15 Tips for Improving Emotional Intelligence in the Recruiting Process
I love learning more about human behavior’s impact on employee engagement and corporate culture. I guess that’s par for the course in the human resources field. But specifically, the idea that emotional intelligence is an adaptable skill that can improve—or regress—based on an awareness of one’s emotions is fascinating to me.
I recently listened to Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry during a few of my lengthy morning commutes. I say “morning” because I generally only have the focus to pay attention to a book narrator in the early morning hours…by the end of the day I just need to decompress with music. Alas, one of my “a-ha” moments during the book was learning to truly be self-aware of my own prime times and circumstances for optimal listening. In fact, “self-awareness” is one of the four primary parts of emotional intelligence (EQ):
- Personal competence
- Social competence
- Social awareness
- Relationship management
In this blog, I’ll share fifteen golden nuggets I collected from Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and briefly relate how each of them are especially applicable for recruiters to bear in mind during the recruiting process.
1 – Think about what you are feeling when you are in the moment
As a recruiter, there may be times when you lose your composure or are, at the very least, mildly annoyed:
- When a candidate blurts out an unexpected answer that you don’t appreciate.
- When a hiring manager doesn’t get back to you with feedback in a timely manner.
- When an interviewee shows up late to an interview.
By being aware of how you feel about a situation, you’re better equipped to recognize your feelings before they have an undesired impact on others. Then, you may instead take positive action to improve a situation–even if you didn’t cause it to go poorly. According to Bradberry’s book, the more you think about your feelings and how you wish to act, the more you strengthen the pathway between your brain’s limbic system (where emotions originate) and the part of your brain that helps you think rationally.
2 – Pay attention to the ripple effect your emotions have on others
Even the subtlest emotions–contentment, moodiness, irritation, nervousness and bashfulness–can have an impact on those around you. And as we already know, the more extreme examples of happiness, sadness, anger, fear and shame can significantly affect social situations and outcomes. Check yourself during your next candidate interactions to see how your most basic emotions may be influencing the recruiting process–for better or worse.
- How has your personal demeanor impacted an interviewee’s answer?
- Does your attitude perturb (or elevate) other stakeholders during the hiring process?
3 – Be aware of your physical reactions to situations
Whether you’ll admit it or not, the range of physical responses you experience during certain emotions varies from barely perceptible (though still detectable) to obnoxiously obvious. If you’re like many of us, you may do the following:
- Tap your fingers when you’re getting impatient with an interviewee’s lengthy question response…or bounce your leg up and down under the table (I’m guilty of the latter).
- Redden in the face or neck when someone says something that upsets or embarrasses you.
And while you can’t necessarily prevent these responses from happening, you can use them as the first clue that you’re heading down the path of experiencing a certain emotion so that you can take positive action to keep your composure and minimize the impact.
4 – Determine why you do what you do
Instead of simply reacting, consider why you behave in a certain way when experiencing various emotions. This may be just the ticket for better controlling the strength of your response–you don’t have to revert to your signature behavior just because it’s the way you’ve always done it.
- Is your response rooted in a need to control a situation…or perhaps a desire to not have to be in control?
- Are you worried about being ashamed if you mess up in front of your peers at your employer?
Once you’ve identified your motivations for behavior, then you may consider whether you may make any adjustments to eliminate your need to act that way in the future. Or conversely, what can you do to encourage more of the same behavior in the future when you are experiencing positive emotions?
5 – Just smile
This is old news, yet so easily forgotten. Smile when you are on the phone with a prospective employee or during a face-to-face interview. Bradberry’s book shares that, in this scenario, your face actually sends signals to your brain that make you happier.
6 – Schedule time to ponder
When you have ten different requisitions for which you are sourcing and you feel like you must schedule back-to-back phone interviews all day long, you’re not at your best. You can’t sustain that level of activity while having the best outcomes for all involved in the recruiting process for long.
Schedule blocks of time to decompress and think about candidate responses and make notes before making any decisions. That way, any emotions you were already feeling about certain candidates will be somewhat dissipated and you’ll be in a better position to process rational thoughts about each individual’s qualifications for a position.
7 – See your own success in advance
When I played basketball as a kid, my coach taught me to see the ball going into the hoop as you are shooting it. Visualization is an important tool to being successful in your endeavors…and it helps improve your free throw percentage, too. Once you’ve identified a situation that may cause you to lose your cool–even mildly–imagine yourself coming out of the scenario with a positive outcome.
The next time a hiring manager brushes you off and doesn’t respect your desire to get back to candidates promptly, visualize your conversation and actions with the HM instead of reverting to your normal response of annoyance, anger and/or helplessness.
8 – Keep your circadian rhythms in rhythm
If you’re anything like me, you sometimes struggle to put your laptop away once the kids are in bed. In order for you to be the most alert during the day, you need to give yourself the best chance for good sleep at night. Turn the computer off at least two hours before bedtime…stop screening applicants while watching DVR!
9 – Greet people using their name frequently
Everyone loves hearing his own name. Be sure and use prospective employees’ first names at an appropriate frequency during the interview process. If you’re the type of person that forgets a person’s name as soon as he tells you, then think of a mental image that will help you remember new acquaintances’ names. For example, if you meet a “Sandy,” picture her standing on a sandy beach.
10 – Be prepared for awkward silences
As a business professional, there will be times when you hit an uncomfortable lull in conversation in the workplace. While it likely won’t be on a phone interview, maybe it’s while giving an office tour to a final stage candidate. Have a “go-to” question in mind to circumvent those awkward silences. After all, part of your job as a recruiter is to make interviewees feel at ease at your organization. Here are some casual conversation question ideas:
- Have you read any good books lately?
- Is there anything about our organization that you’ve learned, but weren’t expecting?
11 – Don’t think ahead, just listen
Personally, this is an area in which I know I have room to improve…slowly but surely! Whether you’re interviewing individuals or working with your peers at your employer, don’t try to plan your next comment while “listening” to someone else speak. That’s not really listening and you’re bound to miss details…or at least the context of some of one’s comments. Whether or not the other person acknowledges your failure to focus, his behavior and respect for you will reflect his attitude about your inattention. Listen and learn from others’ talking points first and foremost.
12 – Be punctual
How many blogs have you read about job seekers complaining about never hearing back from companies…or hearing one promise, and receiving another outcome? Too many to count from my end. Respect the time of others and give yourself a competitive advantage–because enough recruiters and hiring managers out there don’t bother.
- Be prompt with phone interviews.
- Mind the clock so that interviews don’t exceed the allotted time expectation.
- When scheduling interviews, be as flexible as possible with candidates to accommodate their own schedule limitations.
13 – Accept feedback famously
Some people are better at receiving constructive criticism than others…and what an opportunity to strengthen your EQ and your relationships if you can do it well! Solicit suggestions from job candidates and hiring managers about how the hiring process may be improved. Then, smile (remember #5!), be gracious about feedback and communicate plans for any action steps as a result of the feedback.
14 – Acknowledge the feelings of others
Let’s face it…you’re never going to agree with everyone about everything. However, the way you work through differences of opinions will certainly influence how smooth your interactions (and future disagreements) are with the same stakeholders in the future. It’s okay to disagree, but don’t minimize or ignore the feelings of others.
If you’re disputing which candidates should be hired with hiring managers, respect their opinion as valid before trying to come to a consensus, compromise or action step for further candidate vetting.
15 – Don’t be shy about having hard conversations
If you can have tough conversations in a clear, professional manner, then people will respect you more and know that you’re being upfront with them. The alternative approaches of avoidance and/or insincere sugar-coating only delay the inevitable and cause turmoil for yourself and others involved. Especially when delivering bad news to the final candidates who don’t get an employment offer, be courteous and give them a call to break the news and thank them for their time. Be direct but kind.
If you have not read any EQ-focused books yet, consider picking one up soon to continue exploring techniques for how you may improve your personal and social competence. Any improvements you can make will not only serve you well professionally, but also your employer as you represent the organization in the recruiting process.