When assessing a candidate’s potential, its easy to focus solely on verifying their technical and functional skills — probably too easy. In the world of hiring, there is definitely a tendency to emphasize assessment criteria that are tangible, easily measured, and readily verifiable. It’s the path of least resistance.
The irony is that these “tangible” skills have only a small bearing (11 percent, to be precise) on whether a candidate will succeed or fail. The skills that have a much bigger bearing (89 percent) on whether a candidate will succeed or fail are the very skills people often avoid assessing — that is, attitude and interpersonal skills, according to a Leadership IQ study.
One of the most import aspects of attitude — accounting for 23 percent of all new hire failures, according to Leadership IQ — is a candidate’s emotional intelligence quotient, or EQ. Individuals with insufficient EQ struggle to manage their own emotions and the emotions of others. We are not robots, and the ability to navigate the stormy sea of human emotion is crucial to success.
Despite the importance of EQ, the typical interview is still heavily biased toward technical assessment. I think its time to place greater emphasis on assessing EQ. And how can you do that? To begin with, hiring managers and recruiters need to identify EQ traits. These include things like self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills, which have been identified as the five components of emotional intelligence at work by Daniel Goleman, the man “who first brought the term ‘emotional intelligence’ to a wide audience with his 1995 book of that name,” according to the Harvard Business Review.
It is all well and good to know EQ is, but how do you measure it? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to use a personality test to assess EQ, although that is a good method. Rather, you can ask a candidate specific, carefully engineered behavioral questions during an interview in order to assess their EQ.
For example, let’s say you want to assess a candidate’s self-awareness. You might ask a question like, “Describe a time when your behavior was interpreted in a negative way, even though you didn’t mean it to be negative. How did you know that your behavior caused an issue?” You might also ask something like, “Describe a situation at work when you were in a good frame of mind. What impact did that have on your performance and the performances of your coworkers?”
You might want to delve into how a candidate processes and responds to conflict by asking a question such as, “Describe a situation at work in which you were involved in a conflict. What is your analysis of that particular encounter?”Further, you could ask something like, “Have you ever been surprised by some criticism directed at you? Tell us about the criticism and what was surprising about it.”
These are just samples of the kind of behavioral questions you can ask to assess a candidate’s EQ. You can find literally hundreds of similar sample questions on Google.
It can be challenging to assess a candidate’s answers to these questions, as there are often no absolute right or wrong answers. But remember: you are asking these questions to look for signs of self-awareness, self-reflection, empathy, and the like. Ideally, when choosing your EQ questions, you should select a resource that also gives you advice on how to assess and interpret a candidate’s answers.