You've no doubt seen the avalanche of articles that make a direct correlation between career success and good people skills. That may seem a little incongruent with IT folks who often join the field because of their attraction to, and flair with, technical gadgets and computing systems rather than communication skills. The fact is, while high intelligence does play a big part in IT success, people skills (or what I call Emotional Intelligence) play a bigger part in moving up the corporate ladder.
Not everyone agrees with the meaning of Emotional Intelligence, nor the best way to measure it. But one of the most commonly used measures of EI is the The Emotional Intelligence Appraisal, which (according to Wikipedia) measures:
Personal competence, including,
- Self-Awareness: Recognizing and understanding your emotions in the moment, as well as your tendencies across time and situation.
- Self-Management: Using awareness of emotions to manage response to different situations and people.
And, Social competence, including:
- Social Awareness: Understanding the perspectives of other people including their motivations, their emotions, and the meaning of what they do and say.
- Relationship Management: Using awareness of one's own emotions and the emotions of others to manage relationships to a successful outcome.
I don't know if EI can be accurately measured, but I do know that as a former hiring manager, I would much rather have someone working for me with an average IQ who can successfully exercise some of the skills listed above than someone with an 8-gazillion point IQ alone. The former can keep projects running smoothly by getting stakeholders to work together; he can communicate ideas that add to departmental efficiency; and he can make technical tweaks because he understands user needs.
You'll find that often in interviews, a hiring manager will pose sample scenarios to you and then ask you to explain how you would handle them. This is his way of discerning how you react to a situation and how you "think on your feet." Or he may ask you to describe to him a particular time in your career that you were faced with a stressful situation and how you handled it. Questions like these are all designed to get a good idea of your emotional intelligence.
This article from dice.com explains why "behavioral" interview questions are becoming more and more commonplace. It's also a good resource for finding out how best to field those scenario questions to better highlight your emotional intelligence.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.