Are You Testing Candidates for Emotional Intelligence?

emotional_intelligence-1Over the weekend, The New York Times published an article titled “Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others.” According to the findings of two MIT studies, there is evidence of a general “collective intelligence” factor that affects group effectiveness.

Based on these studies, three factors determined the reliably smarter teams from the rest.

  1. Members contribute equally to discussions.
  2. Members perform well on a test that measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of eyes.
  3. The team contained more women than men.

In strong, or “smart,” groups, the members seem to share the common attribute of high emotional intelligence.

A group that listens to the ideas of each of its members is able to capitalize on the strengths of individuals, instead of falling subject to the weaknesses of the loudest voice. Individuals who can read complex emotional states from an image of a person’s eyes demonstrate the ability to gauge a person’s feelings, and women are, on average, better at “mindreading” than men.

It also turns out that groups that work online, collaborating through tools like Skype, Google Drive, and email, still demonstrate a collective intelligence despite never meeting in person. The ingredients for a smart team remain consistent, online and off: high emotional intelligence mattered as much for telecommuting teams as it did for those that work face-to-face.

“General intelligence, whether in individuals or teams, is especially crucial for explaining who will do best in novel situations or ones that require learning and adaptation to changing circumstances. We hope that understanding what makes groups smart will help organizations and leaders in all fields create and manage teams more effectively.”

>> Read the full studies here and here.

So, to more effectively create teams, companies should be measuring the emotional intelligence of a candidate. However, this is not an easy thing to assess.

Companies could begin by administering the “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test, used in this very study. The test is a series of 37 pictures and takes just 10 minutes to complete. Performance on this exam is correlated to emotional intelligence.

Or, hiring teams could build better interview questions. In 2008, Adele B. Lynn published a book called The EQ Interview: Finding Employees with High Emotional Intelligence. According to Lynn, what’s needed are interviews that measure a candidate’s emotional intelligence. She explores five key areas of EQ: self awareness, empathy, social expertise, personal influence and mastery of purpose and vision, and provides interview questions for each.

For example, to assess a candidate’s self-awareness and ability to self-regulate, Lynn offers these interview questions:

  1. Can you tell me about a time when your mood affected your performance, either negatively or positively?

  2. Tell me about a conflict you had with a peer, direct report, or boss–how did it start and how did it get resolved?

  3. A manager has to maintain a productive, positive tone even when she’s anxious about a business threat. How have you been able to do this in previous positions?

>> See the HBR article here.

Phil Johnson, founder of Master of Business Leadership Inc, shares 20 emotional intelligence interview questions on LinkedIn. Some of these questions include:

  1. Why is this role of interest to you?

  2. What results do you want to achieve?

  3. How will this role help you to achieve what you want?

  4. What do you consider to be a few of your strengths?

  5. Who is responsible for your results?

>> See the full list here.

Leaders from Elon Musk to Container Store CEO Kip Tindell emphasize the importance of high emotional intelligence. Johnson’s post quotes Elon Musk during a talk at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Centennial Symposium.

“The most common hiring mistake is relying too much on someone's talent and not enough on their heart.”


So how do you assess a candidate’s emotional intelligence? Leave us a comment.

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