can be asked to probe a candidate? How do we judge the answers?
The best way is to interview the people with whom the candidate has interacted in the past. We have to probe them to understand the behaviour of the candidate when subjected to stressful situations like conflict resolution, unhappy customers, misconduct of top performers or unrealistic expectations to live up to. We have to understand the context as well as the approach to understand the person’s ability to understand the emotions and manage them.
Another way of assessment is to discuss about these situations and the behaviours of the person then. We can ask the candidate to reflect on the situation and say how he or she would behave today if the same situation were to play today. These discussions take a long time compared to a typical interview situation of assessing the technical skills and gauging a few competencies. After all, it’s a leadership hire we must be proud of having done this well!

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How do we do this well?

Interviewers need to be trained on this new way of interviewing. Traditional way of interviewing is to ask candidates about their accomplishments and failures, go deeper to understand their thoughts, motives and beliefs around those. Intelligent people know what competencies are being assessed by the interviewer and hence, they can game the process by providing the desirable answers. This does not ensure, we are choosing a candidate who is able to recognize, understand and control emotions.
The new way will be to focus on some events where the candidate had a major role and get him or her to talk about it. We have to observe how the person behaved under duress, engaged with stakeholders like team members, peers, customers and partners through the ups and downs of the business. The interviewer needs to have the necessary social skills of engaging with the candidate to make him or her be in the usual self, probe deeper and assess emotional intelligence.
Every leader deals with a range of situations such as lack of resources, volatile environments, conflicts, setbacks, opportunities and unexpected gains. The behaviours of the leader under these circumstances determine the organizational outcome.
Let’s hire the people who can lead their folks with the right balance between the head and the heart!

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