Empathy, Compassion, and EI Wanted

Soft skills and emotional intelligence are required to succeed in many of today’s most in-demand positions, yet the focus when recruiting for these jobs is often elsewhere.

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The health care field offers a prime example of jobs that require such skills. Research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finds that eight of the 10 most in-demand jobs are in health care, and all involve working with patients.
However, health care isn’t the only field with jobs where so-called soft skills like empathy and compassion are essential. Positions in the education field, particularly special education, require these skills. The same is true of certain government and nonprofit positions that focus on helping victims of violence and sexual assault. Similarly, jobs that assist people with extreme financial challenges require soft skills.
And what about the field so aptly named “human resources”? A case could be made that strong “human” skills should be a prerequisite.
In reality, nearly every job requires soft skills, and when the job involves leading a team, skills like empathy and compassion, along with emotional intelligence (EI), are advantageous.

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Be that as it may, identifying these skills prior to hiring can be a challenge. But there are tools to help.
Pre-employment assessments aim to measure various soft skills and emotional intelligent. For example, The Hire Talent, a provider of talent assessments, tests for seven emotional competencies:

  • Focus
  • Concentration
  • Motivation
  • Communication
  • Self Confidence
  • Ability to Apply
  • Emotional Competence

Criteria Corp., another provider of pre-employment testing, offers a range of aptitude, personality, and skills tests that assess a number of traits and abilities, including but not limited to:

  • Communication Skills
  • Honesty
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Leadership
  • Motivation
  • Work Ethic

Pre-employment assessments, which also measure things like social skills and stress tolerance, are sometimes tailored for specific jobs in order to better align skills with position requirements.
Although these tools may be helpful, they should be used in connection with other aspects of screening. Behavioral interview questions, when used correctly, provide a great deal of insight into soft skills and EI.
Likewise, reference checking may prove revealing. But here again, it’s essential to ask the right questions.
Employers that lament the lack of available soft skills and EI may not be conducting proper screening. Job candidates who have succeeded in past roles that require these skills may have what it takes, but to make this assumption based on work history could turn out to be a mistake.
A hiring process must evaluate empathy, compassion, and EI—and give soft skills and hard skills equal weight—in order to identify candidates who have everything it takes to succeed.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.

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