Hiring for ‘emotional intelligence’ is now a priority – Steve Slocombe, GRS

Steve Slocombe, founder of GRS Recruitment, the largest recruiter in Cyprus, talks about the latest trends in hiring, in an interview with the Cyprus Mail’s Careers Express.

Slocombe notes the growing importance of ‘emotional intelligence.’

“I’d like to say we must never underestimate the importance and value of education, and educational qualifications. However, we have seen a trend develop over the last few years, not just in Cyprus, but globally. Companies are requiring more from their employees than just academic qualifications. They are now taking into account emotional intelligence as well as academic intelligence — both are now equally  important.

Markets are becoming increasingly competitive.  And in many fields, customers demand a better quality of service and delivery. To deliver this, employees have able to communicate effectively, with what is known as emotional intelligence.

People react to how they’re treated. And you know, we’ve all had bad customer service: What happens is you take your business elsewhere, and you tell the story to everyone you know. It’s about engaging with your customer, with your client, and also with your colleagues. If an employee is not a great communicator, and cannot connect with colleagues and customers, despite having a wealth of qualifications, they will not go as far as somebody who has a high EQ, and not necessarily just a high IQ.”

This concern with communication has given the so-called ‘soft skills’ a new importance, Slocombe notes.

“Let’s be clear. If you’re a chartered accountant, you need to have high-level qualifications and the high grades that will make you stand out from the other applicants. But you will have to show that you can do more than that. It’s no longer just about being able to do a job. It’s about being able to upsell to your client and being able to manage that relationship with the client. Soft skills are increasingly important. Candidates often do not realise the importance of being able to communicate and engage with their potential employer and their colleagues, and then ultimately, the customers and clients of their employer.”

How can job seekers demonstrate their skills?

It’s important for candidates to focus on how they communicate, and how they present themselves at interviews. People need to take a step back, and they need to be prepared for the interview, knowing about the company, preparing for interview questions. But they also have to have what we call a USP,  a unique selling point or unique selling pitch ready for a potential employer. Employers are more likely to hire confident and coherent individuals who can express themselves in a positive and succinct manner. And again, this goes back to the emotional intelligence: People sit up and take notice of somebody when they can talk, and when they can converse well. To me that is the key. How does this person pitch him or herself, and can they communicate well?

But how can employers assess job seekers for these skills?

“We find, obviously, that interview processes are effective at doing that. We see how people come across and how they deliver. Companies are also engaging in psychometric testing, like Hogan assessments, which we are licensed to offer here in Cyprus. And we found that a lot of employers do like to dig a little bit deeper into their employees’ goals, motivations and ways of communicating. It’s very interesting when you see the results of some of these, understanding how much people enjoy engaging with others and those kinds of qualities which again, are very useful in the modern environment.”

As companies look for emotional intelligence and soft skills, they are both hiring new people and redeploying those already on board, Slocombe points out.

“As employers look for new skill sets, they are also reviewing their existing employees and considering where fit best within the organisation. To help with this, we offer a service called Clifton strengths, which focuses on what employees do best.

I’m sure we’ve all had a situation with an employee who is great at doing a couple of jobs, but when you give them another job to do, they just do a very bad job with it. So we identify what are the employee’s strengths. And we direct work to him on that basis.

The approach using Clifton strengths has been amazing both internally and with clients. When, at the management level, you’re looking to appoint staff, manage staff or manage clients, you really get down to what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are. In the Clifton strengths perspective, employees don’t have weaknesses, just non-strengths, which is an interesting way of looking at things. If I’ve got a new client, I’m going to get my employee with communication strengths right in front of them, because I know they’ll win them over.

The same applies to managing people. People often get appointed to become a manager, because they’ve been in the job for 20 years, but this does not consider their ability to manage people. And by doing things like Clifton strengths, you actually see, for example, that this person is not a people manager. They’re great working on their own, very independent, self-motivated, but you try and ask them to manage others and it doesn’t work. We are seeing a great uptake in tools like these being used by companies.

Slocombe notes that tech companies are also beginning to consider soft skills, although the priority is not as great as with other types of companies.

“At a tech company, it’s still a distinct advantage to have both technical and soft skills, but I find it’s the exception to the rule. If you have someone who is an amazing Java developer or something like that, the fact that maybe that they’re not so good in interaction or engagement is not such an issue. They are   going to be working in the back office producing code and the software. But I think, increasingly, to be able to get ahead in all industries, personal communication skills must be well-developed.