The notion of Emotional intelligence (EI)--the ability to understand one's own and other people's emotions and steer behavior accordingly--has been a widely touted leadership trait in recent years. Adam Ochstein, founder and CEO of Chicago-based HR consultancy and software company Stratex, defines EI as the ability to look at a situation, analyze it and understand its objective and subjective angles. In essence, he says people with high EI are adept at reading people. "I think one of the biggest attributes of someone who has emotional intelligence is someone who can take a critical look at themselves, laugh at themselves and not take themselves too seriously," he says. "They realize that what I see on the surface might not really be the whole story."

Here's why he says you need to hire these kinds of people and how you can spot them.

Employees with high EI are better at wooing your customers.

Regardless of the stellar nature of your product, customer service reps, receptionists and account managers who are good at reading customers and responding appropriately will be better at making them happy. "Clients connect with people, not with a product, and hiring people who have those type of innate skill sets enhances your brand," he says.

Employees with high EI make great leaders.

These people are excellent listeners who have an ability to empathize with a myriad of personalities. Because they're aware of other people's feelings, they understand that their decisions--and how they communicate them--will affect everyone on a team. "People want to follow people who have a personal investment in their success, and people who have a high degree of EQ typically excel in human interaction and getting people to follow them," he says.

Prospective employees with high EI are easy to spot in an interview.

They raise questions, own their failures without dwelling on them, and are comfortable in their own skin, meaning you can throw tough questions at them. Look for potential hires who are good listeners and think about their responses before answering honestly. They also use adjectives and adverbs generously, an indication they're thinking more with the left side of their brain. "There's not only the factual element to something, it's the component of how does that make me feel and what was my reaction to it," he says. "They're very descriptive in their language, not only giving you X, Y and Z but how and why X, Y and Z impacted them, how it made them feel and how it impacted people around them."