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The ability to identify and manage personal emotions (and those of coworkers and employees) can have a powerful impact on overall team performance and flow. But hiring the emotionally intelligent talent that will bring your team the success you seek can be more difficult than you might think. Here are a few reasons why hiring for emotional intelligence is worth your while and a few ideas to help get you started.

What does emotional intelligence look like?

Before you can hire for emotional intelligence, it’s important to be able to recognize it – in yourself and in others. Author Travis Bradberry defines emotional intelligence as “the other kind of smart.” It is a critical factor that sets star performers apart from their colleagues, but it’s about more than competence on the job. It affects how individuals regulate behavior, navigate complex social situations, and make positive personal decisions.

According to Travis Bradberry, Emotional Intelligence is the result of four core skills:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management

These four skills provide the foundation for personal and social competence and have been found to be the strongest predictors of performance and personal success out of more than 30 other important workplace skills.

How does emotional intelligence affect businesses?

Emotional intelligence has a high-level effect on personal effectivity and success as well as a direct impact on the teams that are made up of emotionally intelligent professionals. From executive leaders on down the ladder, every level of an organization can benefit from higher levels of emotional intelligence.

This ability to identify and manage your own emotions as well as those of coworkers and clients has a profound effect on the success of an organization. Emotional intelligence can drive business success by enabling:

  • Better communication with a greater understanding of both meaning and motivation.
  • Even temperament through stressful situations or demanding workloads.
  • Improved co-worker rapport and camaraderie.
  • More fulfilled client needs and the ability to better gauge client expectations.
  • Helpful insight and proactivity that can assess situations more effectively.

What to look for in candidates?

Given that hiring for emotional intelligence is a clear benefit for organizations looking to grow in a challenging talent market, what should businesses look for in candidates to help identify the skills and traits of emotionally intelligent individuals? A variety of sources recommend getting specific and incorporating these three tactics into your hiring process.

Ask about past coworker interactions

Sometimes the obvious question is the best question. Ask candidates outright how they’ve interacted with challenging co-workers in the past. It’s safe to assume that every professional has dealt with these individuals over the course of their career. Asking for examples of problems and solutions can give you an in-depth understanding of what level of emotional intelligence they have at their disposal.

Test emotionally challenging scenarios

If you really want to see someone’s emotional intelligence in action, put them in a situation where their skills are actually put to the test and gauge their reactions. Alternatively, consider serving up a hypothetical situation and ask them how they would approach resolution. A strong hypothetical might be “Imagine a client is upset at something that isn’t your fault. How do you respond?” Emotionally intelligent candidates will be able to describe how they would seek first to understand where the client is coming from and work together toward a win-win resolution.

Examine their emotional vocabulary

The ability to accurately identify the deep well of human emotion is a highly valuable skill in business. According to this article, only 36% of people can do this well. That’s a real problem because emotions which are mislabeled or misunderstood can lead to irrational choices and counterproductive actions. The candidates with high emotional intelligence understand their emotions and they have the vocabulary to match. In an interview setting, look for more targeted language around emotions. Rather than someone simply feeling “bad,” they should be able to communicate if they’re “irritable,” “frustrated,” “anxious,” or outright “angry.” These are the communicators and the emotional achievers that can lead teams and businesses to greatness.

Focus on development

If you read this and start to worry that your existing workforce is lacking in certain emotional skills, don’t think that you need to start from scratch. Emotional intelligence can be developed with the right training and practice. Learning about the balance between rational and emotional impulses can help develop the necessary skills for long lasting emotional intelligence.

How do you see the importance of emotional intelligence impacting your business? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below.