Gov Careers

By Phil Piemonte

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You think you're so smart

Being a brainiac may not necessarily be the keys to the kingdom when seeking a government job, according to one recent survey.

In the survey, sponsored by job search company CareerBuilder Government Solutions, 70 percent of government employers said they value high “emotional intelligence” over high IQ. The online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, surveyed 267 hiring managers and human resources professionals across various levels of government, including federal employers.

According to the survey sponsors, emotional intelligence (EI) is “a general measurement of a person’s abilities to control emotions, to sense, understand and react to others’ emotions, and manage complex relationships.”

In addition to indicating that they put a higher value on EI, 62 percent of respondents also said they would not hire someone who has a high IQ but low EI.

Most of the survey respondents also indicated they probably would favor high EI employees when promotion time came—77 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to promote the high EI worker over the high IQ employee.

In addition, 34 percent of respondents indicated that they are placing a greater emphasis on high EI for hiring and promotion decisions in the current post-recession environment.

Why is high EI is more important than high IQ? Respondents to the survey listed a number of reasons, in order of importance:

  • Employees with high EI know how to resolve conflict effectively.
  • They are more likely to stay calm under pressure.
  • They are empathetic to their team members and react accordingly.
  • They know what touches and motivates others.

So how do these government employers identify high EI individuals? Apparently it’s mostly through simple observation. Here are some of the top characteristics that employers said help them single out high EI individuals:

  • They admit and learn from their mistakes.
  • They can keep emotions in check and have thoughtful discussions on tough issues.
  • They listen as much or more than they talk.
  • They show grace under pressure.
  • They take criticism well.

Of course, none of this means that there is anything wrong with being a brainiac. Being smart certainly is not a detriment in the workplace—as long as it does not come with a swelled head. A typical “know-it-all”—whether highly intelligent or operating under the illusion that he or she is—probably would have none of the characteristics in the second list above.

So—what do you think? How do the new hires around you measure up on the EI scale? Does it look to you as though hiring managers really are looking for these characteristics? Or is EI just HR hokum?

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Aug 23, 2011 at 12:13 PM


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