Talent Acquisition

How to Use Emotional Intelligence in Recruitment

At a recent conference, I attended a session led by Rob Gee, a leading management consultant who specialises in leadership, motivation, internal structures and training programmes. He is passionate about business psychology, and specifically how our understanding of it can help us develop individually in the work place – on a personal basis and a company level.

One of the key areas he explored was emotional intelligence, what we understand by this term and specifically how we can implement our knowledge of it in the workplace.

Emotional intelligence – a definition

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Much in line with the nature vs. nurture debate, some researchers suggest that it can be learnt and strengthened, while others claim it is an inborn characteristic.

Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer have been the leading experts on emotional intelligence since 1990. In their influential article “Emotional Intelligence,” they defined emotional intelligence as, “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (1990).

How can we use this to improve our recruitment processes?

As recruiters, we know that successfully landing a job is not purely based upon a candidate’s qualifications or IQ score. In addition to experience, what employers want is the right personality type, who will be able to fit comfortably in with the team.

When we interview candidates, we go through a number of active thought processes. Without realising it, we are measuring their responses, mannerisms and how well they put themselves across. What we are really doing is assessing their emotional intelligence. It’s that quality, honesty and ability to build rapport that is so often the key to them standing out from the other applicants – and this is the type of employee who ultimately helps the client to improve their staff retention and keep costs down.

What’s important is how we implement our understanding of emotional intelligence to improve how we increase the quality of our hires; whether we are looking for a new graduate recruitment consultant or we are sourcing the perfect candidate.

Get the description right

Firstly, when taking down a job description, focusing on the core behaviours is a vital element to sourcing the best person for the job. When discussing the requirements of a vacancy from a client, think about what qualities they are looking for in an employee.

A bad job description will describe only specific qualifications required, and the responsibilities of the role. Whilst these might imply the core behaviours the candidate needs to demonstrate in interview, a much better specification touches on the person’s softer skills – a more successful specification might include:

  • Adaptable
  • Able to influence key stakeholders
  • Strong communication
  • Able to negotiate
  • Problem-solving
  • Articulate
  • Team player
  • Self-motivated

An important part of any job description is an insight into the company culture – does the organisation have a strong social side? Is it a competitive environment? All these unique elements will suit different sets of emotional behaviours – and as the recruiter it is up to you to match the right type of personality to the organisation, as well as taking their experience into consideration. This approach will result in successful placements and promote stronger relationships with your clients.

Psychometric testing

To further test a person’s emotional intelligence, psychometric testing (such as the Thomas International Personal Profile Analysis, or PPA) is becoming more and more common amongst recruiters and employers as a means to understanding the applicant’s personality traits. To offer this service to your clients shows your commitment as a recruiter to fully profiling candidates and finding the right person for the job.

In a sales-based business, such as recruitment, you can also undertake this testing to assist your internal employment drive – identifying the individuals most suited to this type of profession, what motivates them and how well they cope under pressure. In an industry which typically has a high staff turnover, retaining the top talent has to be a priority in order for you to differentiate from your competitors.

Trust your instinct…

In the interview stage, you are likely to gauge how emotionally intelligent someone is by their body language and how they articulate themselves. Don’t underestimate your gut feeling – if someone is saying all the right things, but for some reason you doubt their integrity or their confidence in themselves, it is worth thinking about whether they will give the same impression to the hiring manager. A wise move is to take an extra reference here, that clearly attests to their character in the workplace.

Author: Anna Gibbons is Corporate Communications Manager at Sellick Partnership, a specialist legal and financial recruitment agency, and is based in the Manchester office. The agency also has offices in Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, Derby and Stoke.

Related: The Top 5 Psychometric Tests for Your Career.

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