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When hiring, important to measure ‘emotional intelligence’

Understanding the attitudes and behaviors that comprise “emotional intelligence” are critical in determining the success of an employee, from a frontline receptionist to an office manager.

“Research has demonstrated that approximately 66% of job success is related to emotional intelligence, over technical ability, education or even work experience,” said Hattiesburg psychologist Beverly Smallwood, Ph.D., CEO of Magnetic Workplaces. “Think about it: we often hire people for their job or technical knowledge. However, they are most often fired because of poor performance related to emotional intelligence.”

Emotional intelligence consists of two major categories: the ability to manage one’s self and emotions, and the ability to relate effectively with other people, said Smallwood.

“It’s an especially important issue for hiring people on the front line, such as office receptionists, because you obviously can’t stand over them while they do their job, so you must know on the front end about their work ethic and organizational skills, whether they take initiative, and their elements of self-mastery,” she said. “You must know how they will interface with external customers and internal team members alike. This isn’t something you can determine in an interview by gut feel, but by finding out specific examples of past experience.”

TriMetrix, a relatively new technology to the market, benchmarks a job for emotional intelligence components, provides action steps for matching people and jobs and for strengthening essential leadership competencies. Consultant Terri Kabachnick, CEO of Largo, Fla.-based The Kabachnick Group Inc., said the TriMetrix process helps companies discover “the silent talent.”

“These are the good workers who many people don’t know exist,” she said. “They stay under the radar because they are not political, in-your-face employees, yet they hold a tremendous amount of potential.”

The TriMetrix technology begins with the job benchmarking process — identifying the job’s most critical success factors. Stakeholders then respond to an online questionnaire, and the job benchmarks are verified and validated. After the top emotional intelligence factors required for the job are determined, they are quantified.

After the job benchmark is established, applicants are interviewed. The top three to five contenders for the job are given the test comprised by the focus group. To supplement testing, a set of behavioral interviewing questions is prepared for each key accountability issue.

Small business owners who do not have the luxury of time or money to outsource this task can avoid costly mistakes and ferret out applicants’ positive attributes concerning emotional intelligence issues during the interview process by asking them several behavioral interviewing questions, said Smallwood.

A few examples include:

• Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.

• Discuss a time when you were faced with a very stressful situation and tell how you handled it.

• Give an example of a time when you established a challenging goal, or someone established it for you, and how you were able to achieve it.

• Discuss a time when you had too many things to do at once, and tell how you prioritized your tasks.

• Provide an example of a time when you had to make a split-second decision.

• What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give an example.

• Tell about a time when you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).

• Talk about a time when you took initiative to solve a problem, when you went above your stated job duties to get results.

• Without giving names, describe your most difficult boss. What made him or her difficult, and how did you handle the situation?

• Tell about a situation that involved an upset or difficult customer or co-worker and how you handled it.

• Describe a time when you experienced failure. How did you handle it?

“When calling for references, ask those same kinds of questions about the applicant,” said Smallwood. “Hardly anyone will tell you anything any more because people are afraid of getting sued for giving a poor reference. But sometimes people will talk, and it’s worthwhile to ask.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.


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