Amidst a rapidly advancing era of technology, it’s estimated that 65 percent of today’s students will be employed in jobs that don’t yet exist. In response, institutions are focusing on developing core competencies in students to prepare them for the future of the workforce, as graduates must increasingly be able to demonstrate a degree of emotional intelligence (EQ) to appeal to employers.
Recruiting trends are echoing this prediction, as well. Today’s hiring managers are transitioning from prioritizing the technical capabilities listed on resumes to emphasizing soft skills portrayed in interviews.
When considering potential candidates for a position, someone who exemplifies emotional intelligence — qualities like self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills — is becoming most invaluable to employers.
Employers Capitalize on Emotional Intelligence in Recruiting
Employers have long depended on resumes and cover letters to assess how well a candidate’s education or responsibilities at a former job or internship aligned with the current position without putting much consideration into culture fit or work style.
However, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates the average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30 percent of the individual’s first-year potential earnings.
“[Emotional intelligence] accounts for anywhere from 24 percent to 69 percent of performance success,” said Adele B. Lynn, author of The EQ Interview: Finding Employees with High Emotional Intelligence and founder of the Lynn Leadership Group. “After all, what does it matter if a software engineer is ferociously hard working if he alienates his peers? What’s the benefit of deep marketing expertise if a manager can’t recognize how her behavior demoralizes her direct reports and drives half of them to look for other jobs?”
In response, many employers are beginning to tailor their vetting process to put more attention on emotional intelligence. They want to learn how an employee would be able to adapt to changes, communicate with a team and grow within the company.
For example, many interviewers are asking non-traditional questions that better measure soft skills and give an idea of how an employee will perform at the specific company. Asking candidates about a day where everything went wrong, how they handled a situation with a colleague they didn’t agree with or a time they underwent a change within a company gives a better understanding of how they interact with people, handle different scenarios and solve problems under stress.
Some employers are also complementing hiring processes and taking this idea one step further with innovative recruiting methods like soft skills assessments.
Airbnb, Facebook, Hubspot, Linkedin and Reebok are just a few of the companies using Koru, a predictive hiring software that has candidates take an assessment to measure seven key personality traits, or the “Koru7” — grit, rigour, impact, teamwork, curiosity, ownership and polish.
“A typical company, when they get a huge number of applicants, they slice down that first level of applicants based on two things — where they went to college and how their grades are. That cuts out a lot of potential high performers. Those two things have really been proven to not be terribly predictive of future performance. It also cuts out a lot of diversity, so a lot of people from different backgrounds don’t get an opportunity to do well,” said CEO and founder of Koru, Kristen Hamilton.
Koru measures each applicant against the company’s “fingerprint” of internal high performing qualities, allowing them to better assess which applicant would be the best fit.
These personality assessments can result in up to a 60 percent increase in high performing hires and associated ROI.
Why Students Should Market Emotional Intelligence
Employers aren’t the only ones struggling to fill positions with the perfect hire, as graduates are finding that entry-level jobs seem to be requiring more experience than ever before. Additionally, when myriads of applications are submitted into a void of no response, the job search often becomes a tedious and discouraging job in itself.
“People graduating from college are saying, ‘Gosh, you know what, I’ve done everything I was supposed to do, I chose something to study that I have a passion for, I got a great education but my job prospects are really daunting,’” said Hamilton.
She continued to explain, “We hear these stories over and over again — people say they submitted 40 resumes last week and heard nothing back, because they’re submitting to some inanimate machine that doesn’t understand who they are and what they’re capable of.”
Emotional intelligence assessments can be an asset to students who may find they have little applicable experience in a job they’re looking for but have the soft or transferable skills that make them ideal candidates.
Working a summer job, studying abroad, playing on college athletics teams or volunteering may not seem like stand-out sections on a resume, but students who have these experiences may develop skills that align with a company’s culture. While taking a serving job at a local restaurant, for example, may not be comparable to the qualifications of someone who worked full-time in a sales position, a former waitress may be sociable, a quick learner and good under pressure — qualities that would help them thrive in many business environments after college.
The Future of EQ
Though employers may find it hard to rely completely on soft skills assessments and predictive hiring to discount candidates that seem more experienced and qualified, the idea of emotional intelligence parallels a popularizing focus on culture fit and the factors that create a thriving and productive workforce.
As employers are increasingly realizing the importance of elements such as work/life balance, leadership development, diversity, mentorship and employee engagement for retention, and millennials are looking to be engaged in their careers, the most successful companies will be the ones that make strong hiring decisions.