As Irving Berlin once said, “Talent is the starting point.” In this day and age of boundless knowledge educational tools on the internet, most anyone can learn coding languages, sales tactics and other trades of various industries. What, then, sets apart those who will make a meaningful impact at your company from those just learning to make a buck? How do make sure you’re hiring the right person? The answer is emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence, or EI, describes a person’s ability to perceive, assess and navigate the emotions of oneself and others. A person’s EQ, emotional quotient, measures their level of emotional intelligence and encompasses his or her motivation, empathy, self-awareness, self-regulation and social skills.

Often, our emotions can block our paths as we pursue important business ventures or form social relationships. But an understanding of an individual’s EQ is one of your most critical tools during the hiring process. When you create an in-depth process to evaluate each candidate’s emotional intelligence, you’ll uncover the candidate’s truth and reveal any potential red flags, preventing a hiring mistake for your company.

To begin, you must discover a candidate’s motivation. Their “Why”. What are their values and what are the real reasons this person is in your office interviewing for your role? Ask questions that will reveal these truths to you, and pay close attention to the candidate’s answers. There are intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that prompt people to seek particular jobs. We all want to move up the career ladder and learn, and with that comes power, money and a bigger title. These are all extrinsic motivators that matter, but should not be the primary reason. Seek a candidate’s intrinsic motivators. As Rodney Burris puts it, “What story in their life lead them to this role?”

Empathy also plays a large role in the hiring process. When I say empathy, I don’t mean the word that’s too often confused with “sympathy.” I am talking about genuine human connection, where a person can understand where people are and have the desire to connect with them and help them grow. Whoever this new hire is, if they’re unable to collaborate and effectively communicate with your current team and clients, it doesn’t matter how good they are at coding.

It is particularly tricky to perceive the EQ of a person, though it may sound simple enough. No matter how many experienced leaders a potential employee talks to its still possible a hiring manager might make a mistake. Again, Rodney Burris suggests that hiring managers explore the stories of their candidates. “Don’t try to connect them to the necessary job experience. Try to find out why the walked in that door and how they’ve handled past situations.”

Getting to the roots of a person’s “why” isn’t a fad. Big companies like Amazon operate their hiring processes purely on these queries, called behavioral questions. They’ll often ask, “What is a situation where you experienced difficulty? How did you handle it, and do you think you could’ve handled it better?” The company must design its interview questions to reveal their inner truth. How self-aware are they, how humble? You can quickly see through their interactions with peers what kind of person a potential candidate is.

Another question to get at the heart of how someone handles adversity is, “Tell me about a time someone criticized your work; what happened and how did you respond?” This query reveals not only self-awareness but self-regulation. Did this candidate recognize they had a situation and take steps to better themselves? Do they have the reflection enough to realize why an experience might have been negative? If they do, and their EQ is high, great! If not….well, that’s a red flag.

The last way to employ EQ in your hiring process is to finesse your own. That is, to be aware of a candidate’s body language and see what that communicates about their truth. You must first make a candidate comfortable before they’re relaxed enough to do so, but once a person’s at ease a face-to-face conversation will tell you 55% more about how they feel than one over the phone or email.

Heightening your hiring manager’s EQ and keeping a sharp eye out for high EQ in candidates will bring together a group of employees who collaborate, think, laugh, cry and grow together. Save yourself the trouble of a costly bad hire and make sure that person’s why matches your company’s values.


Rodney Burris is the President, COO and Co-Founder of Care Partners at Home. Founded in July of 2016, Care Partners At Home and its parent company, Post-Acute Care Partners Inc., was a career-long vision of Rodney's, a healthcare leader looking to turn his personal stories of caregiving and love into a completely different approach. His professional philosophy focuses on compassion and love, yet is built on a foundation of skilled associates with true expertise, delivering exceptional care.

Over the past 15 years, Rodney has had the opportunity to serve as a leader in Regional, Executive and Board Member roles across a spectrum of Healthcare organizations.  These ventures have spanned from large corporate structures to small start-up companies. His intensity, drive and passion to care for others is a derivative from playing the role of “patient” many times throughout life.   These events have inspired Rodney to build high performance teams that desire to broaden their positive impact through creation and innovation.


Rick Girard is the Founder & CEO of Stride Search, an Orange County-based recruiting and consulting firm.  Rick brings world-class leadership to firms across the nation to meet highly challenging business and talent acquisition objectives. With expertise in creative sourcing, consultative management and winning placement strategies, Rick Girard plants the hiring seeds for his partners’ success.

While not running a School for Gifted Mutants as Professor X, Rick hosts Hire Power Radio Show, a weekly series on which serves as an entrepreneur’s resource to solve the most difficult hiring challenges. When not on the air, Rick regularly gives talks and writes valuable content for Hiring Managers and Job Seekers alike. His mission: elevate and sharpen the industry standards of exclusive professional search.

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