Lately I’ve noticed a significant shift in what clients are looking for in a candidate. While candidates still need to have key skills and expertise required to succeed in a specific role, there is growing emphasis placed on that gray area that can be challenging to articulate. Is it cultural fit? Kind of. Is it composure or maturity or sensitivity? Sort of. More and more, employers are looking for those candidates who deliver over and above the right experience alignment for a particular position. They want someone who can mentor, influence and build positive relationships in support of a healthy work environment. So what do you call that? It is Emotional Intelligence, or EQ.
Emotional Intelligence, or EQ is the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goals. Coleman, Andrew (2008) A Dictionary of Psychology (3 ed.) Oxford University Press.
EQ comes more easily to some than to others. While you may be more inclined toward IQ, it is important to be aware of EQ’s significance in our ever changing world, and specifically as it pertains to your search for a new position. Once your resume has done its job and your skills and experience have captured the attention of a potential new employer, there is still more work to do. You will have to convey EQ in your interview. I have some tips to help you do just that.
Listen. All of us are anxious to communicate what we know to a potential employer. I even remember being coached to “Toot My Own Horn” back in the day. However, EQ requires that you know how to really listen. Effective listening means you not only hear what is being said, but also what’s being left unsaid. Improving our listening skills improves our ability to influence and persuade. Employers want to know that you will hear what your team is telling you so you can lead more effectively. So listen to what is being asked of you. It is OK to pause before giving your answers. Be thoughtful.
Be prepared to discuss your mistakes. As employers become more interested in hiring candidates with emotional intelligence, their standard interview questions are being adapted to vet for it. One question that is coming up more and more often is “Describe a professional situation where you have failed. How did you learn from that experience?” The old answers that sounded like a negative but were really a positive in disguise – ie: “I’m such a hard worker and I sometimes take on too much responsibility” – are no longer enough. Part of Emotional Intelligence is the ability to take responsibility for your actions. Be prepared to give a tangible example of a mistake, how you learned from it and what you would do differently now.
Show Empathy. Interviews are a forum for you to learn more about a potential employer, company and position in addition to the employer learning more about you. It is completely appropriate for you to ask questions, and those questions can and should show empathy, a component of EQ. Don’t be afraid to ask about the employer’s concerns. Ask about any on-going issues. Show interest in the personalities and challenges of the teams you’ll be working with.
Emotional Intelligence is critical for success in today’s workplace. People who are self-aware tend to be happier and better able to see the positive in all things. I hope these tips help you to think more about Emotional Intelligence as you interview throughout your career, and also as you move through life!
Julianne Schoepp is a Principal & Executive Recruiter at Morgan Consulting Resources, a healthcare executive search firm celebrating over 20 successful years in business.