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HBR: How to Hire for Emotional Intelligence

How to Hire for Emotional Intelligence

“If you want to begin, start with these dos and don’ts.


  • Use personality tests as a proxy for EI. Most of these tests attempt to measure what they say they do: personality. They do not measure specific competencies of emotional intelligence such as self-awareness, positive outlook, achievement orientation, empathy, or inspirational leadership.
  • Use a self-report test. There are two reasons these don’t work. First, if a person is not self-aware, how can he possibly assess his own emotional intelligence? And if he is self-aware, and knows what he’s missing, is he really going to tell the truth when trying to get a job?
  • Use a 360-degree feedback instrument, even if it is valid and even if it measures EI competencies, like the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) does. A tool like 360-degree feedback ought to be used for development, not evaluation. When these instruments are used to evaluate, people game them by carefully selecting the respondents, and even prepping them on how to score.


  • Get references and talk to them. Letters of reference simply aren’t good enough when it comes to understanding your candidate’s EI. When you actually talk with a reference, you can ask specific and pointed questions about how the candidate demonstrated various EI competencies. Get lots of examples, with lots of detail. Specifically, ask for examples of how your candidate treats other people.
  • Interview for emotional intelligence. This sounds easy and many people think they are already interviewing for EI. But we aren’t, much of the time. That’s because we allow people to be vague in their responses and fail to ask good follow-up questions. Even when we ask candidates directly about EI or EI-related competencies, they talk about an idealized notion of themselves and what they’d like to be, rather than how they really behave. To overcome this obstacle, you can use behavioral event interviewing.”


Posted on: February 17, 2016, 6:57 am Category: Uncategorized

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