Just like most businesses, the hiring landscape has greatly changed over the past year. Interviews are now conducted virtually, ending with remote hiring and online onboarding of new executives. Candidates who can show they are skilled in adapting to changing times, are tech savvy and can effectively manage teams remotely are a Human Resource manager’s dream.  

Hiring landscape

But are those traits really that different than what we’ve always looked for in executive prospects? A recent survey of over 200 U.S. hiring managers and recruiters by Zety reveals the top 10 most important qualities and traits they look for in a candidate:  

  1. Loyalty 52% 
  2. Integrity 49% 
  3. Sincerity 48% 
  4. Adaptability 41% 
  5. Kindness 41% 
  6. Patience 39% 
  7. Persistence 38% 
  8. Emotional intelligence 37% 
  9. Tolerance 26% 
  10. Open-mindedness 25% 

There’s no doubt the personal factors at the top of this list play a big part in choosing the right fit for an organization. When I’m working with a coaching client to prepare for interviews, we establish that the most important component is connection. There’s a likeability factor that happens within the first minute of meeting someone.  

Right candidate

But don’t worry, you have longer than that to make a good first impression. A study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology revealed that out of 166 interviewers60 percent said they had made their decision within the first 15 minutes of the interview. Of that group, nearly 26 percent made theirs in the first five minutes. Only 5 percent actually made their decision in the first minute. 

Whether it’s within one minute or fifteen, first impressions are powerful. And while the list above definitely shows the human side to the recruitment and hiring process, I think the quality that should always be top of the list, pandemic or not, is emotional intelligence.  

Emotional Intelligence is #1 

Someone who is emotionally intelligent is able to bring cross-functional collaboration to an organization, manage difficult individuals, read the room accurately and support the probability of success as they move up and become more valuable to the organization. Emotional intelligence is the first soft skill that I would want to see while I’m evaluating talent for a specific competence. They first have to be competent and talented at what they do, but the ability to manage their moods, their reactivity and their effectiveness in all kinds of interpersonal dynamics would be of the utmost importance.  

Evaluating EI 

Some may think it would be difficult to evaluate emotional intelligence on that initial interview especially in the first few minutes, but if you know what to look for, it’s really not. When I’m working with an interview coaching client, we work on not only the responses to standard interview questions but also their capacity to segue conversationally and tie thoughts together cohesively.  

I look at the individual’s capacity to connect as well as the meaning of the stories they share. For example, someone with a high emotional intelligence will be acutely aware of others, not just themselves. They will provide more depth in their responses to questions by supplying a variety of perspectives, not just their own.  

Emotional intelligence

Getting Top Talent 

Once you find that special someone that you want to work with, you’ll need to win them over. Gallup recently released a checklist for retaining top talent in 2021. All of the items on that list focus on the organizational culture and employee experience. One of the points is to consider how to infuse your company culture at every point in the employee life cycle. As an entrepreneur, I work hard every day to create a company culture that I’m proud of, but I’ve had some role models throughout my career.  

Walk the Walk 

Many years ago, I worked for a company that truly valued people over everything. They hired employees based on characteristics that were very important to the company culture and to how they wanted to shape their organization in the future. Of course, they wanted intelligent, bright, talented people but if you didn’t have the experience that they desired, it wasn’t that big of a concern because you could grow into it. We were very picky, and we didn’t take the cookie-cutter finance industry candidates with MBAs.  

Chicago Research and Trading (CRT) had a rigorous hiring process, and no one was employed until they went through at least ten interviews. We were very intentional about what our company stood for, what our brand was, and we onboarded individuals so that they clearly understood that and knew exactly what they were getting into. It was a highly coveted organization to be hired into, and the leaders expected high levels of performance.  

As a result of this shaping of company culture and fitting individuals to it, CRT became recognized not only as the largest options trading company with unrivalled trading technology at the time, but as a leader in developing and implementing company culture. CEO Joe Ritchie believed that management should be non-authoritarian, work was supposed to be fun and shunned employee competition. In 1988, Risk Magazine reported, “Applicants for employment are viewed more like candidates for adoption… others look for the best heads. CRT looks for the best hearts.” And it worked. It was very hard for other organizations to poach people away from CRT, even when they were presented with more money.  

Core values

People over Profits 

That people over profit mentality has stuck with me through the years, and I use it today when recruiting and hiring executive and career coaches. If you have the right people, the right culture and you are making the right business decisions, the profit will take care of itself. 

It’s no longer enough to simply prove you’ll be satisfactory at the job. Today, you need to show employers that you have a high level of emotional intelligence and are a good person as well.  

Need help cultivating that emotional intelligence? Our career coaching services can help you hone in on the skills you need to help you stand out.

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This article was originally published on Forbes.com as a Forbes Coaches Council post.