Use Emotional Intelligence in Your Recruiting

Emotional intelligence became popular in 1995 by Daniel Goleman, but has always been the core of psychology and sociology in helping understand human behavior. We as recruiters, are set on trying to understand our candidates’ motivations and behaviors on a daily basis, so it makes sense to incorporate EQ into our practice.

I’m going to break down Goleman’s four pillars of emotional intelligence and translate them into practical application for your recruitment strategy.


Before you understand others, you must understand yourself and what you’re bringing to the table. Recognize your strengths and admit your limitations. This affects your assertiveness and confidence in your delivery and helps you manage others’ expectations; what you’re able to do and not do. For example, I want this person to get an interview, but I need to remember I’m not the decision maker, so I need to accept the outcome.

Self-inventory of these is the first step in self-awareness. Be aware of how you communicate to candidates. Do you sound engaged, or do you try to dominate conversations? Once you know yourself, you can better understand how others will come to know you.

Self Management

Self-management can relate to your stress tolerance in life and at work. This directly ties into your reputation as a recruiter. Are you able to put your own life stressors aside and convey a positive perception to the candidate? Are you able to not let emotions influence the tone of your voice? One of the key components of self-management is transparency, which requires honesty and integrity, and is something the recruiting industry isn’t exactly known for.

Self-management also includes your ability to maintain flexibility in adapting to changing situations and overcoming obstacles, like when a hiring manager changes the requirements or changes their mind about a finalist or when a candidate needs to reschedule. Managing your emotions and therefore, your response to these types of situations, allows you to better partner with those you are working with.

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Social Awareness

This is your ability to read those around you, in one-on-one settings or groups. Empathy is the largest part of this category and the most important part of making you a great recruiter. I like to relate my personal experience of job hunting in thinking about the candidate experience. Job seekers, no matter how many opportunities they have, are in a vulnerable place. Empathizing with their situation and showing support to them can differentiate you from other recruiters, and simultaneously, differentiate your company from competitors.

Also, having organizational awareness, and understanding the culture in which you are recruiting into, is a tremendous advantage. With that insight you can screen candidates properly to determine if they are a cultural fit in addition to a professional fit. 

Relationship Management

This is where your emotional passion for recruiting plays out. Relationship management is Recruiting 101. Goleman says this is the area where you can “strengthen and support the abilities of others through feedback and guidance.” Sound familiar? This is where you build your bonds with your managers, candidates, and coworkers. This is where you can influence, whether you are selling a candidate to manager or selling the opportunity to the candidate.

Conflict resolution plays a big part here, which comes up in recruiting situations. How do you handle conflict? How well you are able to put your opinions aside and stay solutions-oriented is an indicator of your EQ. This is also where we listen. Being open to new ideas and being a change catalyst, suggesting process improvement or suggesting new ways to source. This is where you use positive interactions to create network opportunities and stay in touch with candidates to recruit them for future opportunities.

Therapist-turned-recruiter Lauren Gagnon is going on her fourth year in recruiting, specializing in the software industry. She has found that incorporating psychology into her work made perfect sense and has helped her in all areas of talent acquisition. When she's not recruiting software developers, she might be recruiting players for her soccer team or taking her dirt bike for a joyride.