With smaller staffs, higher stress levels and uncertainties around the economy, employers are changing what they look for in prospective employees. Thirty-four percent of hiring managers said they are placing greater emphasis on emotional intelligence (EI) when hiring and promoting employees post-recession, according to a new CareerBuilder survey. Seventy-one percent said they value emotional intelligence in an employee more than IQ.

Emotional intelligence is a general assessment of a person’s abilities to control emotions, to sense, understand and react to others’ emotions, and manage relationships. The survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive© on behalf of CareerBuilder. The CareerBuilder national survey from May 19 to June 8, 2011, which polled more than 2600 hiring managers and human resource professionals, revealed that EI is a critical characteristic for landing a job and advancing one’s career.

When asked why emotional intelligence is more important than high IQ, employers said (in order of importance):

  • Employees [with high EI] are more likely to stay calm under pressure
  • Employees know how to resolve conflict effectively
  • Employees are empathetic to their team members and react accordingly
  • Employees lead by example
  • Employees tend to make more thoughtful business decisions

HR managers and hiring managers assess their candidates’ and employees’ EI by observing a variety of behaviors and qualities. The top responses from the survey were:

  • They admit and learn from their mistakes
  • They can keep emotions in check and have thoughtful discussions on tough issues
  • They listen as much or more than they talk
  • They take criticism well
  • They show grace under pressure