Promoting Your Emotional IQ in a Search
I recently heard from a job hunter who wondered if they were TOO brainy and not warm enough in a recent interview. This job seeker said he prepared well, had a good pitch for the position, asked smart questions and was professional and calm. Yet he didn’t get a second interview, and when asked what he could have done better, the hiring manager was vague. In retrospect, he says, he thinks he may have failed to make an emotional connection with the interviewer. “Yet, am I supposed to worry about that?” he asks in an email. “Do I have to work hard to make them like me, as well as respect my qualifications?”
Well, yes. While it may seem that it’s enough to wow a hiring manager with your skills, experience and knowledge of the organization and the field, it’s not. Human nature being what it is, those hiring want to feel a solid connection with a candidate and want to think you’d be a desirable person to have around the office. Now, if you’re not qualified or prepared, it doesn’t matter how much they may like you. But if you have the skills and experience and they don’t feel any warmth, you may have a problem — especially if another candidate is qualified as well as friendly and warm. This is what’s known as emotional intelligence, and heightening your emotional IQ is an important element in succeeding in the interview process.
Emotional intelligence has gotten a lot of press lately, and there’s plenty of studies and anecdotal evidence that show it’s an important, demonstrable skill in the workplace. A recent book that’s not half bad posits the idea that even if you’re not a naturally warm and outgoing person, you can develop some skills and traits that can help you in a job hunt:
The Smart New Way to Get Hired – Use Emotional Intelligence and Land the Right Job
Meanwhile, here are some common-sense tips to help you promote your emotional IQ in a job search, and to avoid being viewed as cold and distant:
*Show empathy. Most job hunters don’t think much about the interviewer on the other side of the desk, and how they may be feeling. Often, a hiring manager is sandwiching this interview in among about 100 other things they’re doing that day and may not be prepared or thrilled about the process. While you may not think it’s your role to put them at ease, if you show some empathy, you may be able to make a real connection. Even little grace notes like “I realize you’ve been talking to a lot of people for this job, and I really appreciate you giving me the chance to discuss it with you” shows that you value their time and you respect the fact that this is a competitive process. They may put their guard down a bit with you and the interview can turn into a conversation rather than a sterile Q&A if you seek to put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes.
*Be human, not a robo-candidate. All kinds of little things — like smiling before answering questions, making the interviewer think they’re asking good questions and listening well — can give a hiring manager the sense that you’re paying attention and trying to connect with them. Showcasing a sense of humor, in an appropriate way, of course (be very careful to keep all jokes and language clean!!), can also reassure a hiring manager that you are someone who will work well with others. And you can show you’re self aware and don’t take yourself too seriously if you make a little joke at your own expense. If you’re nervous, for instance, you might even joke about that — which could show your human side and also might help explain away a flub or two you may make in the interview.
*Prove you can communicate. In addition to assessing the content of the interview, hiring managers often use phone and face-to-face interview sessions as a way to evaluate how well a candidate communicates with others — and under pressure. And especially in communications jobs, they will be placing a priority on these skills. If you can’t communicate effectively enough for them to feel like they know you somewhat after an interview, they may figure that you’re just not a good communicator — and they may drop you from their list even if they’re impressed by your other skills. So work hard — by how you say it as well as what you say — to get your points across in a conversational way. In person, keep steady eye contact with the interviewer and provide anecdotal examples whenever possible to keep their interest and make memorable points. Don’t ramble; respect their time and respond accordingly to what appear to be their priorities. On the phone, speak clearly and compensate for the lack of body language by adopting a friendly, outgoing tone — underscore your most important points with enthusiasm. Practice all of this before hand with a trusted friend; have them specifically determine whether you seem to be communicating in a conversational style and note what kinds of responses were most effective in making a connection.