Hiring dilemma: EQ vs IQ

by Janie Smith03 Sep 2014
What’s more important when it comes to job candidates – a strong CV or a high emotional intelligence (EQ) score?

An article from Knowledge@Wharton,  the online journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said that a 2011 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management showed that nearly 20% of organisations used personality or emotional intelligence tests in hiring or employee promotion.

Nearly 75% of the respondents found the tests helpful in predicting job-related behaviour or organisational fit.

Jeremy Yip, a Wharton lecturer and research scholar, said that emotional intelligence often determined who would emerge as a leader in the workplace.

According to Yip, people with high EQs inspire others and make people want to follow them.

“They take initiative and their peers notice them and view them as someone whom they can follow and trust. You can have technical skills and cognitive intelligence, but that doesn’t mean you’re good at controlling your emotions or building relationships or inspiring a team.”

The validity of EQ tests depends on which test is used, according to the article.

It describes the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test as one of the best-regarded assessments.

The test involves 140 questions, including a section where those being tested are shown pictures of human faces and asked to rate the level of emotion being expressed.

Ben Dattner, an executive coach and organisational development consultant, said the circumstances in which a person took an EQ test could affect the result.
“Say a person takes an EQ test in a comfortable, well-lit room. That test might show they have emotional intelligence. But when they’re under stress – when they’re out on the sales floor – they freeze up. Pressure might get the best of them,” he was quoted as saying.

Employers are also concerned about how easily the tests could be manipulated by candidates, according to an Inc.com article.

It reported that some organisations were discouraged from using the tests in case interviewees put forward the answers they thought the company would like to hear.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 author Travis Bradberry said that many organisations opted for behavioural interviews instead.

“The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour,” he said.

Do you think EQ tests are helpful in the hiring process?


  • by CM 3/09/2014 1:57:50 PM

    Using both EQ testing and behavioural based interviewing in the recruitment process is the ideal. In my experience it is important to use as many tools as possible to give you a well-rounded view of the candidate. After all, many candidates who are confident talkers do extremely well in interviews but can be lacking when they are expected to put into practice.

  • by HR Dude 4/09/2014 9:47:07 AM

    The more selection techniques the better. The only reason why I'd keep the number to 3-4 is because of the amount of stress it places on the candidate.

    EQ is one of those things when I've seen effect someone's work time and time again. When someone comes up against a obstacle in the form of a person or set behaviour, it is an invaluable ability to be able to get that person on side with you.

    While I don't use a set EQ test, I have use behavioural questions targeting attributes that show EQ, such as team work, conflict, etc. One thing I have noticed is that just like other attributes candidates have, it grows with experience and mentoring.

  • by Joshua Freedman 4/09/2014 11:31:25 AM

    I'd make sure that you're using a well validated tool, but also something simple. Our R&D team has been working on this process for years and found that Hiring Managers need a simple synthesis, looking at a complex EQ profile is too time consuming. However, there are only a couple of tools out there that provide a simple synthesis that is ALSO well validated.

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