Using Your Emotional Intelligence to Recruit Winners

A leading store manager in a national retail chain told me how he got his first job. He was a teenager and wanted a job in his neighborhood grocery. Rebuffed in several attempts to get his potential boss to hire him, he sat in the back room of the man’s store every day for over a week. Finally the boss relented and gave him a chance. His “chance” turned into a 40-year career during which he has consistently been a star performer.

What? You don’t have any star performers hanging around your store room? OK then. Time to go hunting for them. But be careful how you hunt. If you aren’t, you may not get what you want.

Last month, I encouraged you to make the extra effort to recruit candidates whose emotional intelligence skills fit the needs of the job. This month, we will look at how you can use your own emotional intelligence to attract and land the best candidates.

Emotional intelligence consists of five sets of skills:

  • Self knowledge

  • Self control

  • Self motivation

  • Understanding others

  • Influencing others

Using three of these skill sets, self knowledge, understanding others, and influencing others will give you the edge over your competition in the hunt.

Self Knowledge: Know what you and your company offer

What job am I offering? Many employers do not force themselves to think this question through. If your thinking about the job is not clear, your communication about the job can’t be clear. A confusing or hazy job definition will be irritating to strong candidates, perhaps enough so to drive them away. To define the job accurately, imagine yourself doing it. Ask yourself: "What need would I fill in this company? How would I spend my time each day? What would be expected of me? To whom would I report? How would I know if I am doing a good job?”

If you do your homework, you will be able to describe the job in terms that the ideal candidate will understand.

What does it feel like to work here? Strong candidates will evaluate the company atmosphere. Do the same, only do it first! Imagine what it would be like to work for each of your key managers, to depend on them to communicate what needed to be done, to treat you fairly, to respect your abilities, and to give you room to succeed. Whatever atmosphere exists in your company will be sensed by savvy job candidates. (And why would you want any other kind?) To get more information about this issue, ask current employees this simple yet powerful question: “How does it feel to work here?”

Understanding Others: Knowing the habits and interests of star performers

Who is my ideal candidate? As discussed in last month’s column, create a mental picture of who you are looking for. What skills are needed to match up with job duties? What technical and emotional competencies make the difference between mediocrity and success? What values do you expect this person to have? Do you want a self starter who thinks creatively or one who follows orders?

What are the issues of urgent concern for my candidates? Today, you cannot guarantee winning the best candidates by outbidding your competitors. Other issues often matter more to people than money. Different issues drive different people. Be sure you know which ones matter to yours.

For many people, having a job that feels meaningful is the most powerful element. Daniel Goleman, in his book Working with Emotional Intelligence, quotes an IBM executive who declined a job that would have made her rich because she believed that what she was doing, pioneering on the Internet, could change the world.

  • Many strong candidates want to be in jobs in which they can develop critical skills. They will take a job with serious shortcomings because it offers experience they can’t get elsewhere.

  • Some people find it important to structure their own time rather than to be structured by others. If your job can give them that freedom, you have a powerful bargaining chip.

Be careful about the benefits you offer. Be sure that the ones you provide are the ones your candidates (and current employees) really want. Some benefits become faddish. Companies offer them because other companies offer them, not because they know that their employees or recruits care about them. Don’t make that expensive mistake. Once benefits are provided, you can almost never take them back. Find out from your employees and job candidates what benefits mean the most to them.

Where do good candidates hang out? When you figure out where candidates spend time, you will be able to figure out creative and effective ways to deliver your message to them. Most companies know, for example, that lots of entry level management candidates can be found on college campuses. As a result, campuses are awash with recruiters.

To give yourself an edge, ask where else candidates might be. Imagine that you want to fill a management position that requires high-level computer skills. Candidates might be found on the Internet and reading computer magazines. Or they might be friends of your high tech employees. Ask current employees who may be similar to top candidates. They can give you helpful clues about finding and appealing to job candidates.

Influencing Others: Landing future stars

Armed with knowledge of self and others, you are now in a position to influence good candidates to select your company. You can write the killer job ad because of your enhanced understanding of what you are offering and to whom you are offering it. When it comes to interviews, your questions and ways of relating will demonstrate that you are serious about creating a company devoted to its own well being and the well being of all employees. Why would they want to work anywhere else?

Dana C. Ackley, Ph.D., is founder and CEO of EQ Leader, Inc. He can be reached at 774-1927, or by e-mail at

The comprehensive science based EQ Leader Program builds lasting change in EQ skills that make a dramatic difference in performance.

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