Emotional intelligence: what it takes to work with others

Graduate recruiters look for employees with emotional intelligence because it helps them work with colleagues who have different ways of behaving and interacting.
Rather than asking you for evidence, assessors will observe your reactions and attitudes to different situations and how adept you are at dealing with them.

Emotional intelligence and empathy are essential for customer-facing roles and employers are increasingly seeking candidates with emotional intelligence. This is particularly true for roles that will involve working in a team, which covers the majority of graduate jobs.

Emotional intelligence is all about understanding what might be going through someone else’s head, without them having to explain it to you. This skill enables you to second-guess other people’s reactions, and will help you build constructive relationships. It is very much linked up with communication skills. However, it is also important for leadership and teamwork.

Emotional intelligence examples

This trait is most likely to be tested at the interview and assessment centre stages of the application process. Rather than asking you for evidence, assessors will observe your reactions and attitudes to different situations and how adept you are at dealing with them. Empathy and emotional intelligence is all about being sensitive and making sure people are happy.

Exercises where they are observed:

  • In-tray and leadership exercises
  • Situational judgement psychometric tests
  • Group exercises.

How do I phrase it on a job application?

Do say: ‘I was forced to make a decision between two team members for a particular role. They were both quite keen and while I chose the most suitable candidate, I made sure they both felt valued.’ – This suggests that the applicant has an understanding of how emotional intelligence might be applied in a business situation. They have stuck to their priority of assigning the right person, but they have also ensured that the team is happy and will function well.

Don’t say: ‘I once reduced someone on my team to tears, but pushing everyone hard got results.’ – Employers will be looking for constructive examples of you using this competency. The applicant has undermined their relationship with the third party – not something an employer would be impressed by.

How to develop emotional intelligence

The best way to gain emotional intelligence is to take on a role that involves plenty of regular human interaction. A lot of volunteering roles are relevant here, particularly those where you are working with the disabled or vulnerable on a regular basis. You could look into getting involved in volunteering through the #iwill campaign, which promotes social action among young people aged between 10 and 20.

You might also be able to build up these skills as part of a part-time job. This is most likely to happen when the job involves working with other people, whether they are staff members or customers. It may be that you swapped shifts with someone so that they could attend an important event, even though you would have preferred not to. Complaints handling is particularly relevant for this skill.

These skills can also be built up when you are involved in student societies, particularly sports clubs or drama groups. In each case emotions can run high and a bit of sensitivity in the right place can make the difference between the society working well or failing.

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