Job Search

What is Emotional Intelligence and Why is it an In-Demand Skill?

managing stress at work

When hiring managers evaluate your soft skills, you can be sure that emotional intelligence (EQ) is high on their list of priorities. In fact, according to LinkedIn research, EQ was among the top 5 in-demand soft skills among employers last year. And it’s likely to stay atop of the list in 2021. 

But what is this mysterious emotional intelligence and how do you show it to a potential employer? Let’s dig in together! 

What is Emotional Intelligence? 

Emotional intelligence stands for your ability to appropriately recognize and manage emotions. This could be exemplified by a person who can catch themselves as they become frustrated at a difficult customer, and opts to use empathy in the situation instead of anger. There are three basic skills associated with EQ: 

  • Identifying and naming your emotions.
  • Using your emotions in productive ways.
  • Managing your emotions in stressful situations, and assisting others in doing the same.

Take a look at some simple emotional intelligence examples:

  • During meetings, everyone listens actively and provides room to express diverse opinions without backlash or criticism.
  • The leadership is approachable and promotes open cooperation by example. 
  • Direct supervisors instill an appreciation of the importance of work activities and behaviors. 

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?

Have you ever worked with someone who lacked emotional intelligence? Even if you didn’t know the term, you probably recognized the behavior. They took reasonable criticism personally, held grudges, refused to communicate, and became angry at the smallest slight. Unfortunately, people who exhibit low EQ can negatively impact entire teams. It’s easy to see why employers are now on the lookout for signs of low emotional intelligence in the hiring process.

According to a Capgemini study

  • 74% of executives believe that EQ skills are a ‘must-have’ for employees on all levels. 
  • A total of 83% of organizations surveyed believe that they will need emotionally intelligent teams to succeed in the future.

What’s more — this soft skill will become 6X times even more important within the next 3 to 5 years. 

So it should come as no surprise that recruiters seek out workers with well-developed emotional intelligence. In particular, people who can: 

  • Remain productive under pressure.
  • Listen instead of assuming.
  • Relate to others with empathy.
  • Make decisions thoughtfully, and think things through completely.
  • Understand others and work with them cooperatively.
  • Accept and apply feedback.
  • Serve as a positive example to others.

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence

OK, I see, emotional intelligence is important. But what if I’m naturally a grumpier type? Am I in trouble? Well, overall emotional intelligence may come more naturally for some than others. That’s okay!

But you should be making some targeted effort too if you feel that your emotional quotient is not in the best shape. Here’s how you can do that. 

Start With Practicing Self-Awareness

EQ begins with cultivating a reflective personality. This is simply learning to stop and examine your feelings and those of others to formulate a productive response.

Start your morning by assessing how you feel. Ask yourself how those emotions might impact the way you relate to other people, or react to situations. Take some time at the end of the day to do a bit of an emotional post-mortem. How did your emotions impact your day (or others) in positive or negative ways? 

Take note and address problematic reactions. 

Get Feedback From Others

This is important, but potentially painful step. You have to understand how you come across to others before you can improve your emotional intelligence. So ask around. If you receive negative feedback, resist the temptation to defend or explain. Realize that this information truly reflects how you are coming off to others. Make notes of the behaviors that reflect poorly on you, and create strategies to change them. 

accepting feedback from others

Expand Your Emotional Vocabulary

People with low emotional intelligence tend to have limited emotional vocabulary. This means they have a limited set of words and definitions they can use to identify their emotions.  Because they can’t see or define their emotions in nuanced terms, they tend to think and react in extremes.

Rather than classifying emotions as ‘mad’, ‘sad’, ‘happy’, ‘angry’, find ways to describe them more accurately. Do you feel ‘mad’ that a coworker was dishonest about a situation or do you feel betrayed? This leaves you in a better position to describe your emotions accurately and to respond appropriately.

Learn to Recognize Your Triggers

Everyone has triggers or stressors that reduce their ability to formulate an emotionally appropriate response. Learn yours, and be honest with yourself about them. Don’t get caught up in feeling embarrassed by a trigger. Here are some of the most common:

  • Lack of sleep or food.
  • Microaggressions.
  • Being unfairly blamed.
  • Feeling misunderstood.
  • Insufficient training or resources.
  • Having your belief systems or ethics questioned.

Any one of these can cause you to tailspin and make you less able to have a measured reaction.

Learn The Power of Breathing

One of the most powerful skills you can develop is the ability to step back from high-intensity emotions. The best way to do that is by focusing on your breathing. This simple act gives you a moment to assess your emotional state and decide on your best response to the situation.

You can also commit to starting a journal to help you dig a bit deeper into your emotions. This is especially helpful for allowing you to release and explore negative thoughts that you are not able to express throughout the day.

To Conclude 

When you increase your emotional intelligence you improve your ability to handle difficult situations, relate to others, and be resilient when something negative happens. It only makes sense that hiring managers are making this a high priority concern. Use the advice here to assess your current level of emotional intelligence, then use the tips provided to improve.


  • Elena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

Leave a Response