Recruiting Top Talent: Look for Emotional Intelligence about Disability

By , November 16, 2011

I cringe when I hear job seekers with a disability ask that employers give them “a chance to prove themselves” when I believe that is the job seeker’s responsibility (not the employer’s.) I also wonder why employers have for so long ignored workplace disability in their diversity initiatives.

I’m still learning.

Similarly, each candidate with a disability you interview may have not yet addressed, on a personal level, many of the vulnerability issues that they perhaps face. And that’s okay. Even those that a person has considered may not be fully resolved in that individual’s mind.

We’re all in the process of “becoming” — especially in terms of emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence and Hiring
According to Steven J. Stein and Howard E. Book in “The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success” (Jossey-Bass, 2006), emotional intelligence is the ability of an individual to form optimal relationships with other people through the attributes of hope, empathy, trust, integrity, honesty, creativity, resiliency, consequence-thinking, and optimism, so he or she can build stronger social networks and manage difficult situations.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to “unlearn” helplessness and hopelessness when faced with adversity — attributes every one of us (nondisabled and disabled) has acquired and unlearned through personal struggle and discovery since birth.

The main skill in emotional intelligence is delaying gratification in pursuit of long-range goals. Learning how to live well with vulnerability can reinforce that skill in anyone, regardless of one’s intelligence quotient (which cannot be changed through study and practice).

Emotional intelligence has a surprising relationship to success in business. MetLife, for instance, has found sales associates who score high in emotional intelligence outsell those with low emotional intelligence by an average of 37 percent during their first two years of work.

Recruiting Top Talent
For recruiting and hiring best practices, one thing is clear: To accurately assess a job candidate’s emotional intelligence about personal vulnerability, you need a basic understanding of both worlds: the prevailing attitudes about disability in the “mainstream” workplace (see Survey of Employer Perspectives on the Employment of People with Disabilities) and the current snapshot of the disability rights movement (see A New Way of Thinking).

By doing so as part of your recruitment process, you can become a bridge builder between those two worlds, for both your organization and society at large. That’s no small task. But it’s not time-intensive. It’s a matter of gradually cultivating your discernment about disability over time.

And that will help your company prepare for an older, yet still involved, workforce of the 21st century, in which disability will be more prevalent.

Adapted from Perfectly Able: How to Attract and Hire Talented People with Disabilities by Lighthouse International. Compiled and edited by Jim Hasse. Copyright © 2010 Lighthouse International. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission. All rights reserved. amacombooks.org.

Author Bio
Jim Hasse, an Accredited Business Communicator and Global Career Development Facilitator, is the owner of Hasse Communication Counseling in Madison, WI, a company he founded that helps people with disabilities gain the confidence they need to develop meaningful careers for themselves and perform effectively in their jobs. See http://www.linkedin.com/in/jimhasse.

Author: Jim Hasse

Jim Hasse, ABC, GCDF, (www.jimhasse.com) has compiled and edited the recommendations of HR experts and the personal observations of both job seekers and hiring managers into Perfectly Able: How to Attract and Hire Talented People with Disabilities, at .perfectlyable.com, a comprehensive disability recruitment guidebook for hiring managers published by AMACOM (September 2010), the publishing arm of the American Management Association. Lighthouse International (lighthouse.org), New York City, is the author of the 272-page hard-cover book, which continues to evolve online on Hasse's forum, Timely Tips for Retaining Employee Talent (forum.perfectlyable.com).