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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Finance

Employers in every industry – even tech – say they’re now hiring for emotional intelligence. But what exactly is emotional intelligence? Why exactly is it so crucial? And perhaps most importantly, how do you hire for it? Today we’ll take a look at the issue and provide tips for finding finance candidates that have the right mix of hard and soft skills.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a term created by Peter Salovey and John Mayer and popularized by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book of the same name. EQ is the ability to recognize, understand and manage one’s own emotions — along with the emotions of others. According to the Institute for Health and Human Potential (IHHP), “In practical terms, this means being aware that emotions can drive our behavior and impact people (positively and negatively), and learning how to manage these emotions – both our own and others – especially when we are under pressure.”

Why is hiring for emotional intelligence important?

When creating job descriptions, it’s natural for employers to look for candidates with the educational training, experience, industry qualifications and technical skills needed to fulfill a role’s responsibilities. However, if you focus solely on hard skills, you might overlook perhaps the most essential hiring question: is this person a good cultural fit for the team?

People with high EQ work well wither others because they are able to maintain an even-keeled demeanor. They understand their own emotions and the emotions of others and can express them in a socially acceptable manner.

Hiring someone with high EQ can help ensure your newest team member will work well with others, manage clients effectively and help foster a welcoming and inclusive company culture.

How to hire for emotional intelligence

Hiring people with high EQ is a challenge. Candidates put their best foot forward during interviews and in the first few months on the job. The problem is, if a positive demeanor doesn’t come naturally, it wears off once they settle in.

Searching for candidates who possess the personality qualities your company values is easier said than done, but these tips can help get you started.

Talk to references

Letters of reference are nice, but they do little to help you understand a candidate’s EQ. Pick up the phone and talk to references so you can ask pointed questions. Ask how well the candidate considers the feelings of others, manages conflict, handles constructive criticism, admits to mistakes and airs their grievances.

Conduct behavioral event interviews

Most interviewers know they need to ask behavioral questions during interviews. The problem is, candidates come prepared with stories that provide an idealized image of themselves. To overcome this obstacle, try a technique called Behavioral Event Interviewing (BEI).

With BEI, after breaking the ice and asking a few easy questions to get the candidate comfortable, you ask them to describe a number of situations they’ve faced. Ask them about the thoughts and feelings they had in the situations and the actions they took. For example, you might ask questions like:

  • Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  • Can you think of a time when you made a mistake in analyzing financial data? How did you discover your mistake? What did you do about it?
  • Tell me about a time when you faced an obstacle to completing a project. What did you do to get around it?

This is just a tiny sample of questions you can ask in BEI. And these questions will help you get a sense of the person’s awareness about their feelings, and their impact on others.

Emotional intelligence isn’t something you can measure by looking at academic records or resumes. It requires more thought, effort, and even EQ on the part of the interviewer to find the right fit. But when you hire emotionally intelligent people, they can engage with your organization’s goals and values, help your business grow and promote team unity.


Accounting Principals

We're Accounting Principals--a leader in finance and accounting staffing. In fact, since 2010, we've been part of Adecco Group, a Global 500 company and leader in staffing services around the world. But this isn't staffing as usual. We take quite a different approach than most staffing agencies. A people-focused approach. We believe in forming real relationships with both our clients and our candidates. We want to understand the needs on both sides.