4 Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ)—and Become a Better Recruiter

September 24, 2018

Emotional intelligence (EQ)—the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others—is predicted to be one of the most in-demand workplace skills by 2020. Sure enough, 60% of business leaders understand that EQ is important for candidates.

But, it’s not just something to look for in a new hire. A higher EQ can also lead to more success as a recruiter. Perhaps unsurprisingly, things like self-awareness, empathy, and good communication skills can help you build stronger relationships with candidates, and improve your decision-making. Bonus: a high EQ can even make you more effective at managing stress.

While there’s some debate about whether EQ is innate or can be learned, most experts agree that there are steps you can take to enhance some aspects of it. Here are four strategies you can use right away to start boosting your EQ.

1. Build self-awareness by reflecting on how others perceive you

Executive coach Michele Nevarez recommends asking yourself a difficult question to start building your EQ: “What are the differences between how you see yourself and how others see you?”

This is an important reality check because people naturally want to assume the best about themselves. And those assumptions can cause you to overlook how some of your actions are actually perceived—and how they’re affecting others.

Michele gives the example of believing you’re a good listener, which is a skill many people overestimate in themselves. If you start paying close attention to how the other person–especially a candidate or hiring manager–reacts during a conversation with you, you might notice they’re less thrilled by your excited interjections than you’d previously noticed. And maybe those listening skills are something you need to work on.

By enhancing your self-awareness, you’ll also be able to identify opportunities to build new habits. In the listening example, you might start noticing the urge to interrupt and taking an extra moment to assess the situation before you do. Over time, this will become second nature—as will reflecting on how you come across to people.

2. Improve your social skills by gathering feedback about your behavior

Another way to explore how your actions affect others is to ask for specific feedback from people you trust to tell you the truth, like a friend or coworker.

Let’s say you recently helped someone deal with a breakup. Asking them later, when they feel better, whether they felt you were sensitive to their feelings might help you uncover areas for improvement. For example, they might point out that you tried to rationalize the situation and provide easy solutions when they really just needed you to listen.

This doesn’t mean you acted insensitively, only that it wasn’t the right action in that moment. The more feedback you gather about your behavior in social situations, the better equipped you’ll be to handle a similar situation in future.

3. Develop greater empathy by exploring the “why” in every situation

In his book Give and Take, psychologist Adam Grant identifies something he calls the “perspective gap.” This is essentially the difference between truly empathizing with another person and just assuming you understand their point of view—and it can cause you to underestimate the impact your actions will have on others.

To build empathy and avoid misunderstandings, author and management consultant Justin Bariso suggests stepping back and exploring the “why” in every situation. This involves considering why the other person might feel the way they do, why you feel differently, and whether they may be dealing with something you don’t know about.

Empathy is a core component of EQ. Taking the time to examine every situation empathetically can help you avoid unhelpful gut reactions like frustration, making it easy to act with compassion, understanding, and respect. This is especially helpful when it comes to things like candidate rejection or if you are dealing with someone who is difficult to work with.

4. Treat every criticism as a learning opportunity—and listen

Criticism is hard for everyone. Since it usually contains at least a kernel of truth, it’s important to listen and try to learn from it. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to let your emotions or ego get the better of you, especially if the negative feedback was delivered poorly.

To build your EQ, try to put your emotions aside the next time you receive criticism. Instead of getting upset or angry, focus on how you can improve to avoid receiving the same feedback again. When people with high EQ receive criticism, they don’t try to minimize or rationalize away the problem, make feeble excuses, or shift the blame to someone else.

Justin Bariso points to renowned chef Thomas Keller as an example of someone doing this right. In 2015, after a New York Times food critic published a scathing review of one of his restaurants, the Michelin star chef published a sincere apology on his blog. In it, he acknowledged that despite his team’s best efforts, they do make mistakes and are “not content resting on what [they] did yesterday.” He ended his heartfelt post by promising to work even harder.

Final thoughts

By practicing these strategies, you’ll find it becomes easier to control your emotions and accurately identify similar feelings in others. This can improve your judgment and interpersonal skills, and help you connect on a deeper level with candidates.

With EQ becoming so important in the workplace, you can apply your enhanced emotional awareness to better identify it in candidates. And if you need a little extra help, check out these interview questions that help screen for emotional intelligence!

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