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How to hire socially intelligent staff

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In order to grow, we often have to hire. But hiring a productive yet engaging person is not a small feat. The objective is to find an employee who will carry out some of the client-facing activities that we once did. In other words, you need someone to be as good as you are at certain things.

When hiring people, we often rely on intuition. Frankly, what else are we to go on? Anyone who has hired people knows that on paper, an individual may look like a home-run candidate. They seem smart, interview well, have a great resume, and seem motivated. Then after a couple months, you find they may not be the right person for the job.

There are many tests and assessments you could administer to see if you have someone who can fill the position, but can you really measure how they will be in a stressful situation with an important client?

You may have heard of the Wonderlic Test given in the NFL to evaluate players entering the draft. All draft prospects are given the test, which is an IQ-type test used to measure the players’ aptitude for learning and problem-solving. The possible score range is 1 to 50, with 50 being perfect. But does it really predict whether they will be a great football player?  Super Bowl champ Russell Wilson scored a 24, Terry Bradshaw a 16 (he’s won four Super Bowls), while Tony Romo scored a 37. Hmmm.

Do you know the main criterion for evaluating future employees? If you read or watched “Moneyball,” the Oakland A’s determined that a baseball player’s contribution to the team was measured simply by how he affects runs. It was determined that a player’s contribution can be best measured by on-base percentage (the percent of time that a player gets on base either through a hit or a walk). It’s not subjective in nature and goes against traditional indicators like home runs, stolen bases and fielding ability. It’s also not about measuring intangibles like flair, who they are dating (really, that was a criteria for confidence by one of the scouts in the movie), or athleticism. The criteria they looked at, first and foremost, was on-base percentage. And by the way, they were proven correct in the year they implemented this evaluation method.

In the financial services industry, the firm is ultimately measured by clients served and acquisition of new clients. So, if the goal is to attract and serve clients (with money under management), relationship skills are required. My assertion, after working with some incredibly successful financial advisors and their key staff members over the past 15 years, is that the key to success is the ability to build and maintain relationships. And if there is one criterion for acquiring and maintaining relationships, it is probably social intelligence (SI).  Yes, drive, persistence, motivation, intelligence and product knowledge are important, but they cannot stand alone effectively without SI.

Social intelligence does not mean being an extrovert (in fact, introverts many times have higher levels of SI). Social intelligence is the ability to connect and communicate. It is the ability to start and maintain relationships, pay attention to the perspective of the other person, listen and have the self-awareness to see how others are reacting.

If you are interested in hiring socially intelligent staff, here are two social intelligence assessments that may be helpful in evaluating great potential employees: Harvard-Developed Social Intelligence Test (simple, free and takes 15 minutes) and FIRO-B (designed to be an assessment for future coaching of employees).  The goal is to give ourselves and our new hires the best chance for success. Good luck and good hiring!


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