What is Your ‘Hireability’ Quotient?

Imagine you are unwell and need to see a doctor. And you can pick between a doctor who is straight-faced, dead serious and rough talking, but located right across the street OR a doctor who is jovial and sweet talking, but located few miles out…who would you prefer? Now, visualize this scenario: your car has broken down and needs a visit to the mechanic. Would you go to a mechanic who barely speaks more than needed or perhaps another one who takes interest in knowing how you have been doing…and the family…and talking about the weather as he fixes your car?

Which service provider did you hire? My guess is, unless, the quality and reputation of the professional is outstandingly better than the frustration of dealing with them, most people might prefer to pick the second option. Right?

In a classic research conducted in the early 70s, psychologists closely studied the lives of people over few decades; from their University days as they progressed through their careers.

Sarah and Kim studied together at University pursuing a degree in Computer Sciences. Though classmates and also roommates, they had very distinct personalities. Sarah was scholarly, studious and academically brilliant. All through her career, she had bagged nothing but outstanding academic results consistently amongst the top 2% students in her class. Kim, on the other hand, possessed average academic credentials…not the worse…but certainly not the very best either. She was the type that burnt the midnight lamp just before exams and managed an average rank in her class. Certainly not the most brilliant academically.

And the differences in their personalities didn’t end here. Sarah tended to live mostly by herself giving others the impression that she is snobbish and arrogant. (do you recall such students from your college days?) During class discussions, she would typically avoid answering questions even though she knew the answers. She stayed clear of team activities and her life revolved around her classes, library and her apartment. Kim was an altogether different personality…very social and a natural in bonding with people, empathizing with their issues. When not studying or preparing projects, she enjoyed hanging around with friends…and she had a large friends circle…even participating in other projects, generally curious and outgoing.

Sarah had the kind of CV that would impress any employer and deservedly so her CV was pre-selected for interviews by 9 out of the top 10 organizations that came for campus recruitment that year. Given her average grades, Kim was shortlisted by just 4 organizations. In the end though, BOTH got 3 job offers each.

What made Kim get selected by 3 out of the 4 companies that interviewed her, even as her academic credentials were not as glorious as those of Sarah? Moreover, in the years to follow, Sarah rose up to various technical positions, whilst Kim got into the leadership track and quickly took executive leadership roles.

Does the story of Sarah and Kim resonate with people you know at workplace? There are those who tend to maintain a low profile, talk less during meetings, maintain limited interactions with colleagues…but absolutely mind-blowing in subject matter knowledge?

Psychologist Daniel Goleman talks about THREE qualities that make people successful and valuable at work:

  1. IQ or cognitive intelligence – a person’s ability to learn through pattern recognition using logic, analysis of events, mathematical computations and language. Typically (but not always) reflected by their academic merits.
  2.  Expertise or energy – the motor skills a person possesses to demonstrate physical capabilities to do a task. The sheer physical stamina and capabilities needed to do the task.
  3. Attitude – Some label it as hard work, but we can ask what makes people put in that hard work? It is sometimes also defined as will power, tenacity, grit or determination, etc. which is largely governed by the person’s emotional connect to that task.

The question is, how do some people manage to soar in their careers despite being academically average, or even poor and also possessing limited skills necessary for the tasks? Do you know people who have switched to an entirely new career option and yet made it big? This question led psychologists to investigate the crucial role of attitude in spring-boarding a person over toughest challenges. The research showed an interesting trend: people with positive attitude demonstrated a high levels of a quality called emotional intelligence, compared to Cognitive IQ (i.e academic prowess) or physical skills. They tended to connect with the right mental state at the right time to deliver the task at hand.

The word ‘right’ here suggests just the emotional connect needed to take them through the actions needed to accomplish the task, but stops short of going overboard. Period. Too much emotional connect can blind a person to the risks and perils associated with that task, unable to see the points of failure…or worse, unable to cope with failures. They eventually get frozen in their past, unable to move on.

Daniel Goleman defined this ability of a person to ‘inject’ the right amount of emotion to a task – being able to apply ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’ equally to take optimal decisions, being able to connect and enlist others to their task, as Emotional Intelligence.

And why is E. I so valuable? Through extensive research he established that, for simpler job roles, the performance of top 1% E I people was 3 times the performance of bottom 1% E I people. The results were even more startling for complex job roles where the top 1% E I people outperformed 12 times more than bottom 1% E I people. Sales people with higher E I tend to stay longer, put up higher resilience to pressure and are able to think much more creatively. Attrition is lower and overall organizational maturity is higher.

This mind-blowing analysis rests on the simple theory that our mind tends to produce an emotional state for every event unfolding before us. Our actions in the external world are a direct consequence of our internal state. So being able to notice and regulate your mental state helps you to be ‘At Cause’ instead of being ‘At Affect’ in that situation. Being ‘at affect’ is when the circumstances affect your mood and actions…whereas being ‘at cause’ is when YOU cause the circumstances to happen. Quite obviously, people with high EI are able to (i) notice how situations affect their mental state and (ii) regulate their mental state to redefine the situations.

Individuals with high E I have a natural ability to make friends and build positive relationships. No wonder then, barring certain extraordinary contexts, organizations usually unconsciously gravitate towards individuals who demonstrate good emotional intelligence.

In most organizations, as you grow senior your ability manage relationships, engage and inspire people become more critical than technical knowledge or physical stamina. The senior the role the greater the preference for executives with high EI compared to their academics or skills. Perhaps this could be the reason why academically brilliant people who often get a better head start early on in their career, tend to report in to colleagues who possess more E I as they grow within organizations.

Infact, a study at UCLA showed that intellectual ability counts for just 7% of leadership development while emotional intelligence counts for 93%. Emotional Intelligence has a profound and powerful influence in the building- blocks of leadership such as: building trust, loyalty, creativity, resilience, customer satisfaction and turnover…amongst many other parameters.

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Now here’s a TWIST !! The reality though, is not quite similar to theory. A study of over 1 million people across various organizational levels by Forbes, uncovered a rather interesting trend. They found that while the E I scores of individuals rose in correlation with their job titles, they peaked at middle management level and then, startlingly began to drop down for higher levels. Alarmingly, the CEOs showed E I scores that were lower than ‘individual contributors’ who worked under level 1 supervisors. Infact Middle Managers, V.P and Directors demonstrated the highest E.I scores.

Why should this happen? Psychologists associated with this research at Forbes noticed that, the higher a person grows above the middle-management role, the more they focus on metrics-led performances whilst taking decisions on hiring, promotions and raises. Even worse, few companies tended to promote people into key roles based on their tenure, skills / knowledge rather than their ability to inspire and lead others to actions. Another interesting find they made is that the best INDIVIDUAL performers (e.g best sales person, best project manager, etc.) showed disturbingly poor E I scores whereas average individual performers-turned-Managers showed higher E I scores. Now, does this remind you of someone who was an amazing individual performer, but failed to deliver as a Manager?

So how does one improve emotional intelligence? Remember, high E I equals better hireability !! Whether they realize or not, employers unconsciously gravitate towards people with high E I quotient.

And you can easily track that by monitoring few key parameters with respect to everyday situations unfolding around you. Remember, its not being emotionally sensitive to the situation, but being able to think and feel at the same time…and so associating the right degree of emotion appropriate to that task.

  1. Personal intelligence: A passion to work for internal reasons that go beyond money and status. Which in turn brings clarity of what is important in life, a joy in doing something, curiosity in learning, a flow that comes with being immersed in an activity and yet being able to multitask several activities. Few questions you can ask yourself:
  • Are you clear of your work-life priorities and doggedly following a strategy to maintain that balance? OR are circumstances pushing you to work commitments that conflict with personal life?
  • Can you wage bets on delivering your promises?
  • When faced with difficult situations, do you tell yourself “there must be a better way…somehow?” OR do you concede “this is the best way”
  • When faced with setbacks, do you attribute them to specific circumstances and apply its impact to a narrow context in life and for a short time? High E I people attribute failures to a very narrow and specific context and foresee their impact for a limited period of time. i.e setbacks are temporary and limited in range.

 

  • Interpersonal intelligence: Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks and an ability to find common ground and build rapport. Few questions to ponder about:
  • Do you listen to respond…or to understand? Do you go after just facts or just feelings or both when associating with people?
  • What part of your daily efforts go towards serving others?
  • How easily can you notice the strengths in people and link them to common goals? A good way to start would be to list 5 positive qualities of every person you work with.
  • How good are you in mirroring and matching your state with others’ state? E.g showing enthusiasm when the other person is also enthusiastic, showing concern with concern, etc.
  • Do you like to jump into conflicts with the intent of resolving them amicably? OR do you shun conflicting situations?
  • How many people can you count to enlist whole-hearted support…anytime and every time? Do you take conscious efforts to contact and connect with them? Do you take efforts to stay in touch with more people each year?

Do you have big network of weak-connections? These are people who are not related or connected with your daily work or passion. They are those coming from diverse fields and maintain occasional touch points with you? High E I people have plenty of such weak-connections.

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