Why Emotional Intelligence is Undervalued in the Hiring Process

Young girl with yellow stars circleing around her head illustrationThere are two candidates left in your waiting room. One’s overly confident, a bit unpleasant, but with an IQ of 145 and a doctor’s degree in rocket science. The other is way less qualified. She boasts a high school degree and a couple of online courses, but she just makes you feel great.

Who would you choose?

Until only a few years ago, 99% of recruiters would have chosen the first candidate.

This hiring trend is starting to change.

Today, as the digital age continues to reshape the way we live and work, more and more companies are looking for talent with high emotional intelligence (EI), otherwise known as emotional quotient (EQ) - defined as a person’s ability to control how they feel and express their feelings.

Here’s why emotional intelligence isn’t as valued by other companies yet:


Hiring For Skills and Failing to Find the Right Attitude

The roles and expertise needed in today’s workplace are constantly changing.

Whether we like it or not, all aspects of our lives are in some way affected by technology. In many companies, there’s a growing need for specialists such as cyber security engineers, AI engineers, or data scientist. In a couple of years, these roles may become completely obsolete.

But instead of looking for employees who are versatile and flexible enough to thrive through these changes and adapt to any given situation or trend, a surprising number of companies remain focused on finding micro-experts - specialized people who will help them stay competitive.

To these employers, skills and knowledge are a priority.

A different approach to hiring is gaining in popularity as we speak. “Hire for attitude, train for skills” is helping companies discover and recruit talented people who are not necessarily highly educated or experienced, but eager to learn. They are hiring for social and emotional intelligence.


Typical Hiring Process Revolves Around Knowledge Gaps

There are two types of companies:

The first works harder, while the second works smarter.

Both approaches can be a recipe for growth and success, depending on the specific industry, the state of management, and a host of other factors. Having said that, both of them share one key aspiration - to streamline, optimize, and automate both day-to-day processes and decision-making.

The main difference between these two types of companies is how they choose to move towards their goal. The first type typically opts for the traditional approach, where skill and knowledge gaps are eliminated by employing the expertise of qualified and hard-working individuals.

In these companies, L&D experts identify skill gaps that affect the hiring process.

Like in the previous case, this hiring approach cares little or not at all for how people behave in the workplace or how equipped they are to deal with the everyday challenges on the emotional level. Hopefully, employees with high EQs will soon stop getting rejected by these employers.


Tools for Measuring Emotional Intelligence Are Costly

The second type of companies today already pays attention to emotional cues while assessing job applicants. They dominantly “hire for attitude and train for skills” because they value the collaborative nature of their company cultures more than they value any gifted individual.

They also rely on smart technology to help them with this process.

To train their hires, they use employee training software or HR LMS software.

But even before that, they employ special AI-based psychometric testing to make sure that the best candidate is a good fit for their company culture. The problem is - not all candidate assessment tools feature parameters for identifying and measuring emotional intelligence in candidates.

In fact, a few of them do.

Forward-thinking HR teams are still looking for adequate and affordable solutions that would help them assess a candidate’s emotional intelligence on time and within budget. Until the market for these tools expands, emotional intelligence will remain accessible only to industry-leading employers.


Efficiency Has Higher Priority than Long-Term L&D

And thereby lies the main reason most companies are still reluctant to begin measuring emotional intelligence as a part of the hiring process - it’s either too expensive, or it takes up too much time. Strategically speaking, caring for the company’s bottom line is much more important.

While cutting-edge HR tools are still expensive, other automation tools are cheap.

Instead of investing pennies in measuring emotional intelligence, companies can allocate their spare resources for streamlining and optimizing more critical day-to-day operations such as project management and administration. This increases productivity, which in turn, boosts ROI.

All things considered, efficiency is currently more profitable than EI.

The only companies that can afford to hire for emotional intelligence are companies that can afford to think so far into the future. The rest of them are still struggling to establish a strong foundation to keep them afloat for the next couple of years. And, traditional hiring is simply cheaper.


Companies Are Investing Only If ROI Is Guaranteed

Choosing efficiency over EI is not only a strategic decision. It’s also a part of the bigger trend that prompts companies to stay frugal.

Return on investment (ROI) is currently the single most important metric in business. Every ambitious company knows that an investment that doesn’t guarantee an instant return of value is not a very good investment. They simply don’t have that much time to wait for their payback.

Almost every modern company is trying to stay profitable in a saturated market, so that’s not so surprising after all. As a result, businesses that are looking to stay relevant and competitive would rather follow trends than take disruptive risks that could turn into expensive failures.

Presume they do invest in emotional intelligence:

It would take them months to train their inexperienced hires, and just as much time to start getting any noticeable ROI from them. By then, their competitors would already have beaten them on the market and stolen their customers. To most companies, this just isn’t worth the risk.


Wrap Up

But if you’d still rather give a chance to a candidate who showcases exceptional self-control, intrinsic motivation, and self-awareness, you won’t be wrong. If you hire this candidate, they will not only hone their skills faster - they will also contribute to the company in a more meaningful way.

In the long run, if you have that much time, hiring for EQ is a better move.


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