Being able to react quickly and appropriately in high-pressure situations is a key indicator you're emotionally intelligent. The trick is, how do you ensure everyone else in the office is similarly in tune? One way is to hire for it.
When interviewing candidates, it's important to screen for emotional intelligence--that is, the ability to be aware of and control one's own emotions as well as have empathetic relationships with others. It's perhaps more important than screening for a particular skill set, suggests Annie McKee, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. Writing in an op-ed for the Harvard Business Review and reiterated on WNYC's Money Talking, she says it's ultimately up to a company's leader to prioritize the skillset.
McKee goes on to describe the main reason offices lack people with emotional intelligence: managers tend to hire for pedigree--the right degree, skills and experience. While many do assess a candidate's personality and cultural fit, emotional intelligence is more nuanced, and may not be readily apparent in an interview.
Here are three tips for recognizing emotionally intelligent people.
1. Ask about experiences with people.
In the course of your questioning, focus on people and relationships. Skills can be taught, but emotional intelligence is more difficult to acquire. Notice how they describe a former boss or co-worker as well as how they describe the nature of a conflict or challenge. If they fail to mention the emotions or point-of-view of others in a situation, it's possible they lack self-awareness or don't understand the role feelings and emotions play in work life.
2. Talk to references.
McKee says talking to references (rather than just getting a letter of recommendation) is especially important in measuring a candidate's emotional intelligence. Ask them to tell you a few stories about how that person performed in a team setting, conducted themselves during meetings or handled conflict. You can even ask outright whether they think the person was good at reading and reacting to others or navigating difficult interpersonal relationships.
3. Don't use a personality test.
Though McKee admits there's disagreement in the academic world about the use of personality tests, she says they aren't quite right for measuring emotional intelligence. Most people are at least aware enough to answer questions on a test in an idealized way, regardless of whether the answers accurately describe them. And it's difficult to tell through a test whether someone can read emotions and respond appropriately.