What you need to know about hiring & emotional intelligence

As good as a software or product is, the human interaction of who the client is dealing with – aka customer service – is what separates an organization from the others. When hiring, managers are looking for people who will speak to customers with the same amount of empathy, compassion and concern as a founder would, and in order to achieve that hiring managers are zeroing in on one key component: Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

Emotional intelligence is an innate soft skill that lends hiring managers insight into a candidate’s potential leadership capabilities. How? EQ showcases a candidate’s ability to relate to an employee, client or situation with empathy, and these individuals are generally able to retain clients, become proven performers, and are magnets for other high-potential talent. They’re a natural leader who others want to follow.

Here’s a scenario. There is a front-end service individual on the phone with a customer who is asking for help with something. Many would go with the script and say that there is a process in place of who they’d need to call and what fees are associated with their request. However, someone with a high degree of emotional intelligence will look at that situation and recognize they have someone who is upset and who needs something done immediately.  They will own the problem until it’s resolved. They realize problems turn into solutions and solutions turn into repeat customers that are extremely loyal.

So, how do you channel this quality in your next interview?

Explain the “how.”  People with EQ don’t only answer the question, but they explain the how. How a specific action impacted the team, the company, the client, or themselves. They take note of what the aftereffect was and not just the immediate result.  They answer a, b, c, but they explain the x, y, z.  Whether it’s explaining a project at a previous job, or an assignment if they are a fresh graduate, they will describe in extensive detail.  

How have you help others through a stressful situation? People with EQ are able to take the right steps in handling an irate client or coworker. They are able to internalize each situation and react appropriately dependent on the individual.

They think to send a hand written letter to a client that is upset, and they know to take a furious coworker on a walk. They never put a desk between them and their coworkers when discussing something. They will pull a chair up next to them, close their smartphones and laptops and look someone in the eye, embracing the conversation, hearing what they have to say, and understanding the meaning of what they’re saying and why they’re saying it.

How have you handle a stressful situation? People with EQ are able to manage their own emotions well when in a high-stress situation because they are self-aware and know what triggers them. They can keep their own emotions under control and not react to someone else’s outburst.

How would others describe you? If a candidate answers this question one way, and the references he/she listed say something directly opposite, they clearly don’t have a sense of EQ. People who do are self-aware and understand their strengths and weaknesses.   

How have you shown leadership within your role? People with EQ are great mentors and candidates should expand on any mentoring they did in any capacity, whether it was coaching a teammate through a tough phone call, a coworker on a certain project, or even help onboard a new hire. Employees with EQ serve as great mentors because they work well with various personalities, and they have the patience to help someone learn at their individual pace.

When have you failed? People with EQ are going to be honest about any failures; why something failed, and what they learned from it. Also, their answers have a lot of emotion attached to them. They get that they may not be the best person for every role, but they realize what they are good at and pursue that.

Author: Adam Ochstein, founder & CEO of StratEx, a national provider of human resources services and software.