The candidate who looks good on paper but turns into an absolute nightmare, or simply a disappointment, once hired, has become a cliché. It’s one of those clichés that exists due to its frustrating familiarity to virtually anyone who’s ever done even a modest amount of hiring. Since the process of hiring has been studied as a field of psychological science, those involved in hiring and seeking advice from the academic sphere have been treated to something of a mixed bag of information.

The guidance has largely vacillated between shrugged “rely on your gut, but do so without bias” impossibilities, and “sure-fire” tests, feedback equipment, and gimmicks to separate the on-paper pretenders from the legitimate talent. Recently, however, emotional intelligence (EI) has, appropriately, been recognized as an asset. And while it appears to be one of the keys to productive, successful hiring, it’s still somewhat undervalued. That is why it’s so important to contract with a C-level recruiting firm that recognizes the importance of emotional intelligence and incorporates it into their talent acquisition strategy.

The Importance and Appearance of Emotional Intelligence

While EI is a great asset for any employee to possess, even in the hard-data, cold-number heavy world of tech and ecommerce recruitment, according to research, it’s a particularly important attribute for those in executive, managerial, and C-level positions. It can literally be the difference between a high-level (often high-profile) manager and their team being a success or a failure.

If you’ve never seen a team, department, or even business tank because of a toxic atmosphere, personnel mismanagement, interpersonal conflicts between an executive or manager and their staff, offended clients or customers, litigation due to insensitive or actively abusive behavior, you are fortunate. Sadly, it’s an all too common fate for modern businesses. Hiring for EI both mitigates, if not abolishes, that kind of risk; it ensures a statistically more effective management team, which typically means a more profitable business.

What to Look for in a C-Level Recruiting Firm Hiring for Emotional Intelligence

Just like you should do with a job candidate, you should get to know your C-level recruiting firm. You should get to know their process for identifying talent based on practical personal metrics and EI. When EI comes up, there are a couple of red flags to look out for. If the recruiting firm brushes it off, with comments like “Why would data science recruiters care about emotional intelligence?”, beware. Likewise, if their process for emotional intelligence testing relies exclusively on personality tests or self-reporting tests, that can be a potential red flag as well.

There are a number of problems with relying exclusively on tests like that. For one, personality and emotional intelligence are not the same thing. Someone can have a bubbly, optimistic, outgoing personality and lack empathy, ignore the emotional experience of everyone else, and be without basic self-awareness. Self-reporting tests and inventories can be manipulated by people taught to game them (it’s not very hard to teach). And if someone doesn’t have the emotional intelligence to be legitimately self-aware (or are self-aware enough to be dishonest about those shortcomings for a job), you are not going to get an accurate picture of their emotional intelligence. Basically, to find the truly qualified candidates requires legitimately getting to know a candidate through a series of interviews in which the recruitment firm is involved and contributing.

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