Why employers want to hire people with 'emotional intelligence'

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
EI Is empathy-based. It can change and develop over the years. (Getty Images)

Getting hired and succeeding in a new job takes more than just qualifications and experience. 

Emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient, is vital to our success in the workplace and it is something employers are on the lookout for when hiring. 

Ranked one of the top ten skills that employees need to possess to thrive at work by the World Economic Forum, EQ affects our self-awareness, how we interact with colleagues, bosses and clients and impacts how we make personal decisions. 

But what exactly is it - and why is it so important? 

“Emotional intelligence is all about being aware of emotions - both yours and other peoples,” explains Jolene Foley, HR manager at Vouchercloud. “It’s otherwise known as an understanding of, and an ability to show empathy and is shown when someone is capable of using their own emotions in a considered manner.   

“A person with all the signs of emotional intelligence will be pragmatic, but considered in their approach. Experts define emotional intelligence as a crossroads between relationship management, social skills, empathy, self-awareness and self-management. If you look closely you’ll see a lot of crossover between someone with high emotional intelligence and the ideal leadership candidate.”  

“To boil it down to basics, IQ is knowing things - EQ is knowing people,” Foley adds.

Read more: Why your 'AQ' matters in your career

According to research by TalentSmart, emotional intelligence appears alongside 33 other important workplace skills and is the strongest predictor of performance. Moreover, people with a high degree of emotional intelligence make more money - an average of $29,000 (£24,900) more per year than people with lower emotional intelligence. 

“As an employer, when you’re looking for a new hire, someone with high emotional intelligence will always have the advantage,” Foley says. “We’re all communicators - just to differing levels of effectiveness. People with a high emotional intelligence tend to act as the glue between various departments and people - they bring projects together and are invested in helping staff reach their potential. 

“Candidates who demonstrate these attributes - as with a good leader - understand and appreciate that different people have different motivations,” she explains. “They don’t see every problem as one befitting a hammer and a nail, but think carefully and creatively to find the best solution.” 

Read more: What should you ask your potential employer in an interview?

With this in mind, interviewers should include questions about their emotional intelligence experience - asking questions around self-awareness, understanding of others and other relevant areas.

Crucially, it pays off for employers to actively seek out and hire candidates demonstrating high emotional intelligence.

“Having it at the forefront of your hiring process is a strong way of hiring potential leaders and strong performers. It makes for far more impactful recruiting outcomes,” Foley says. “High emotional intelligence goes beyond knee jerk reactions and into calmly considered strategies to meet goals. I can’t overstate how valuable a goal-oriented employee is to a company - particularly when they have the skills to achieve those goals. 

 ‘An asset to your company’

“High EI people are an asset to your company - they help your employer brand. No-one wants to work for a monosyllabic robot who knows nothing about you or those explosive emotionally-charged virulent managers who scream over a typo,” she adds. “Even if you might work in insular roles that are very data - rather than relationship - driven, you still want to be managed by someone who understands you and has your best interests at heart.” 

Although some people have an inherently higher degree of emotional intelligence, it’s an asset you can develop.

“EI is empathy-based. It can change and develop over the years. The more you experience, and the wider your experience base, the easier EI is to cultivate. It’s an awareness of other people's emotions and experiences - rooted in, and related to, your own personal experiences,” Foley says.

“Mentorship from someone with a good level of emotional intelligence is a good way of developing this in others. It’s standing on their shoulders and having someone to talk to about their different experiences.”