Character Traits Predict Success: B-Schools and Employers Rate Personalities!

Career DevelopmentPersonal BrandingSuccess Strategies

“Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. And watch your character for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become. “

-Margaret Thatcher

Measuring the EQ—or emotional intelligence quotient—is the latest attempt by business schools and industry to identify future stars. Although measuring EQ is not a new idea, employers and b-schools are increasingly using personality tests to measure certain character traits in order to weed out candidates.

In an effort to select top talent, business schools and companies are seeking new methods to get a sense for the human being beyond their academic record and employment experience. The spike in the trend to identify emotional attributes associated with top talent is seen in the growth in psychometric tests available on the market.

Vendors of personality tests/psychometric tests estimate to be worth between $2 billion and $4 billion a year, says Nik Kinley, a co-author of “Talent Intelligence” a forthcoming book. Character traits including empathy, motivation, resilience are being considered as predictors for success and schools and companies are using sophisticated assessment tools to see who shines in these areas in order to select top talent.

Melissa Korn writes in her recent WSJ article, Business Schools Know How You Think, but How Do You Feel? Says that business schools such as Notre Dames’s Mendoza College of Business, Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and Yale School of Management are fine tuning their assessment of EQ and are looking at  other variables in addition to traditional test scores to find out if a candidate is intellectually curious and how candidates cope with pressure.

This is good news for those of you who have been highly engaged in classroom and club activities.  Your recommendations that tell about your leadership abilities, creativity, teamwork skills may carry more weight especially when paired with a good scholastic record.  This doesn’t mean that you should slack off in terms of striving to excel in your academics; it means that you should be aware that if you don’t have evidence of these positive character traits you may not receive a recommendation and this could hurt your chances of getting admitted to business school or getting hired.

We may have been raised to believe that the best way to earn respect and attention is by excelling in a subject and receiving a high-grade and/or awards for your achievement.  What we are now seeing is that academic achievement alone is not a clear predictor of success and employers are noting that other attributes play an equally, if not more significant, role in quantifying talent.

To help you improve your emotional intelligence, Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, bestselling authors of the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 deliver a step-by-step program for increasing your emotional intelligence using the four EQ skills—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management—to achieve your goals and achieve your fullest potential. Their claim, and one that is being held by industry leaders, is that merely knowing what EQ is and knowing how to use it to improve your life are two different things.

Personal competence requires self-awareness and self-management whereas social competence requires social awareness and relationship management. People who are high in self-awareness are remarkably clear in their understanding of what they do well, what motivates and satisfies them, and which people and situations push their buttons. Having self-awareness means that you aren’t afraid of making emotional mistakes. The more we understand our strengths and our limitations, the better we are able to achieve our full potential.  The less afraid we are of making mistakes and the more willing we are to learn from them, the more desirable we become as a prospective candidate for both business school and for employment.

Here are some social awareness strategies:

  1. Greet people by name
  2. Watch body language
  3. Make timing everything
  4. Develop a back pocket question
  5. Don’t take notes at meetings
  6. Plan ahead for social gatherings
  7. Live in the moment
  8. Practice the art of listening
  9. Understand the rules of the Culture Game
  10.  Step into their shoes

While companies do their best to weed out those with poor EQ and hire candidates with emotional intelligence to thrive at work these tests are still inadequate and inconsistent predictors of future talent.  The unfortunate truth is that many of the EQ tests are still lacking in scientific validity as respondents can predict what answer is being sought out.  All too often the best test takers get hired and the company gains no real insight as to the EQ and talent potential of the new hire. The Economist recent article, Emotional breakdown: Can leaders be identified by psychometrics challenges the view that talent can be spotted by a psychometric test. These tests are said to be as likely to mislead as to inform.

All this being said, it still pays to recognize that employers are seeking workers who have personalities and character traits that will align with successful candidates. You stand to benefit from learning to react well to new scenarios, becoming more participative, task-focused and social; your character traits matter and developing them will bode well for you in the workforce.  Getting recommendations from both peers and from your superiors that highlight your high EQ will be useful in promoting your personal brand and your candidacy.

One thing personality tests consistently show is that good leaders exhibit a willingness to let new evidence change their view.  This is a valuable takeaway from personality tests; If you want to improve your emotional intelligence and be viewed as a potential future leader, consider this new information and start focusing on building your positive character traits!