Emotional Intelligence: Value or Competency?


Emotional intelligence when recruiting
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Our clients know that we interview candidates not just up against the core competencies required for the role, but also on their values.

Competency-based interviewing will show if candidates have the skills to do the job. But it’s matching the values of the candidate to the organisation that will determine who is likely to really excel, and which candidates are likely to stay for the long haul.

Over the years, it’s been a matter of debate within the office as to whether emotional intelligence is, at heart, a value or a competency. Either way, it’s important. But conversations with business leaders over the past few months have underlined one overriding trend – it’s no longer seen as a nice-to-have. Emotional intelligence is an essential competency.

At this juncture, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Senior managers who possess a high degree of empathy are more likely to understand their colleagues’ own priorities. They are better communicators, and better relationship-builders. They are more likely be able to get buy-in from other departments, to work collaboratively, to effect change in complex environments. They are more successful as both managers and mentors, they celebrate their team’s successes while also delivering negative feedback without being counterproductive. More emotionally intelligent managers lead happier and more productive teams, with lower staff turnover and less disruption to the business as a result.

At the same time, you’d be amazed how many people don’t seem to get it yet. Or perhaps not. After all, who doesn’t have a horror story about a former boss with no control over their emotions? Indeed, it’s estimated that a lack of training in soft skills costs the UK economy £22.2bn a year (PDF).

As we move into the era of AI, there’s still a gigantic amount we don’t know about how things will pan out, and how it will affect the jobs and workplaces of the future. But one thing that almost everyone agrees on is that roles that require a high degree of emotional intelligence and empathy are unlikely to be replaceable. As a management quality, it’s only going to become more important.

The same goes for recruiters as well. These kinds of judgement calls can’t be outsourced to a machine. During the interview process, it’s essential to ask open questions, without leading the candidates; this requires emotional intelligence of its own.

Managing change, managing under-performance, the importance of training, the ability to manage conflicting priorities; all these are indicators of a leader’s ability to empathise with and build their team. But, equally, a good manager now needs to be able to open up to their own mistakes: a strong leader will own up to their errors, while a poor one will blame others. These are all signs of strong EI, and need to be carefully probed at interview.

Getting the right answers to these questions will determine whether or not someone really succeeds in a role. Now more than ever, it’s essential to focus on the human.


Matt D’Cruz

[email protected]

Martin Tripp Associates is a specialist executive search consultancy. We work globally across the media, information, technology and entertainment sectors, and with some of the world’s biggest brands on senior communications, digital, marketing and technology roles. Feel free to contact us to discuss.