Finding the Right Candidate: Focusing on IQ, EQ, or LQ?

By Mick Lavin, Coach, Agile Coach, Mentor

Over the past few decades, in many industries, we have seen a shift from IQ (Raw Intelligence) based hiring and promotion of staff to an EQ (Emotional Quotient or Intelligence *) based hiring approach. That is, we have seen a shift from hiring purely on intelligence, to hiring more for a fit to an organizations’ culture and the people within these organizations. Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) is the measure of our ability to manage our emotional state and recognise that state in others. A developed emotional intelligence ability helps people manage difficult situations in both work and personal life settings. Indeed, it helps people better connect and relate to others in both an organizational and personal setting.

With the focus moving from IQ to EQ, many companies found they were hiring people more suited to the current company culture and values. This has led to better retention and job satisfaction for both employer and employee. However, the pace of change in work practices, technology, and response to crisis, has led many companies to review and rethink their hiring practices. Organizations need to attract candidates that are not just fit for purpose right now but fit for purpose in an uncertain future.


This has led to the recognition of a new quotient that may be an important factor in establishing a candidate’s potential. Our intelligence and ability to work with emotions are vitally important in our careers and personal life, however, what has also become important is our ability to learn and continue learning. The world of work (and our personal lives) has become more complex and changeable. The environment in which we live is now often referred to as a VUCA world. A Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous world where change is constant, and our organizations are continually challenged. As employees this changeable world challenges our ability to adapt and respond in our working environment. Without a willingness to learn, often on a daily basis, we may not have the tools and skills to adapt to this constant change. Our willingness to learn helps us adapt quickly, pivot in our roles, and face new challenges. Many people find this a stressful place to be, so it is important that we adopt a mindset for growth, where we think of growth as a natural state of being and not something that is imposed upon us. This willingness forms the basis of our Learning Quotient (LQ). This Learning Quotient is measured by our willingness and ability to look at learning as something we do on a regular basis. Forming the habit of learning on a regular and continuous basis can enable us to view our ever-changing environment as a positive challenge to embrace rather than a stressful imposition on our current situation. Learning to embrace this challenge can help us grow on a personal and professional level.

Staying relevant in this VUCA world: as we have seen from the recent pandemic, the world and our work environments can get crazy quickly. The next such disruption from another natural disaster, technological upheaval, economic disruption, or another unknown, has the potential to leave us, once again, staring into an uncertain future. Cultivating a learning habit, looking to the future towards the next big thing, or just hedging our bets on an alternative technology or career path, can help us to be the adaptable person that organizations (and ourselves) need to succeed in the future.

For some, this idea of continuous learning is seen as the responsibility of their organisation. They feel the organization should provide training and direct that learning. In some ways this is true, an organization should share its vision for the future, the technologies it will embrace, and future ways of working, however, an individual also has a responsibility to look to their own improvement and suitability to the future job market. It could be argued that a belief in, and reliance on, an organization to provide training and guidance for the future is a self-defeating belief. Embracing a growth mindset and taking personal responsibility for our own learning may help us survive and thrive during the next unexpected event to impact our personal life.

Our willingness to learn, learn new things, novel things, or things that we are passionate about gives us an edge in many areas of our lives including our careers. Increasingly organisations are recognising the benefits of hiring people who have a continuous learning habit or high Learning Quotient. This willingness and ability to dedicate time to learning are now an important factor in the hiring process.

At your next interview you may be asked what you have learned lately? Or what your current learning goal is? This may prove to be a deciding factor for your next career move.

* Daniel Goleman’s writing on Emotional Intelligence (What Makes a Leader, HBR, 2004) and his cooperation with Richard Boyatzis, brought EI to the attention of the business world. Many other researchers (Salovey & Mayer, Baron, et al.) had studied Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence, and other factors relating to emotional management ensuring a solid basis in research-based proof of the relevance of EI to a persons success.

About the author

Mick Lavin is a Coach, Agile Coach, Mentor, Author, Speaker and Business Agility Thought Leader, specialising in people development, Agile adoption in multicultural business environments and helping organisations adopt an agile, people centric mindset.

Over the past three decades he has worked both locally and internationally in the hi-tech industry, operating at various organisational levels, in multiple industries, and across three continents.

He currently works as an Agile Coach and also volunteers as the lead for the European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC) Quality Workgroup. In his spare time, Mick hosts Business Agility conversations with industry influencers. He is also a co-author and signatory to the EMCC Diversity & Inclusion policy statement and signatory to the Code of Ethics.

Mick is the author of the Coach Training Companion and also created the accompanying mobile app.