Emotional Intelligence and Psychometric Assessment

Emotional Intelligence (EI) theory has its roots in the Competence view of human endeavour (the ability to carry out specific tasks to a given level of ability and motivation) and the potential for human development.

We look briefly here at the theory in relation to the psychological assessment of candidates’ potential suitability to fill a job role.

Regarding the Emotional Intelligence view of the assessment of candidates’ potential suitability for a job role, the focus is placed on the task and the requirements or attributes of the individual to carry out the role competently, and on the individual’s potential for development.

This view contrasts subtly with the traditional assessment approach of considering individuals’ personality traits across a number of personality dimensions relating to the individual’s effectiveness, together with specific abilities or aptitudes and making a judgment as to whether the candidate will fit into the culture of the organization, the team, and the role in question.

An organization will want to consider three fundamental questions while considering the suitability of a candidate to fill a position:

  1. Can the individual do the job [ability and style of work approach]?
  2. Will the individual do the job [motivation and style of work approach]?
  3. Will the individual fit into the organization [cultural fit, values, and adjustment]?

There is little point in being precious about the choice of assessment methods and tools (psychometric tests, for example) to use when attempting to assess candidates’ suitability for a role, provided that they help answer the three questions above, are economic in application, and satisfy the following criteria:

  • The method or tool is valid, i.e. (a) it measures what it purports to measure, (b) it is able to predict adequately future behaviour.

  • The method or tool is reliable, i.e. it yields consistent results over time, all other factors remaining equal.

A simple analogy relating to the above concerns that of domestic bathroom weighing scales. These should measure human body weight within an agreeable range of accuracy for the purpose at hand, consistently within agreeable tolerances, from one occasion to another over time (provided the subject’s real body weight does not change of course).

There exists a test of EI, the EIQ, or Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire by Professor Victor Dulewicz and Dr Malcolm Higgs.

The EIQ focusses on assessing seven areas of personality/personal values:

  1. Self Awareness
  2. Emotional Resilience
  3. Motivation
  4. Interpersonal Sensitivity
  5. Influence
  6. Decisiveness
  7. Conscientiousness

Several of the areas above, and more are measured by other established personality measures of course.

While the EI theory is an interesting one (although it should be said that some psychologists are sceptical of the theory), we must bear in mind the simple criteria outlined above when deciding if the theory is of any use when assessing candidates’ potential suitability for a role.

According to its publisher, ASE, the EIQ has problems in terms of its validity and reliability. The problems are summarized by the publisher as:

  • It has been standardized on an elite population (MBA students at Henley, UK) - one would have to create or obtain norms which relate to the assessment population of interest. Therefore, issues concerning the generalisability of test results to other populations remain essentially in question for the time being.

  • It is transparent and has no faking scales. This means that candidates could quite easily determine the ‘right’ answers to give and not risk being detected in the process, thereby invalidating the test for use in a selection assessment situation.

  • Individuals lacking in self-awareness have difficulty in completing the measure, thereby possibly invalidating one of its scales (self-awareness) and its potential usefulness, even in a developmental assessment situation.

In mitigation, the above limitations may, in part be addressed by using the EIQ in conjunction with a researched and well-received personality measure of high validity and reliability. However, this not only defeats the object but also incurs additional overheads in terms of administration time and cost, with questionable potential gain.

Consequently, its publisher recommends that the EIQ not be used for making selection decisions. Failure to heed this advice may make the selection process open to challenge and potentially indefensible in a Court or Tribunal.

In conclusion, while any theory has its potential uses we have to be mindful of what we are attempting to achieve in a given context and how successfully we may achieve it. While Emotional Intelligence is an interesting theory, its application in terms of having at our disposal a useful selection tool is questionable currently.

Recommended Reading

Emotional Intelligence, Goldman, Daniel, 1995 - This book focuses on the technical aspects of the theory of emotional intelligence, particularly in relation to the biological bases of behaviour. A heavy read, especially for a non-technical audience.

Working with Emotional Intelligence, Goldman, Daniel, 1997 - Applies the theory of emotional intelligence with an occupational focus.

Making Sense of Emotional Intelligence, Dulewicz, Victor and Higgs, Malcolm - An applied and usable title, especially for a non-technical audience.

I hope you have found this brief overview on emotional intelligence and psychometric assessment informative, useful and beneficial. It may be linked to or referenced freely. Please cite the publisher, PGA Group Consulting Psychologists at www.pgagroup.com.

Should you have any questions, or would like further information without obligation, my team and I would be very happy to help. Details and an e-mail form to contact/locate us can be found here: www.pgagroup.com/contact-pga-group.html

Peter Gerstmann
PGA Group Consulting Psychologists - www.pgagroup.com

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