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Emotional intelligence and how to hire people with high EQ

Recruitment | 8 Min Read

Emotional intelligence and how to hire people with high EQ

What is emotional intelligence?

EI (emotional intelligence) or EQ (emotional quotient) is the capacity to perceive, comprehend and control one’s emotions and respect others’ emotions. According to Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, EI is a skill that can be demonstrated by interpreting your own emotions, motivating yourself, inhibiting negative emotions, managing relationships deftly, and handling stressful situations with aplomb. Thus, people who demonstrate high emotional intelligence are more productive, successful and happier in the workplace.

High EI can make a person more effective at forming interpersonal relationships and carrying out organizational tasks. This blog elaborates on why emotional intelligence is needed more than ever at work, the right approach to hiring people with high EQ and the tools to assess suitable candidates.

By teaching people to tune in to their emotions with intelligence and to expand their circles of caring, we can transform organizations from the inside out and make a positive difference in our world.

Daniel Goleman
Author, psychologist and science journalist


Why is emotional intelligence essential in the workplace?

While recruiters focus on technical knowledge and academic intelligence when hiring, emotional intelligence is also imperative. People who work in high-pressure situations, such as sales executives, are expected to control their emotions and keep calm. They must be aware of their triggers and understand the emotional constraints of those around them. It helps maintain a safe and healthy workplace for employees and clients.

According to Gartner, emotional intelligence is an investment that business leaders must make for success. After all, everyone prefers to work with self-aware, empathetic and composed individuals. As a result, they are better team players, better at handling conflict and better leaders.

of the top performers are high in emotional intelligence.

Source: Forbes


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The following points illustrate the importance of emotional intelligence at work


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Enhancing workforce efficiency

Empathetic people who understand others’ emotions can make better decisions and accomplish tasks efficiently. Furthermore, a workforce of emotionally intelligent employees helps reduce stress and boost morale.

Fostering collaboration

Comprehending your feelings and those of your team members is essential for effective communication. Emotionally intelligent leaders and managers know how to manage their emotions and behavior at work, creating safe environments for exchanging ideas and feedback, ensuring productive teamwork and performance, boost employee engagement and job satisfaction.

Ensuring client satisfaction

People with high emotional intelligence can communicate with clients without offending them by patiently handling sensitive situations. Such qualities are vital for successful and sustainable cross-team collaborations, internal communication and stakeholder management.

Improving business performance

High EQ is linked with efficient problem-solving. Therefore, emotionally intelligent professionals can:

  • Foster better collaboration and productivity
  • Nurture a high-performance culture
  • Reduce miscommunication
  • Ensure quick response
  • Improve customer experience
  • Spot business issues ahead of time
  • Enable smoother operations
  • Calmly adapt to shifting business needs

Nurturing a culture of constructive feedback

Regular feedback on your employees’ performance helps businesses become successful industry leaders. The best method to provide feedback is by paying attention to their work and achievements. Your employees may easily remember comments when you acknowledge how they operate and positively react in challenging situations. The feedback-giver must be emotionally intelligent to ensure constructive feedback is accepted positively.

Encouraging healthy work meetings

An engaging and productive meeting is the outcome of a high EQ. Healthy discussions happen when everyone pays attention to one another, celebrates good ideas, and refrains from interrupting productive meetings and collaborative sessions.

People with high emotional intelligence also ensure that the meeting location is feasible and the environment is exciting and motivating.


How to hire individuals with high emotional intelligence

Recruiters and organizations must understand the fundamentals of measuring emotional intelligence before initiating talent outreach. The following sub-sections of this blog cover:

  • The intriguing four-branch model of emotional intelligence to help you incorporate the EI element in your hiring strategy.
  • Indicators of high emotional intelligence to help you identify individuals suitable for open positions in your company.
  • Tips for screening candidates when hiring for emotional intelligence.


The four-branch model of emotional intelligence


The four-branch model, also known as the Salovey-Mayer theory, is a framework to measure crucial EQ traits. The model was proposed by American psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in 1990.


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The model divides emotional intelligence into four essential branches. Every branch approaches EI as a distinct set of mental abilities, skills and personality traits that:

   a. Interrelate

   b. Relate to other extant intelligences (Cognition, logic, spatial intelligence, etc.)

   c. Develop with age and experience

Branch of EISkillImpact
Experiential EIPerceiving emotionsIdentifying emotions in self and others by observing facial expressions, tone of voice and body language.Better emotional expression, reduced miscommunication and effective communication of emotional needs.
Facilitating thoughtUsing emotion to enhance cognitive activities and adapt to situations.Empathetic decision-making, efficient relationship management, favorable outcomes to discussions/processes.
Strategic EIUnderstanding emotionsAbility to differentiate between emotional states and their specific causes and trajectories.Effective emotion management, filtering out negative emotions and channeling emotions to maximize productivity.
Managing emotionsAbility to remain open to a wide range of emotions, recognize the value of feeling certain emotions in specific situations and identify the most efficient emotion-regulation strategies.Mature and professional response to failures and challenges, prevention of aggressive behavior, creating strategies to prevent situations from escalating and gaining insights into alternate perspectives.

Perceiving emotions

Perception of emotion refers to people’s capacity to identify emotions in themselves and others using facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. Those skilled in emotion perception are also able to express emotion accordingly and communicate emotional needs.

Facilitating thought

Using emotion to enhance cognitive activities and adapt to various situations is the second component of EI. Therefore, people skilled in this area understand that some emotional states are more optimal for targeted outcomes than others.

Making decisions based on emotional experiences’ impact on actions and behavior is an essential component of EI.

Understanding emotions

Emotional intelligence includes the ability to differentiate between emotional states and their specific causes and trajectories. People skilled in this area know this emotional trajectory and possess a powerful sense of the way several motions can work together to produce another.

Successfully discriminating between negative emotions is an important skill related to understanding emotion, and it may lead to more effective emotion management.

Managing emotions

Emotion management is the ability to remain open to a wide range of emotions, recognize the value of feeling certain emotions in specific situations, and understand which short- and long-term strategies are most efficient for emotion regulation.


Seven indicators of high emotional intelligence


infographic 3


When looking for candidates with high emotional intelligence, the following indicators or dimensions of EI will come in handy. You can observe personality and behavior to identify if the candidates display traits such as stress management, self-awareness, empathy, social awareness and so on.


1. Stress management

Individuals’ ability to cope with stress is directly proportional to their EQ level. So, if a candidate displays excellent stress management skills, they are highly emotionally intelligent. In addition, such individuals are conscious of their stress triggers, enabling them to counter them actively.


2. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. Therefore, in recruitment, it is essential to determine if candidates are cognizant of their strengths and areas of improvement.

Are they open to self-improvement? How well do they react to feedback?

3. Drive

People with high EI display a drive for excellence. They are motivated to perform better at their job, achieve their goals with finesse and become efficient problem-solvers.


4. Empathy

Understanding the impact of social ties in the workplace requires empathy. An empathic person can interpret various situations because they know the factors that affect other people’s emotions and behavior.


5. Self-management

An emotionally intelligent professional can control impulsive feelings and behaviors in healthy ways. That fuels success in terms of taking the initiative, following through on commitments and adapting to changing circumstances.

Self-management is a soft-skill essential to boost productivity and performance, increasing the reliability and employability of a candidate.

6. Social awareness

Social awareness is a vital skill for building positive work relationships and making responsible and respectful decisions. Social awareness also comprises common sense, logical reasoning and communication skills.

Socially aware people practice active listening and interpersonal engagement in social interactions.

7. Balance

Emotionally balanced individuals are rational. Instead of striving for perfection and setting unrealistic goals, they use analytical reasoning to develop sustainable solutions. For example, they value downtime for themselves and their coworkers or direct reports to reset and boost productivity.

Balance is essential to emotional intelligence as it prevents fatigue, frustration and repeated failures.


Screening candidates for emotional intelligence


Once you know the skills to assess for emotional intelligence and indicators to seek, several methods will help augment the candidate screening process. The following tips will be insightful when shortlisting emotionally intelligent candidates.

  • Create a complete personality profile and include it in job descriptions.
  • Conduct group interviews to observe behaviors and candid responses in applicants. Critically observe the following:
    • How good are their social skills?
    • Do they treat each interviewer/fellow candidate equally?
    • Do they address the room when speaking?
    • Are they good listeners?
    • Do they make eye contact when talking?
  • Ask insightful questions that will help learn more about the candidate:
    •  What didn’t you like about your last job?
    • Can you share a significant work challenge you faced and the way you overcame it?
  • Observe how candidates behave outside the interview room.
  • Speak with professionals who have previously worked with the candidates to understand how they deal with workplace situations.
  • Use a custom EQ test to assess social skills, behaviors, personality traits and other vital competencies.


Advantages and disadvantages of high emotional intelligence

Though definitions vary, EQ always comprises intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. And just like every other human trait, high EQ comes with its set of advantages and downsides.

Advantages of emotional intelligence:

  • It ensures more effective teamwork.
  • It aids in resolving disputes inside a company.
  • It guarantees that the given tasks have been carried out successfully.
  • It gives your business a competitive advantage.
  • It promotes individual productivity and performance.
  • It fosters an excellence-driven workplace.
  • It facilitates the creation of a shared vision among team members, which motivates them to work toward the more important business goals.
  • It aids in reducing stress.
  • It promotes cooperation and communication.

Downsides of high emotional intelligence:

  • Lower levels of creativity and innovation in certain individuals.
  • A tendency to manipulate others.
  • The lack of necessary levels of nonconformity and unconventionality to challenge the status quo.
  • Struggles with sharing negative feedback.
  • Difficulty with making unpopular choices or bringing about change.
  • Overuse of social skills while neglecting logical arguments.
  • High levels of conscientiousness, leading to risk-aversion.

It is vital to employ strategies that provide holistic insights into candidates’ personalities when hiring. Otherwise, obsessing over the advantages of high emotional intelligence can lead to an overly diplomatic workforce that fails to drive change and innovation. The next section enlists the most effective combination of tools that measure emotional intelligence along with other vital factors required to function well and succeed at demanding job roles.


How Mercer | Mettl can help: Tools to measure emotional intelligence

Various comprehensive psychometric tests are available from Mercer | Mettl to gauge a person’s behavior, aptitude, intelligence and personality. These tests help match a person’s skills to a suitable vocation, for career counseling and employment.


1. Mercer | Mettl’s personality inventory


It gauges the candidate’s adaptability, emotional control, reliability, and other qualities.

Mercer | Mettl’s personality assessment evaluates a person’s crucial characteristics, including openness, emotional stability and extraversion.

  • It is a combination of different mental abilities tests.
  • It measures an individual’s behavioral competencies.
  • It follows standardization to test development, evaluation, reporting , and interpretations.


2. Critical thinking assessment


It is used for assessing a candidate’s capacity to think critically, solve problems and make wise judgments. It enables organizations to choose people who will be able to identify problems at work and effectively address them through critical information analysis.

The evaluation gauges a candidate’s aptitude for numerous employment roles across several sectors. It aids in evaluating arguments, detecting assumptions, and reaching conclusions about candidates.

It assesses the following competencies:

  • Critical thinking with the help of questions for assessing the candidate’s assumptions, arguments, and ability to conclude.
  • Candidate’s verbal ability to express thoughts clearly.
  • The ability to analyze vast data and structure.


3. Logical reasoning assessment


The logical reasoning test from Mercer | Mettl evaluates a candidate’s ability to draw appropriate conclusions while considering multiple factors. Employees with strong logical reasoning abilities base their decisions on facts and information. They can produce impartial findings. This assessment analyzes a candidate’s capacity to recognize the collection of pertinent data.


4. Mercer | Mettl emotional intelligence assessment


The EQ test assesses a person’s emotional intelligence (EI) and how it can affect relations and workplaces. It aims to identify key improvement areas for personal development and focus on those strengths that one can leverage to the full potential at work.

Also, explore: Tests for evaluating emotional intelligence



There are several traits to seek when hiring exemplary employees and emotional intelligence goes a long way in predicting a person’s success at work.

According to a PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) report:

Overall, social skills — such as persuasion, emotional intelligence and teaching others — will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills, such as programming or equipment operation and control. In essence, technical skills will need to be supplemented with strong social and collaboration skills.

Understanding the various branches of emotional intelligence, vital EQ indicators and adopting holistic tools when hiring for emotional intelligence is integral to building sustainable and prosperous workforces.



Why is the emotional intelligence test used for recruiting and training?

How to improve emotional intelligence at work?

Do employers look at EQ?

Originally published October 27 2022, Updated October 27 2022


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