Career Advice / Career Growth / Job Search

IQ Who? How Recruiters Are Hiring For Emotional Quotient in 2021

. 8 min read . Written by Priyanka Sutaria
IQ Who? How Recruiters Are Hiring For Emotional Quotient in 2021

It’s the end of the 2010s, and the beginning of a new decade, and just a toolbox full of technical skills won’t cut it for the recruitment process. Recruiters are hiring for soft skills too, and here’s how the emotional quotient plays into it!

Gone are the days when leadership (or followership for that matter) are the object of who can control their emotions best. The humanisation of leadership means that recruiters are also learning how to hire people who bring more than just a neat and tidy skillset with them.

Turns out, when humans are hiring humans for other humans, they’re looking for real humans; not approximations of bots who will perform mindless activities. After all, bots are neither the consumers of the goods and services they are selling, nor are they fun to grab a drink with after a long, hard day.

And with the pandemic still raging, the need for human connection through our internet connections grows stronger and harder to fill.

Why, though? Because most of us are products of a system that has squished us into molds of the Perfect Capitalist Worker and polished the rough edges away.

Good news: times have changed. Bad news: the recruiters, who we were told all our lives would hire us for how smartly and easily we fit into the mold, are now looking for signs of life on this barren planet. Houston, we have a problem!

Let’s take a quick look at why and how recruiters are hiring for emotional quotient, and what we need to unlearn to get a job by being more… well, ourselves.

Okay, But What Is Emotional Quotient?

IQ to EQ

Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term in 1990. Howard Gardner, developmental psychologist, defines Emotional Quotient (or EQ) as, “…the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them.”

EQ is vast and covers the breadth of human interdependence and relationships. It includes and involves self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Each of these is its own umbrella term, so suffice to say that everything with regards to building a positive work environment  is encompassed by the biggest, goodest umbrella of them all… emotional quotient.

Soft skills include, but are not limited to, self-confidence, self-esteem, trustworthiness, adaptability, initiative, optimism, political awareness, desire for diversity, leadership, communication, collaboration, conflict management, team building. EQ is a building block for them all.

Why Are Recruiters Hiring For Emotional Quotient?

A little humanity goes a long way, both in terms of employee and employer prospects. A leader with a high EQ is aware of their strengths and weaknesses. And more importantly, is able to use both to their advantage.

A leader who humanises themselves by virtue of this is able to look at conflict from multiple angles, prioritise effectively, and furthermore, help others manage their emotions as well.

An employee with a high EQ integrates easily and faster into teams, and creates strong communication channels that make conflict less likely to crop up. They also find, make and nurture allyship.

Together, high EQs ensure that leaders and followers are happy while working, and happy to be working where they are.

For too long, both in our media and in real life, managers in particular have gotten away with being task masters rather than individuals who are part of a team.

Being in touch with one’s own emotions helps one better understand and empathise with others — something that should be key, not complimentary to building a positive working environment!

Most critically, an unemotional person cannot inspire respect or action. Not in the way they need it. Instead, they inspire gossip and high attrition rates.

Soft skills, now gaining value and becoming an important box to tick off in recruiters’ checklists, need to factor into your checklist as a potential hiree as well.

How Are Recruiters Hiring For Emotional Quotient?

magnifying glass scoping people

There is no one-shot way to convince any recruiter that you are in touch with your higher self, and able to both introspect and identify yours and others’ emotional state with accuracy.

EQ, like its more stoic counterpart Intelligence Quotient (IQ), is sensationalised. Far too many frameworks have popped up to measure it, none of them 100% accurate.

But recruiters gotta recruit, so here are some ways in which recruiters test for EQ.


I, for one, clam up in interviews, and happen to be extremely introverted. Which makes it hard to claim and prove that I have social skills, or that I can fit into a pre-set team. But I happen to know that I am placed decently above average on the EQ charts, from my own understanding of myself (more on this later). 

So I focus on showing what I can do by highlighting my EQ with examples. 

I consider myself adaptable, because I am confident of my ability to take on a new task or role keeping in mind both my capabilities and its demands.

I believe that my ability to resolve conflicts is powered by my active desire to create strong, active channels of communication. 

It is my belief that collaboration is an empty promise when it is not backed up by trust-building and initiative.

Recruiters will also ask you to highlight your weaknesses, and test out your ability to be self-conscious without undermining yourself. So be honest about what you lack, but ensure that you let them know that you are willing to work to change that, or improve on it.

Chasing Clarity

Be prepared for follow-up questions to your statements. And answer them with stories from previous work experiences.

If you emphasise your communication skills, get ready to answer how. I take the time to understand what communication channel suits each member of my team best, and make the effort to keep the channel unblocked by engaging with them regularly through clarifications and check-ins.

If you have stated that you are adaptable, tell them how you have adapted in the past. At my previous organisation, I began working in X capacity. Shortly, having noticed that there was an unplugged dependency which I could resolve myself, I volunteered to add that to my task list instead of demanding a busy team member’s time.

If you claim that collaboration is not your strong suit, offer a potential solution. I have in the past tended to take on responsibilities that could have been dispersed among my team, because I find it hard to delegate. But I have been working on building my confidence, so I am now better prepared for such situations.

When you are constantly introspecting and paying attention to your own strengths and weaknesses, such answers will flow faster and without much thought.


Good recruiters, and therefore the ones you want scouting you, will not depend just on self-reporting though. They won’t use loosely structured personality tests as crutches either. They will go straight to the people who know you. 

Which is why it is imperative to add solid references to your application, ones who have a good understanding of your character and individual and employee. Furthermore, maintain strong relationships with these people you are offering as references. They will offer recruiters the most clarity about how you work and interact within the workplace.

How To Build EQ Without Commodifying It?

This is a step-by-step program. But before you begin, understand that EQ cannot be faked. If you fake it, you don’t have a high emotional quotient. And you’re leaning towards sociopathy, which is something to consider seriously.

woman sits thinking with a cup of coffee

EQ, like anything else in this post-industrial world, can be commodified. And it is! But the only way to combat it is to continually strive for genuine, empathetic behaviour. This self-regulation in itself will help you stand out from the crowd.

This crowd, most of whom claim to possess high EQ, is no match for someone who can actually show that they do.

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First: Develop Self-Awareness

Here are some questions (Source: Help Guide) you can ask yourself to identify and better understand yourself, your triggers and your reactions.

  1. Do you experience feelings that flow, encountering one emotion after another as your experiences change from moment to moment?
  2. Are your emotions accompanied by physical sensations that you experience in places like your stomach, throat, or chest?
  3. Do you experience individual feelings and emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy, each of which is evident in subtle facial expressions?
  4. Can you experience intense feelings that are strong enough to capture both your attention and that of others?
  5. Do you pay attention to your emotions? Do they factor into your decision making?

Answer these honestly, and you can achieve this honesty in many ways. Stream-of-consciousness journaling is one way, practising mindfulness is another. Even going for regular counselling (not therapy!) sessions can help bring out the answers to these questions.

Second: Focus On Self-Management

Once you understand how your core emotions work and engage with one another, you need to understand how you can obtain some semblance of control over your reactions to them.

It is important then, to not stop at identification, but to stay present in the journey of self-awareness. Awareness is a process, not a destination. And it’s the first step towards management. By practising awareness, one learns to predict one’s emotional responses, and either mitigate or empower them.

Three: Make Social Awareness A Priority

Once you interpret yourself, it becomes easier to interpret others. Not because we all react identically, but because we share core emotions. Understanding these core emotions as driving forces, and making the effort to understand how others respond to them is crucial.

Do this by seeing what they prioritise, focussing on their nonverbal cues, and how they engage with others within the group (at large, and on a one-on-one basis).

Four: Work On Your Relationships

Relationships do not sail on autopilot. Every cog in the machine and every crew member on board is instrumental in this. It takes commitment, hard work and communication to make this happen.

Put simply: learn what communication channels work effectively for you, nurture allyship towards others and unto yourself, don’t ignore the tough bits or let stress simmer, and use conflict as a stepping stone to do better rather than a barrier.

At the (pun intended) heart of it, EQ is an incredible catch-all term and concept to help us detach the idea of working from its increasingly exploitative definitions.

Your relationship with your work and workplace is paramount to how successful you are, and recruiters are learning that this is the case.

Go forth, mindfulness and self-consciousness in place, into your interview and convince the interviewer to hire you not just for what you can do, but how you approach it.

Research: Psych Central, Harvard Business Review, Help Guide

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