Dear Getting Emotional:
The first thing that is important to consider is the difference between a test and an interview. While tests and interviews are held to the same basic legal requirements, they are very different animals. A test is made up of questions that have been verified and statistically proved to predict a specific outcome (such as emotional intelligence). Tests used for employment should be developed in a manner that provides many different types of data, all demonstrating that questions on the test predict the construct of interest.
Interviews are a bit looser in nature. They rely on fewer questions that tend to be more open-ended. Interviews are often oriented toward the discussion of work-related behaviors and accomplishments that indicate whether an applicant displays certain key competencies.
The common link between these two types of hiring tools is the fact that, to be both legal and effective, they must directly measure key traits required for successful job performance. This means that anytime you are considering measuring a trait such as emotional intelligence, via either an interview or a test, you must first take steps to demonstrate that it is clearly job-related.
This can be accomplished in many ways, the most common being a job analysis study. EI describes the ability to be “self-aware” in work-related situations and to react to them in ways that demonstrate an awareness of how your actions affect others. It is an important trait for teamwork and leadership behaviors. There are many ways to measure it, and the method you choose to employ depends on other aspects of your hiring process and the job itself.
In your situation, you have the option to use either an interview or a test. If you use an interview, you should be certain that it is a standardized, structured, behavioral interview that uses work-related questions to determine how an applicant may have handled specific problems in the past.
The scoring for these questions should be broken down into options that indicate different levels of EI. If you use a test, the test should be one that has been documented to measure EI, as it relates to the impact it has on performance at the job in question. You should ask any company providing your EI test to provide documentation that proves it has been effective in the past in similar jobs.
You should use a test that has a good pedigree for measuring EI in jobs similar to yours. It is probably easier to do this than to attempt to make up interview questions that you believe measure EI or to make changes to your interview process. Furthermore, my experience with EI has found it to be most frequently measured using tests as opposed to interviews.
Just remember: Any vendor that cannot provide documentation to prove the statistical work in creating/validating tests is probably not your best bet.
SOURCE: Charles A. Handler, Rocket-Hire, New Orleans, June 6, 2007
LEARN MORE: Please see Making Emotional Intelligence Work for more on tying EI to job competencies. Also, a good description of EI is found here.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.