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How To Hire Better Using Emotional Intelligence


In the third part of our series on emotional intelligence Adele Lynn discusses how to apply EQ leadership training in the interview process to make better hiring decisions. The Frontier Group has successfully implemented the EQ Interview Process in several of it's Atlanta executive coaching assignments

Hiring the right person for the job is always an important challenge for organizations. We painstakingly pour over resumes to make sure that we select the candidates with the best experience and educational background that is fitting for the position that we are trying to fill. Most often, our thinking process dictates that someone with 10 years of customer service background surely must be good at customer service. We even go through the trouble of verifying the experience and education that people claim on their resumes.  Yet still, we are sometimes disappointed in the end result. The person just isn't quite right for the job.  Why? And what can we do about it?

If you take a close look at your hiring regrets, more often than not, the reason that the person doesn't meet our expectations has more to do with their emotional intelligence and less to do with their intellect or experience. Sure, occasionally, you may hire someone who simply doesn't have the intellectual capacity to perform the job, but that's usually not the case.  Instead, we hear things like, "she's not a team player; he doesn't respect our customers; she causes trouble with other employees; he won't realize that he has a weakness in a particular area and work to improve it; he gives up too soon and won't try to solve the problem himself; she isn't disciplined enough to get here on time; he gets frustrated too easily."  

All of the issues stated above are related to a person's emotional intelligence (EQ) and not a person's IQ. In fact, extensive research verifies that in a variety of jobs, persons who are the best performers have the highest degree of emotional intelligence. For example, Daniel Goleman found in 1998 that 2/3 of the difference between top performers and average performers in jobs such as sales clerks had to do with emotional competencies. Additional research conducted by Hay and McBer in 1997 found that insurance agents who were weak in EQ competencies sold policies with an average premium of $54,000. Those who were very strong in at least 5 of 8 key EQ competencies sold policies worth $114,000. In leadership and management positions, the difference is even more striking. In a large beverage firm, executives selected based on EQ were far more likely to perform in the top third based on salary bonuses for performance of the divisions they led: 87% were in the top third. In addition, these executives outperformed their targets by 15-20%. Those executives who lacked the EQ competencies under performed their target by almost 20% (McClelland, 1999).

Screening for EQ competencies, therefore, should be an integral part of your hiring strategies.  Just how do you accomplish such a fete? The answer to that question lies in three key steps. First, you must perform an analysis of the job positions to determine the EQ competencies that lead to success. The more concrete measures you have at this step, the more you will ensure that you will eliminate bias. For example, if you base your analysis on data such as individual sales figures, production output, customer survey responses and/ or quality numbers that are available for an entire group of equally trained and experienced employees, then the chances of eliminating bias are greater.

After your analysis is complete, the second step is to construct behavioral interview questions that address the EQ competencies defined in the analysis. The behavioral interviews that produce the best results are based on the candidates past experiences. In other words, if you are trying to determine the level of self-control that a candidate may possess, don't ask, "What would you do if a customer started to yell and belittle you in front of others?" Instead ask, "Tell me about a time when someone made you angry in front of others.  What did you do?" In addition, ask follow-up questions in order to get as much information as necessary to determine how the candidate acted in this or a similar type of situation.  

Lastly, during the interview process, you must be able to consistently interpret and evaluate the answers from the candidates.  It is essential that this step be premeditated. The interviewer or interviewing team should have written responses that are within the acceptable range. It's easy to get carried away by a good communicator and lose track of the EQ competency that you're trying to evaluate. Also, you'll eliminate confusion and bias if you clarify what an acceptable answer is. Companies who take the time to do this step will also find that they are better able to articulate what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior to existing employees.

Whether you're a line manager or a human resources manager or professional, hiring candidates with EQ competencies will ensure greater success in your organization. If you're in human resources, it's critical to help your interviewing mangers understand what's in it for them. In addition, you'll want to provide line managers with an interview structure that will produce the desired results and the training to pull it off. Although it may take some effort to revamp your current interviewing methods to incorporate EQ competencies, the results will be worth it.

Adele B. Lynn is founder of the Adele Lynn Leadership Group. She is the author of 6 books published in 12 languages. She can be reached at 724 929-5352 or adele@lynnleadership.com.