Improve Your Emotional Intelligence, Improve Your Job Search

Demo Day group

The thing about searching for a job is that it’s a ton of work, right?  Now, add all of the interpersonal work – small talk at the front desk before an interview, phone screens, in-person interviews, a networking event, checking in with your accountability partner, another interview, another networking event…there are a lot of interactions and opportunities to make a huge impact (or worse – a mistaken flop!).

Enter: emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is, effectively, how one manages their own emotions and how they navigate complex social interactions. Ever think of a job hunt as highly emotional and/or navigating particularly complex interactions with other human beings? Yeah. Keying into our emotional intelligence can make a huge impact. Also:

  1. 90% of top performers display high emotional intelligence
  2. Emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, “explaining a full 58% of success in all job types.”
  3. Emotional intelligence can be improved over time (#growthMindset)

Man showing laptop screen to womanSo how can you improve your emotional intelligence to increase your success in your job search?

Well, having a high emotional intelligence means you are ready to handle complex interpersonal situations (like networking and interviews), and even be viewed more favorably in those situations. And since we know that people want to work with capable, likable people – having a high EQ is a great way to prove that “likable” part.

Let’s get started:

Take this test to see where you could use some work, then come back (we’ll still be here!).

Welcome back!

So now that you’ve found out you own strengths and weaknesses, check out below for why each skill is so important to your job search, and how you can improve in that area.


Self-awareness is critical to a successful job search! Being able to successfully and accurately evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses is the first step to knowing if a job or company is the right fit for you. Being able to accurately evaluate your own weaknesses is particularly important in the hunt for a new gig – if you know of a weakness, you can work to address it, resolve it, or own it and explain it.

A few ways to improve your self-awareness:

  • Self-evaluate: Good news – you’re already on your way with this one by doing the assessment above! But now, dig deeper with questions more specific to interviewing and networking, and be brutally honest.
  • Ask for feedback! Find a human you trust, and ask him or her to be brutally honest with you about habits and behaviors that may be impacting your job search. Don’t forget to take notes and say thanks!
  • Look for a trend! What feedback do you receive a lot? There’s a decent indication that something you’ve heard more than a few times is worth addressing in some way.
  • Make a list of your strengths and your weaknesses. Be specific and explicit. Know where you stand!
  • Meditate or otherwise self-reflect: Give yourself specific, dedicated time for self-reflection.


Effective self-management can improve your career search success by letting you put your best self forward, even in challenging environments or overwhelming interpersonal moments. Being able to remain positive, rational and in control, even in unpredictable circumstances, is a key factor of success for interviews.

A few job-specific ways to improve your self-management:

  • Identify your stressors, and plan for them: Put on your self-awareness hat for a minute, and figure out what stressors (or triggers) could send you into a highly-emotional state – one where you aren’t putting your most professional, rational self forward. Imagine what (if anything) could introduce those stressors to your job-search process, and make a plan for it. Let’s say you get highly-emotional talking about your family of origin – sure, it’s unlikely to be the topic of a technical interview, but could it come up in small talk on the way to the interview room? Envision this happening, and plan for how you’ll remain in control (through appropriately changing topics, redirecting the question to the speaker, or rehearsing, for example).
  • Put a positive spin on it: People want to work with capable, likeable folks. Remaining positive, even (especially!) when it’s hard, is a sign of great self-management. Practice putting a positive spin on your biggest weakness, a time you had a conflict, or spinning other situations that cause you to blame or deflect. Realign your storytelling to keep yourself as a positive central player.
  • Practice where & when you can: Practice makes perfect, so find opportunities to practice where you can. Find someone to mock-interview with, and start with the tough questions. Practice your positive pitches in smaller, more controlled & friendly environments before unleashing them at a meetup.

Social awareness:

An incredible skill for finding a job is “reading” your counterparts – and social awareness is where that begins. Knowing how another person is feeling in any given professional situation will allow you to react and respond more effectively to the individual(s) in any given scenario.

A few ways to improve your social awareness are:

  • Look for clues: A person’s facial expression, body language and other nonverbal cues can tell you a lot about his or her own emotional state. Look for indications and mentally name the emotion(s) of your counterpart.
  • Improve your active listening skills: Listening more intently will lead to a deeper, more thorough understanding of your counterpart. Start here to take steps to become a more active listener.
  • Develop your empathy: Start by recognizing that your interview or networking moment, while critical to your success, may only be a small part of a busy day for your counterpart. Envision the demands upon your counterpart and curate your asks of him/her accordingly.

Relationship Management:

Relationship management takes your social awareness to a whole new level by allowing you to react based upon the information observed through social awareness. A person with keen relationship management skills is able to adapt his or her responses and actions fluidly based on the perceived direction of conversation, while keeping communication both positive and professional.

To develop professional relationship management skills, try:

  • Making frequent mental checks of your partner’s participation in the interaction: These brutal networking tips cut straight to the point with specific questions to ask yourself during networking moments.
  • Send a personalized follow up: By adding something you learned from your interaction into your follow up, you’re acknowledging and honoring the time that person took to interact with you. It can go a long way.
  • Adaptability: Don’t become so focused on your goal (finding employment) that you lose sight of your opportunity to learn from those that you’re interacting with. If you head into interactions with the rigidity of a “must say [this]” mentality, your laser focus will come off as robotic and rehearsed. Remain adaptable to remain relatable.
  • Put a spin on it: Search through your professional experience folder for examples of teamwork, conflict resolution, and leadership and revise your responses to ensure that you are not deflecting or blaming.
  • Build a bond: Set a goal at networking events to learn at least one thing about the other person before sharing personal details about yourself. Lead with curiosity.

It’s important to remember that great emotional intelligence skills (just like great coding skills!) are not made overnight. And just like improving your coding skills, you’ll need to set SMART goals around this to ensure progress over time.

What area of emotional intelligence do you find to be the hardest to improve?