How Emotional Intelligence Beats Experience

Their CV is impeccable; their experience is second to none, their attitude– questionable.

Do you hire?

Or do you “settle” for your runner-up with far better situational awareness but less experience?

The most popular choice has been the former.

Organizations and HR Managers with little time and appetite for what they perceive as “risk” go with the more experienced candidate hoping that their years of working knowledge will present a new solution to traditional problems. But counter-intuitive this is, young Jedi.

Experience is without a doubt valuable, but emotional intelligence or what people call “soft skills” are more valuable in today’s economy. There’s nothing soft about the ability to communicate your frustrations, weaknesses, strengths and passion to your fellow teammates. That ‘soft skill’ is responsible for some of the greatest business and political victories during difficult financial times.

Social media and business guru Gary Vaynerchuk said it perfectly, “I’d rather have a strong team than hire a superstar, just like sports, emotional intelligence wins every time.” His logic is simple; superstars with poor attitudes and little understanding of their place in a team environment perform inconsistently and actively look towards new and selfish opportunities. Those who know how to play well and empower their teams achieve greater long-term success and are more resilient.

Too often, I’ve seen HR Managers gloss over what they see as ‘irrelevant’ experience and only look for buzz words when selecting candidates for interviews. To be fair, they look at hundreds of applications a day but what is interesting is that even if their company’s policy is about taking a holistic approach to hiring, HR Managers have been trained in the traditional method contributing to a circle of poor hiring decisions time and time again.

Following the selection of the candidates is the interview where interviewers make the common mistake of not taking the time to ask questions that allow for them to gauge how that person would actually perform in that role, instead focusing on the candidate’s past hoping their past successes will remain consistent into the future. Top it off with a heavy grilling of “past experience” from the CV/resume as opposed to scenario-based questions and you have a recipe for a hire that can fizzle out in a few months into the job.

No matter the seniority of the position, I’m a firm believer in hiring leaders who are self-aware and confident in their ability to solve emerging challenges. I’ve seen it play out positively countless times especially when they were called upon to save a company or a campaign.

I’ve also seen experienced hires embarrass their companies, make opportunistic moves to other companies and react poorly when their skills were tested in team situations.

Charisma, relationship-management, public speaking and diplomacy are traits of leaders who have mastered emotional intelligence.

Experience is important but if you come across a candidate who scores high on the emotional intelligence scale, give them a chance to prove themselves, you may never hire the same again.

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