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How to hire for emotional intelligence—a practical guide in the age of COVID-19

It’s all in how you ask the questions

Source | | JOE CUMELLO

There was a time when having a foosball table in your office, free beer on tap and PacMan during downtime was the pinnacle of workplace cool. The brightest and the best recruits were tempted by a work life that seemed a million miles away from the stale cubicle-driven office of pre-Millenia.

Tech brands created a blueprint for attracting and retaining new hires, and competition for talent grew fierce. Today, the physical office is less important, and instead things like flexibility, career security, development, and progression are highly valued by young talent and commonly offered.

Of course, the other side of that contract is what the new hire would offer. Deep understanding and knowledge of their discipline and the technical chops to create, engineer, or sell advanced technology. Sounds like a good deal, right?

Unfortunately, what we’ve come to learn is that evaluating talent based on their “IQ” (Intelligence Quotient) is only half the battle. Emotional Quotient or intelligence, or “EQ,” is something special in developing talent. As such, creativity in recruitment and rolling out employee development programs are musts for all tech companies today. 


Let’s start with what EQ actually is: it might not be a new concept, but it’s one that is neglected or downplayed by far too many businesses.

According to Psychology Today, “Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” This, Psychology Today says, is underpinned by three main skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same. 

Research related to the business impact of high EQ individuals presents some very interesting statistics:

  • Employees are 400% more likely to stay at a company if they have a boss with high EQ. 
  • 90% of high performers have high EQ.
  • EQ training reduced lost-time accidents by 50%, based on one study. 

Tech companies put so much value in IQ hiring and technical pedigree that they often forget that the ability to communicate, observe, adjust, and adapt (the hallmarks of employees with high EQ), are actually the traits they value most when paired with high IQ. 

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