BlueSky has often said that companies tend to ‘hire for skills and fire for behaviors.’  A LinkedIn algorithm can likely deliver candidates who are qualified from a skills perspective, but it takes human interaction to evaluate whether a candidate has the behaviors needed to succeed in the target environment.  A significant portion of these behaviors are collectively called emotional intelligence.  The phrase emotional intelligence (E.I.) seems to be trending, but while it may not always be in the headlines, we firmly believe that it should consistently be one of the most important factors in hiring decisions.


So what do we mean by emotional intelligence, and why is it important? Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer first started using this term in 1990 to describe the ability to recognize, regulate and understand emotions – both in yourself and in others. The scientist Daniel Goleman wrote a book in 1995 which said there are four domains that underlie emotional intelligence – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. It is a vital skill for interpersonal communication and can enhance both the personal and professional aspects of one’s life. For example, having high emotional intelligence can help you to: express your feelings, build empathetic connections, navigate conflict, see the big picture, build collaborative teams built on trust, and approach sensitive issues in a rational manner.

Given these benefits, it’s not surprising that E.I. skills are highly desired by hiring managers, particularly for leadership positions. In fact, in a national survey by Career Builder, of more than 2,600 hiring managers and human resource professionals, 71 percent said they value emotional intelligence over IQ. The World Economic Forum (WEF) 2020 Future of Jobs report says that emotional intelligence is one of the 10 most in-demand skills and that it will remain so through at least 2025. As artificial intelligence continues to impact everything from manufacturing to journalism to education, jobs that will prevail will involve things that machines can’t do. These include roles requiring complex thinking and envisioning the future, and understanding values, emotions and thought processes.


In general, the more interaction with people, the more important it is to have strong E.I. skills. There are certainly times when emotional intelligence has less impact on success. For example, high E.I. would generally be more valued in a salesperson than a car mechanic. We all have emotions though – whether related to work, personal life or otherwise. Ask yourself:

  • Do emotions influence your thinking and decision making?
  • Can awareness and deliberate efforts to control emotional reactions make a difference in behavior and outcomes?

The answer to both questions is yes. Refusing to acknowledge this can lead to emotions controlling you and your decisions, and leave you open to being unwittingly manipulated by others. Every day, politicians, colleagues, and even supposed friends use emotionally intelligent skills to manipulate others.

The good news is that with practice and effort, emotional intelligence can be improved.  75% of the Fortune 500 use training to improve and maintain the emotional intelligence of employees. Most people cannot really control how they feel, but over time, you can control your reactions to those feelings. You can quickly Google to find some quick tips, but if you’re interested in honestly assessing your emotional intelligence and enhancing this superpower, you’ll need to invest some time. We’d suggest working through a book such as Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (Travis Bradberry & Dr. Jean Greaves), taking a virtual course on and/or looking for an E.I. coach. Thanks to many coaching and therapy firms offering online services since the pandemic, there are countless options available regardless of one’s location.


Back to the workplace. Emotional intelligence is highly desirable in candidates. You won’t see a job description asking for ‘five years of emotional intelligence experience’ though, nor should you put such a thing on your resume. There may be hints of self-awareness and relationship management in the experience section of your resume, but E.I. skills will primarily be shown to prospective employers during interviews. Here are some tips on letting your emotional intelligence speak for itself.

  • BODY LANGUAGE – Your emotional state (and control of it) will be evident in the tone of your voice, your ability to control what you’re saying, your ability to pause, your body movements. Some nervous energy is fine and to be expected but prepare for the interview so that your body language will reflect your confidence, presence and interest in the position.
  • LISTEN to the questions – Don’t rely on rehearsed answers. Listen to the responses to your answers. Listen to the follow up questions. If you are not sure if you are answering the question, ask the interviewer.
  • STORIES – One of the best opportunities to show E.I. is when responding to behavioral questions. These questions often start with ‘Tell me about a time when…’ or ‘What would you do in X situation.’ Within your answers, include the following types of behaviors which demonstrate the ability to understand and consider your own emotions as well as the emotions of others.
    • Accepting responsibility for a mistake without blaming others
    • Willingness to try a different approach
    • Maintaining a positive attitude
    • Having a positive outlook on past colleagues
    • Understanding why good working relationships are important
    • Considering other viewpoints and understanding other perspectives
    • Application of conflict resolution skills
    • Ability to be a team player, a desire for team success
    • Supporting and motivating colleagues to improve team performance
  • Ask QUESTIONS – At the end of an interview, there is typically time for the candidate to ask questions. This is another great opportunity to demonstrate your emotional intelligence. For example, questions around the culture and values of an organization and what it takes for people to be successful there demonstrate your social awareness.

Illustrating your emotional intelligence alongside your job-specific skills to potential employers is key to finding the right fit in your career. No matter where you are today, being open to continually improving your emotional intelligence is a sign that you’re striving to be a better team member, leader and person, in work and in life – a quality AI can never replace.