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4 ways Google looks for emotional intelligence in job candidates

EI is a sought-after quality. Here are some ways people at Google look for it during the application process.

4 ways Google looks for emotional intelligence in job candidates
[Photo: Andrei Stanescu/iStock]

Job candidates going through the hiring process at Google may be familiar with “Googleyness,” a set of qualities typically found in people who are successful at the company and have added the most to its culture. The meaning of the eponymous adjective has changed over time and, today, includes six qualities:

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  • Thrives in ambiguity
  • Values feedback
  • Challenges the status quo
  • Puts the user first
  • Does the right thing
  • Cares about the team

One of the critical candidate attributes woven through those six qualities is emotional intelligence, says Lindsey Stewart, an Americas recruiting manager for campus and entry-level recruiting at Google. “Emotional intelligence for us is closely correlated to Googleyness and how we evaluate Googleyness,” she says.


Related: Google’s director of talent explains how to write a killer résumé 


And while there is no explicit checklist Google recruiters use for EI, there are some common ways to spot the attribute throughout the process, Stewart says. Here are some ways she spots this highly sought-after quality in job candidates:

Résumé clues

Google reviewed 3 million résumés last year, Stewart says. And the search for emotional intelligence starts there. Was the candidate ever in a team environment, either at work or in a sport? And how do they recount that experience in writing? “When they’re reflecting their accomplishments, is it just ‘I’ narrative or are they using ‘we’?” she says. Giving credit for team efforts, even in subtle ways, may show that the individual is collaborative, which is a sign of emotional intelligence, she says. “You can pick up those small signals just on the résumé alone.”

Storytelling

During her interviews, Stewart likes to ask open-ended questions. The way candidates “fill in the blanks” is one of the primary ways she looks for emotional intelligence in candidates. During MBA fairs and campus hiring events, she’ll ask questions like “What’s a really big problem that you’ve solved before?” or “What have you done to better your workplace?” The way the candidate tells a story is often revealing, she says.

“Having a hypothetical or behavioral question, you can find indicators there if they’re giving as a credit to others, are comfortable with change, are receptive to feedback. That organically comes up when you’re addressing potentially some or other attributes like leadership or general cognitive ability,” she says. Have they shown signs of putting others first or being exceptional communicators? Those are good indicators, too.

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Examples of inclusion

Stewart says that Google’s “number one driver” is creating an inclusive environment, and emotionally intelligent employees are essential in that effort. “Technical skills are without a doubt important and get you through the door, but to excel when you’re here you’re going to have to have the full package, which is obviously challenging,” she says.

Recruiters want to see the ways that you’ll add to the culture, especially through the ability to work well with other people. How have you helped foster inclusive environments in the past? How have you bridged differences or worked well with other team members or across disciplines? Emotionally intelligent people are typically good at doing these things.

Authenticity

One thing that won’t work is reading up on emotional intelligence and then trying to overemphasize it during the interview process. Recruiters are listening for how the story exhibits emotional intelligence inherently, Stewart says. “You’ll speak to multiple people. So, being your true, authentic self is important,” she says.

Instead, recruiters look for clues about emotional intelligence in how you acted in the story or anecdote. What did you do that might have shown a strength Google needs? How did you show an ability to communicate, collaborate, or exhibit other signs of emotional intelligence in the situation? The team tries to create an environment of psychological safety for candidates by removing surprises and trying to brief them on what’s coming next so they can get past nerves and be themselves, Stewart says.

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About the author

Gwen Moran writes about business, money and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites. She was named a Small Business Influencer Awards Top 100 Champion in 2015, 2014, and 2012 and is the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010), and several other books

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