The Soft Skills Surge: Prioritizing Emotional Intelligence in Hiring

By Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder
Published: Mar 14, 2024
In today's job market, emotional intelligence (EI) or soft skills, such as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those of others. This article provides an in-deep overview of EI and its impact in today's workplace.
Sticky notes with 'Emotional Intelligence' and doodles of a brain with gears and a light bulb on a keyboard, symbolizing the integration of emotional intelligence in the workplace.

In today’s job market, emotional intelligence (EI) or soft skills, such as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those of others, are becoming increasingly crucial. This shift is due to more tasks being automated, requiring human workers to excel in areas machines cannot, like empathy, teamwork, and communication.

High EI is linked to better leadership, problem-solving, and stress management, making it a key factor in job performance and company success. Employers now seek a balance between technical abilities and soft skills, aiming to build teams that can collaborate effectively, innovate, and adapt to changes.

Incorporating EI into hiring processes involves updating job ads, utilizing new assessment tools like AI, and focusing on continuous improvement in identifying candidates with strong emotional skills. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Emotional Intelligence (EI) is becoming as important as technical skills in the workplace.
  • Employers are now prioritizing soft skills like teamwork, empathy, and communication.
  • Assessment Techniques involve AI, virtual reality, and other modern methods to evaluate candidates’ EI.
  • Implementation includes updating job ads, using innovative assessment tools, and ensuring continuous improvement.
  • Benefits of hiring for EI include improved teamwork, creativity, and employee retention, leading to better overall company performance.
The Growing Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Hiring

In today’s work world, being able to adapt and work well with others is super important. Studies have found that people who are good at understanding and managing their feelings, and can get along well with others, tend to do better at their jobs. They’re often seen as better leaders, can solve problems smoothly, and don’t get stressed easily.

With more machines and computer programs doing the basic tasks, skills like being understanding, aware of your own emotions, and able to build good relationships are becoming key. Companies are seeing that having workers who are good at these things helps in many ways:

  • It makes for a happier workplace and stronger teams
  • It helps keep good workers around
  • It makes customers happier
  • It leads to more creativity and getting more done
  • It makes it easier to handle changes and challenges

A big survey found that 92% of people who hire for jobs think emotional skills are just as important, or even more so, than technical skills. So, it’s clear that emotional smarts really matter at work.

From Hard Skills to Soft Skills

For a long time, companies mostly looked for what school you went to, what you studied, and what technical skills you had when hiring. But now, things are changing. The work world is moving fast, and being able to do things like communicate well, work as part of a team, and understand your own and others’ feelings is becoming more important.

Simple tasks are often done by machines now, so what really matters are the things only humans can do. With more people working from home or in different places, being able to motivate yourself, work well even when you’re not in the same room as your team, and communicate without being face-to-face are key skills.

Also, with companies having less strict structures and more teamwork across different areas, being able to lead and work with others without a strict hierarchy is crucial. Basically, being good at dealing with people and understanding emotions is just as important as knowing how to do the technical part of your job.

Companies need to think about this balance when they’re hiring, looking for both technical skills and people skills. Being able to talk, work together, and lead well are now just as important as having the right qualifications.

The Problem: Overlooking Emotional Intelligence in Hiring

When companies hire people, they often don’t pay enough attention to emotional intelligence (EI), which means they might miss out on hiring folks who are really good at working with others and managing their own feelings. Here’s why EI doesn’t get the spotlight it deserves:

Emphasis on Technical Qualifications

Hiring teams usually look at what school someone went to, what they studied, and what technical skills they have. These things are important, but they don’t tell you if someone can work well in a team, talk things out effectively, or understand others’ feelings. Research says that 58% of how well someone does at their job is because of EI. This means companies might not be seeing a big part of what makes someone good at their job.

Lack of EI Screening

The usual tests companies give when hiring, like puzzles or quizzes about the job, don’t check for emotional intelligence. If companies don’t look for EI, they’ll end up with teams that aren’t great at understanding each other, solving problems together, or staying happy at work. This can lead to more arguments, people leaving, and a not-so-great work environment.

Focus on Immediate Job Skills

When hiring, managers often look for skills that seem important right away for the job. But skills in managing feelings, encouraging others, and making strong work relationships are important over time. They help people do well, lead, and make the workplace better. Not looking for these skills can make it hard for a company to keep good people and help them grow into leaders.

Perceived Subjectivity of EI

It’s harder to measure how well someone understands feelings or controls their emotions compared to technical skills. This makes companies less likely to focus on EI when hiring. But there are real tests for EI that can help measure these skills just like technical ones.

Making sure EI is part of hiring helps build teams that can work well together, face challenges, and grow. Starting to screen for EI and showing that these skills are important in job ads are good first steps to get the balance right.

The Solution: Integrating Emotional Intelligence in Hiring

Identifying Emotional Intelligence in Candidates

Companies can find candidates with strong emotional skills by:

  • Changing job ads to highlight the need for good communication, understanding others, and being able to adapt. This way, people who are good at these things will apply.
  • Using tools and computer programs to look at how candidates answer questions in writing or out loud. This helps spot those who might be a good fit.
  • Adding tests that put people in real-life situations, acting out roles, or answering questions about how they’d handle certain things. This shows more than just their job skills.
  • Paying attention to how self-aware someone is, how driven they are, how they make decisions, and how they get along with others. This helps see if they’ll do well in the company’s environment.
  • Working with hiring experts and coaches who know how to spot emotional intelligence. Their skills can help find the right candidates.

The aim is to look at both the job skills and emotional skills throughout the hiring process, to make sure the people who move forward will do well.

Modern Assessment Techniques

Some new ways to check for emotional intelligence include:

  • AI and neuroscience games: Candidates play games that test how they understand facial expressions, body language, and emotional situations. Computers analyze these to measure emotional skills.
  • Virtual reality simulations: Candidates use VR to navigate through work-like situations and interactions. This shows how they communicate, make decisions, and handle stress.
  • Digital body language analysis: Programs watch the candidate’s body language, facial expressions, and how they talk during video interviews. This gives insights that are hard to get in person.
  • Collaborative team challenges: Watching how candidates work with others, lead, and solve problems in group tests reveals important social skills.
  • Crowdsourced peer reviews: People who’ve worked with the candidate give feedback on their emotional skills through anonymous surveys. This helps reduce bias.

These methods give a deeper look into a candidate’s soft skills, which might be missed in regular interviews and resumes. Some downsides include the cost, the chance that test anxiety could affect results, and the feeling that these tests are impersonal. But overall, they make the hiring process better.

Case Studies: Success with Emotional Intelligence in Hiring

Hiring people who are good at understanding and managing their emotions is getting more attention from companies. Here are a few stories about businesses that found great results by focusing on these emotional skills during the hiring process:

Financial Services Firm Sees 34% Revenue Increase

A big company that deals with money decided to pay more attention to emotional intelligence when hiring. They changed their interview process to better find people who are good at working with others. This led to employees staying longer and the company making 34% more money. The boss said this happened because the team got along better and worked more effectively together.

Nonprofit Boosts Donor Retention by 29%

A charity that was having trouble keeping donors changed their hiring to look for people who could really understand and connect with others. After focusing on hiring for emotional skills, they kept 29% more donors and got a lot more volunteers. The person in charge said this was because their staff could now better relate to donors and inspire more people to help.

Tech Startup Sees 46% Jump in Innovation

A new tech company wanted more creative ideas. They made sure to hire designers and engineers who were good at working with others and understanding emotions. They used virtual reality and had current employees talk to candidates to check for these skills. In two years, they had 46% more good ideas for products. The company leaders said this was because everyone could work together better and turn ideas into real products more easily.

These stories show that teams with strong emotional skills do better. They work together more smoothly, come up with better ideas, keep their employees longer, and make more money. As hiring for emotional intelligence becomes more common, companies will be better off because they’ll have workers who are motivated, creative, and good at working together.

Implementing Assessments

Steps to Incorporate Assessments

Adding emotional intelligence (EI) tests to your hiring process needs a plan. Here’s what to do:

  • Get leadership buy-in. Show your bosses the proof that focusing on emotional intelligence can lead to better work, more new ideas, and people staying longer at the job.
  • Set emotional intelligence hiring criteria. Work with team leaders and HR to figure out which emotional intelligence skills are really needed for each job. Skills like understanding others, handling disagreements, and working well in a team are common.
  • Select assessment tools. Look into different EI tests to find the ones that fit what your company needs and can afford. You might use tests that ask people how they’d react in situations or tests that measure their abilities directly.
  • Train hiring managers. Teach the people who hire how to understand EI test results and use them to ask better interview questions.
  • Use assessments at multiple stages. Give candidates EI tests early on. Later, you can see how they do in group activities to check their social skills more.
  • Continuously refine approach. Keep an eye on how well people you hired based on EI are doing. Change your tests and what you’re looking for based on what you learn.

Doing all this helps make sure you’re adding EI tests to your hiring in a smart way, building teams that work well together.

Addressing Challenges

Adding EI tests isn’t always easy. Here’s how to deal with some common problems:

  • Perceived unfairness. Some people might not like the idea of EI tests. Make sure to explain why you’re using them and how they help find the best team members.
  • Test anxiety interference. Nerves can mess with test results. Use different kinds of tests over time to lessen the pressure.
  • Cost concerns. If money is tight, start small. Use less expensive tests first and show how they can lead to saving money by having a better team.
  • Implementation roadblocks. Talk to your team early to catch any problems. Adjust your plan based on their feedback.
  • Going overboard on testing. Make sure EI tests don’t take over. Balance them with checking if someone fits the company culture and has the right job skills.

Dealing with these issues head-on helps make sure adding EI tests goes smoothly and everyone sees the benefits.


The Future Lies in Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is really important in today’s job world. As robots and AI start doing more of our work, skills like understanding and getting along with others are what make us stand out.

Studies show that people who are good with emotions do better at work. They can lead well, come up with new ideas, and keep their teams happy. They know how to build trust, solve problems without making a fuss, and keep everyone motivated, even when things get tough.

If a company wants to stay ahead and be ready for the future, it’s clear what needs to be done – make sure you’re looking for these emotional skills when you hire people. Here are three simple steps to help you do that:

Lead with Intention

Make sure your leaders are on board and tell everyone why it’s important to hire people who are good with emotions. Keep the tests fair and in line with what your company stands for.

Adopt Emerging Best Practices

Try out new ways of testing, like virtual reality games, or using AI to understand people’s emotional skills. Mix these new methods with tried-and-true ones like asking people who have worked with the candidate before.

Commit to Continuous Improvement

Always look for ways to make your tests better and keep up with new research on emotional intelligence. This way, you can make sure you’re always finding the best people.

The companies that will do the best in the future are the ones that not only know their stuff but also know how to work well with others. Now is the time to start focusing on emotional intelligence. With a good plan, any company can make this important change and set themselves up for long-term success.

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Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder

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