Management Articles


It Begins with the Selection Process: Prevention is the Best Cure

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine.

How many times have you heard this when talking with an experienced coach or consultant.

You say:
  1. My department is not making quotas. I’ve provided training. I motivate. What am I doing wrong?

  2. My marketing department head does good work, but alienates her employees. What am I doing wrong?

  3. How come Adam’s department is running so smoothly, and Maribeth’s isn’t? What am I doing wrong?

  4. How come I can’t motivate this employee? What am I doing wrong?
They say: [As you watch the wheels turning as they think over all they know and all they’ve seen, and keep going back to the root cause] It starts with the selection process.

As the president’s advisor had signs placed around saying, “It’s still the economy, stupid,” we should all have signs placed around our office saying, “It starts with the selection process, stupid.”

I’m not fond of the use of the word ‘stupid,’ however it makes a point here. Our folklore is full of the wisdom of the ages:
  • You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

  • You can’t spin gold out of straw.

  • You can’t put a round peg in a square whole.

  • All the hunting in the world won’t produce game if there aren’t any there in the first place.

  • You can’t teach a pig to sing. You will frustrate yourself and greatly annoy the pig.
If you’ve chosen the wrong person in the first place, there isn’t much you can do. No, Chester, not even you.

Therefore, you will save yourself great frustration time and money if you choose the right person for the job in the first place.

Let’s go back to this selection process and look at some of the things you can do to insure a better “fit” in the first place.

The Job Description

Yes, you need a job description. I’ve never seen a good one, but you need one. This will cover the rudiments – the basic requirements, and this is the easy part.

You will know what credentials, training, skills and academic degrees the candidate needs. Then do the check list and you’re ready for the hard part.

The Personality

Next, I suggest you take a look at the sort of personality you need to have in the position. The personality of the person you’re looking for will be determined by the requirements of the position itself, and then by the people this person will be working under, and with.

Take the time to think this through and write it out. For instance, I was talking with someone the other day whose company consists of three “chiefs” and they are about to hire their first “Indian” (support person). He was intent on certain traits for the job, but was going in the wrong direction. People often overlook that the most important trait in a support person is “willingness to help.” Get someone with a helpful disposition.

In this case, it takes a special personality to answer to three bosses. It’s stressful. The person must be both centered and patient. They have to have a strong enough personality to insist the bosses establish priorities among themselves, and the patience to work this through (because they won’t), and to be able to switch tasks on a moment’s notice. They need flexibility and resilience.

How do you assess for this? One way is in the interview. You can look for an easy disposition by their behaviors with you. Irritability and complacence show in facial gestures, in tone of voice, in speed of speech and movements. Work with a coach to learn more about reading nonverbal communication.

You can also assess from the StrengthsFinder® profile (see below). Someone with Command for a strength doesn’t like to be given orders and is not a good choice for a support position, unless you like to ride a bucking bronco.

Another trait to look for is introversion and extraversion. Extraverts derive energy from other people, while people drain the introvert. Consider the demands of the job, and hire accordingly. Keep in mind, though, that it has a lot to do with being in control of the flow of the people. Introverts, surprisingly, can make some of the best salespeople.

Keep in mind that people take jobs for the money, not because they’d be good at it, or enjoy it, or be able to tolerate its stress, i.e., they apply for jobs they are unsuited for.

Fitting the personality to the job is challenging. We recommend working with a coach experienced in EQ for help with this. Assessments always need good interpretation.

The Talents

The StrengthsFinder® profile, from the Gallup organization, is not well-known yet, but a dynamite profile in the hands of an expert interpreter. It will tell you the person’s top 5 innate talents (which, combined with expertise, education and training equal a “strength”), in new terms such as Focus, Deliberativeness, Relator, WOO (winning others over), Maximizer, Futuristic, Harmony, and Positivity.

How does this work? I worked with a venture capitalist who wanted to hire someone who would do the due diligence so important in this field. Deliberativeness is exactly the quality he needs in this person. People with this strength do “due diligence” on everything, as naturally as you draw a breath. They are innately cautious, look for loopholes, examine things carefully, and anticipate problems. Combine this with a strength such as Focus, or Intellection, and you have your due diligence person.

Another example, according to studies, the single best predictor of a good salesperson is an optimistic attitude, and this is encompassed in the strength called Positivity.

The assessment will give the person’s top 5 strengths. How they combine is also crucial. If you have Positivity, WOO and Activator, you may have a used car salesman, good for the initial sale but then they move on to other things. If you have Positivity, WOO, and Empathy or Communicator, you may have someone who can build long-term relationships in sales.

Emotional Intelligence

One of the most important things to know about is the person’s emotional intelligence. This is apart from cognitive ability, degrees and skills. It means how they handle themselves and other people in social and emotional areas. The best qualified person on paper may be a total failure in real life because they can’t get along, are abrasive, scattered, emotionally out-of-control, or lacking in empathy, creativity, flexibility, or intuition. Yes, intuition is an EQ competency, because the data will run out. No matter how many facts we gather, and how much we analyze it, there comes a point where we have to go with a gut feeling, and to go with one, you have to have one and be in touch with it.

Emotional intelligence assessments give you valuable information about a candidate. People with low EQ burn out quickly. Also certain of the competencies relate to certain kinds of jobs, which a coach can help you understand better.

For instance, the US Air Force found that their most successful recruiters scored high in the EQ competencies of Assertiveness, Empathy, Happiness and Emotional Self Awareness. Using this information to select recruiters in the future, they increased their success rate by 300% and saved $3 million annually. [“Military Recruiting: The Department of Defense Could Improve Its Recruiter Selection and Incentive Systems,” report to Congress, 1998, Business Case for Emotional Intelligence, Cary Cherniss, Ph.D.]

An Emotional Intelligence assessment gives an overall score, and then scores on the separate competencies. You can select for exactly what you’re looking for, and also know what this person needs to develop in the future for maximal performance. To develop EQ, take a course such as The EQ Foundation Course© and work with a coach individually.

A person with low EQ is far less likely to reach the potential you’ll see in their training, experience and education or IQ. EQ may account for up to 80% of the factors which make a person successful. It matters more the higher up the person goes. More demanding jobs are more demanding because of the people skills involved, the “soft” skills. Leadership, visioning, strategizing, stress management, conflict resolution, and resilience become more important, not less important.

Work emotional intelligence into the hiring process, and pay attention to innate talents and personality as well the more obvious. It will pay great dividends in the end.

© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2004

Other Articles by Susan Dunn

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