There’s no magic wand to wave when it comes to acing a job interview – but taking a more holistic approach to presenting your skills is almost certain to work in your favour! Béatrice Kosowski, president of IBM France, shares her thoughts on how recruiters and candidates should address the often vague subject of emotional intelligence at work.
president of IBM France
From mastering the art of the job interview to negotiating office politics, emotional intelligence is one of the most versatile skills in your professional toolkit, regardless of your role or industry. In a series of articles, The Choice shines a light on the impact of key issues surrounding emotional intelligence, while encouraging you to develop your EQ through conversations with leading business voices.
In his seminal 1995 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, psychologist Daniel Goleman defined emotional intelligence as encompassing five key characteristics: self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, motivation, and a solid grasp of social skills.
It’s not much of a stretch to imagine how these qualities, the foundations for many of our interpersonal skills, have become essential to the workplace, where employees must solve conflicts, collaborate with others, and operate in uncertainty.
The US-based Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations emphasises the importance of team structure and leadership when it comes to improving emotional intelligence across an organisation – and the results can be impressive.
While certain people-facing roles, such as HR and recruitment, can hugely benefit from candidates with high EQ levels, as online learning platform FutureLearn remarks, high levels of EQ can have a positive impact on any role.
With emotional intelligence a highly sought-after skill, the ability to demonstrate and evaluate EQ effectively in the recruitment process is essential for both candidate and interviewer. Béatrice Kosowski, President of IBM France, is clear: “I believe there are many forms of intelligence – but as a leader, you need to understand your strengths and how to leverage them.”
So, what are her thoughts on the importance of emotional intelligence when it comes to the recruitment process?
I believe there are many forms of intelligence – but as a leader, you need to understand your strengths and how to leverage them.
Hello Béatrice! Many thanks for participating in the interview. First of all, can you explain how you approach the concept of emotional intelligence at IBM?
Béatrice: “Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive and understand others’ emotions. It’s critical when coming to leadership and success. At IBM, we strongly believe that emotional intelligence is an essential skill at all stages of a candidate’s career, whatever their role.
It’s always an advantage to be able to leverage emotional intelligence regardless of the environment.
At IBM, we place a huge amount of importance on certain interpersonal skills: creativity, empathy, the ability to discuss and find solutions, agility. . . .
One of our strongest values at IBM is inclusivity: by encouraging each individual to be the best version of themselves within a respectful environment, we’re showing that we value the emotional intelligence and the intelligence of each individual, for the benefit of our collective performance.”
What are the skills that you associate with emotional intelligence?
Béatrice: “Let’s look at something of an extreme example. Author Christophe Bourgeois Costantini explains the secret behind one of tennis legend Rafael Nadal’s greatest strengths – he’s tracking the sound of the ball first and foremost. ‘You have to hit with the right sound. That’s what gives the feeling of the shot. I must have a good ear,’ Nadal is quoted as saying.
Personally, I think this is a great illustration of emotional intelligence. By paying attention to what seem to be secondary factors outside his immediate environment, Nadal’s focus is on improving his strengths in addition to working on his weaknesses, and that’s how you make the greatest impact.
Another thing is that having a positive mindset is contagious to people around you and that’s how they will reveal the best versions of themselves. In the end, it’s all related to trust and positive development.“
By encouraging each individual to be the best version of themselves within a respectful environment, we’re showing that we value the emotional intelligence and the intelligence of each individual, for the benefit of our collective performance.
Let’s get a closer look from a recruiter’s point of view. What are some effective ways to evaluate these skills as part of the interview process?
Béatrice: “A CV isn’t often the best starting point – I’d always recommend a face-to-face discussion – but hobbies or experiences that show a willingness to take risks can often be good clues. At IBM, we ask candidates questions about every skill we value, technical, emotional or otherwise. ‘Can you give me an example where you have demonstrated your creativity or your empathy?’ ‘What is your style of leadership?’ We’re all different and have different capabilities, but soft skills are a permanent learning process, so gauging the candidate’s approach to this element of lifelong learning is important.”
What advice would you give candidates seeking to develop these skills and have their emotional intelligence standout in the application process?
Béatrice: “As future leaders, your first responsibility is your leadership, meaning the way you convince and motivate your team to engage with you towards a common goal. To me, there are four ways of working on your leadership and developing your emotional intelligence:
- Take time for yourself, on a regular basis, to reflect on how you react to stimuli around you;
- Analyse the people around you and observe how your reactions affect them;
- As Ginni Rometty, our former CEO, used to say: “Never let anyone define who you are”. What matters in your leadership is your authenticity, so use your personality as a force to create impact;
- Finally, it’s key to effectively manage your work/life balance – that’s a question I get a lot from young women in particular. My answer – you don’t have to choose. For 15 years, I lived with my daughters in Toulouse while my job was in Paris. It was intense but there’s always a way!
We’re all different and have different capabilities, but soft skills are a permanent learning process, so gauging the candidate’s approach to this element of lifelong learning is important.
To conclude, I believe it’s hugely important to have other sources of inspiration besides your work. You need to nourish your soul and personality with activities that you love and that make you feel positive.
Stepping back and reflecting to identify what skill we have demonstrated in a situation, on a project, in a discussion, internally, externally . . . is the best way to be able to have a meaningful conversation with any interviewer.
My last, but not least important, piece of advice, would be to strongly encourage every person to take some risks – it’s the only way to truly grow.”