Hire Right: IQ and EQ

When you hire a new team member, the right fit is non-negotiable.

Is it a Game of Chance?

We’re all familiar with that candidate who was ideal on paper, aced the interview, and did fine the first three weeks–only to crash and burn. One of the reasons? A lack of emotional intelligence, which can wreak havoc on your practice.

diceWhy do you hire the wrong people? Even the best interview process fails when you or the interview team over-rely on your intuition and “gut feelings.” You may also be tempted to select solely based on general intelligence or technical competencies. But you must take emotional intelligence into consideration, too.

Research shows that no more than 25% of one’s overall success at work is attributable to general intelligence–also known as the intelligence quotient, or IQ. A good portion of that remaining 75% is related to emotional intelligence–also known as the emotional quotient, or EQ. So when you select for technical competence AND emotional intelligence, the odds are in your favor that you will hire a winner.

The Difference between IQ and EQ

IQ predicts analytic reasoning, verbal skills, and spatial ability. Though it gives you some idea of general intelligence, it certainly doesn’t tell you how well a person will do under pressure, nor is it the best predictor of work success.

EQ measures a person’s capacity for recognizing his or her own feelings and the feelings of others, and for managing his or her reactions in response to those feelings. People with high EQ choose their responses carefully, even when they are highly emotionally aroused. They preserve their own dignity and their relationships with others.

The Emotional Intelligence Interview

When hiring for emotional intelligence, ask behavior-based questions that prompt the interviewee to talk about real experiences in the past. Don’t ask future-based “what if” questions that have an obvious right answer.

Ask Behavior-Based Questions

Learn about past behavior, because it helps to predict future behavior.

For example, to learn about the person’s self-awareness, you could ask, “Describe a time when you were in a good mood at work. How did that affect your performance?” Then tack on a question that tests other-awareness: “What impact did it have on your boss and colleagues?”

To query all of the EQ skills (self-awareness, other-awareness, self-management, and relationship management), ask something like, “Tell me when you were most frustrated in your efforts to deal with a conflict with a coworker. How did you handle it? What was the other person’s response? What was the outcome?”

Conduct Behavior-Based Exercises

Role-play, presentations, and mock meetings are exercises you can use to see what the candidate will do in a scenario he or she will commonly face at work. Be sure to determine the “best” answer BEFORE the process begins.

For example, you could have each candidate for office manager conduct a mock team meeting where the person presents a policy change. Have two of the team members talk amongst themselves, one disengage completely, and one try to take over the meeting.

Red flags to look for during these tests of people skills are:

  • Criticizing or blaming others
  • Poor impulse control
  • Signs of disrespect and judgment
  • Inability to neutralize toxic people or set boundaries
  • A puny emotional vocabulary (e.g., can’t distinguish “bad” from “anxious” or “angry”)
  • Impatience with feelings

Remember: You want team members who are book smart and have heart. Emotionally intelligent teams work together well to accomplish organizational goals. And an emotionally healthy and happy team equates to a more pleasant work environment for everyone!

Suggested Reading


This article is adapted from content in Shawn McVey’s presentation titled, “Hiring for Emotional Intelligence.” Schedule Shawn today to give this presentation to your group or team! Contact Cindy Oliphant at 888-759-7191 or by email.