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Landing a job takes social skills, not just brainpower. Here’s how to boost your emotional intelligence

Patricia Rivera

CTW Features

In a competitive market, a jobseeker’s experience is just part of the hiring equation. More employers now are alert to an applicant’s emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence involves the ability to identify, understand and manage the emotions of oneself, others and groups of people. Studies suggest that individuals with higher emotional intelligence may be more successful than people with lower emotional intelligence, even if their traditional IQs are average.

“People take their personal and social skills for granted, but they can help or hurt you,” says Lisa Caldas Kappesser, a Cincinnati career coach and author of “The Smart New Way to Get Hired” (Jist Works, 2010). “The interview is all about making the connection with the interviewer and communicating your value and benefit to the employer. This requires people skills, or what I call emotional intelligence skills.”

Interviewers expect applicants to be emotionally balanced. Since the interview is all about making a connection, both the interviewee and the interviewer need to be engaged in the conversation. But the applicant must be attentive to maintain that connection. Take time to listen, and let the interviewer do some of the talking. Read body language and facial expressions for signs that you are engaging your interviewer.

Self-awareness and self-management are key aspects to interviews, says Caldas Kappesser. It takes empathy – one aspect of emotional intelligence – to pick up on nonverbal cues from your interviewer and manage yourself accordingly. For example, consider the challenge of how to project confidence without giving the impression that you are cocky. Confidence reflects a sense of security about your skills and expertise. But if you start to come off as boastful in an interview, you risk appearing arrogant, and the interviewer is likely to begin disengaging with you.

“Shorten your answers if you suspect you are being too wordy or too focused on yourself,” Caldas Kappesser says.

Adele B. Lynn, a consultant in Belle Vernon, Penn., and author of several books on emotional intelligence, including “The EQ Interview” (AMACOM, 2008), says it’s crucial to stay positive during the job hunt and interviews. Never focus on negatives regarding your last job, company, boss or coworkers.

“Companies do not want to hire people who come across as complainers or critics. Even though you may think you have valid issues with your previous employer, the job interview is not the time or place to air them,” she says.

Lynn offers other tips for expressing with emotional intelligence during interviews

  • Use strong non-verbal cues that demonstrate emotional intelligence. These include smiling, making eye contact, listening attentively and showing respect to the hiring manager.
  • Use stories and data to describe yourself. Start by expressing your accomplishments in numbers and data. Then detail how you interact with others, anticipate their needs and build strong relationships with customers, peers and your boss. “You are proving your worth with the numbers and data, but you are enabling the interviewer to see that you value and can work with and serve others,” she says.
  • Be cautious of how you describe situations that didn’t go well. Take ownership for the lessons you learned from the experience. Then describe in detail how you responded, what you learned and what you have done differently since. We all make mistakes. Learning from them takes courage.
  • Avoid the seven common reflection errors. “More than likely, if you make one of these errors in your interview, you will not be hired. These include, Lynn says, blaming, justifying and rationalizing, psychoanalyzing, playing the victim, beating yourself up, getting angry or focusing only on your intentions and not the results of your behavior.
  • Keep the doors open. If you encounter rejection, be gracious. Express thanks for the opportunity. Other opportunities may arise that better suit your skills and experience. Begin to prepare yourself for a brighter future success by remaining positive and hopeful.


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