emotional intelligenceEmotional Intelligence is one of the most important buzzwords in today’s world of talent acquisition.

Psychology Today defines it as:
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills:

  1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;
  2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving;
  3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.”

I would add to their definition the ability to build lasting relationships.

Karla Cook, a writer with HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales software that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers, wrote an interesting post earlier this year about the importance of emotional intelligence in the hiring process.  She shared five interview questions that can help employers identify this critical quality in a candidate.  “Agencies hiring new employees need to pay close attention to a candidate’s level of emotional intelligence (EI) since it will likely have a big impact on their early success (or failure) on the job,” Ms. Cook wrote.  “In managing client relations, the emotional intelligence can be critical in the creation and sustainability of a productive client relationship.  A lack of emotional intelligence can result in a train wreck and lost sales”, she concluded.

Far too many recruiters and the companies they represent fail to give this important competency the attention it deserves.  If you look at the dismal executive and management turnover rates across all business sectors — fifty percent within 24 months according to several national surveys — you can see why this should be an imperative in the hiring process.  Ms Cook reports that “among employees who fail to meet expectations during the first 18 months on the job, 23 percent fail due to low emotional intelligence.” This is the second most common reason new hires fail.

Getting to the heart of an executive candidate’s EI in a comprehensive interview – two to three hours in length — is a lot easier than accurately assessing a potential manager’s competence in an interview of an hour or less.

Many executive candidates we recruit are often surprised when we tell them that the face-to-face interview with the engagement partner will take between three to four hours.  We have EI questions embedded in all sections of our  Behavior and Values (B&V) interview that the  search partner conducts.  We believe that our commitment to this B&V process, and our focus on EI,  is one reason we have been so successful recruiting Hospital CEOs.  Our “stick”  rate (tenure of employment) of more than six years is twice as long as the industry standard of 3.5, according to a 2013 poll.   This particular poll was completed by 1,404 healthcare provider organization human resource officers and board members.   Fifty-six percent of CEO turnovers at that time were involuntary and the tenure numbers today are about the same.

What goes almost unreported is that when a new CEO is hired there is a cascading turnover effect in the organization —  almost half of CFOs, COOs and CIOs are fired within nine months, so when an organization makes a hiring mistake at this level, the costs are significant.

Here are five questions and some keys to listen for that Ms. Cook says can help you sort through a candidate’s rehearsed responses to get a glimpse of their EI:

  1. Can you tell me about a time you tried to do something and failed?
    Coping skills and accountability are keys to listen for. ( If the candidate is agitated with the question, or tries not to answer, we consider it a red flag.)
  2. Tell me about a time you received negative feedback from your boss.  How did that make you feel?
    Listen for specific descriptions of their feelings.  Remember, people with EI have feelings, too.
  3. Can you tell me about a conflict at work that made you feel frustrated?
    Listen for a clear and objective explanation.
  4. Tell me about a hobby you like to do outside of work.  Can you teach me?
    Are they flustered or frustrated by this question, or do they quickly adapt 
  5. Can you tell me about a time you needed to ask for help on a project?
    Is the candidate willing to afraid to admit what they do not know?

Now here is an important note:  The use of B&V interview tools is not for the inexperienced interviewer.  When I began using the tool 19 years ago, it was not widely used in healthcare.  It took me a couple of years to get to a point where I felt I was competent.   The questions described in this post are fairly straight forward but we recommend that you in-service your team before deploying it the fist time. Active listening skills are essential.

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