Emotional Intelligence (EI) measures are not yet reliable, and HR professionals should avoid using them for selection purposes, says an associate professor at Drake University in the US.
Cris Wildermuth and Centre for Applied Cognitive Studies (CentACS) Managing Director, Caryn Lee, said in a recent seminar that their research shows that "the state of the research on EI is simply not advanced enough for use in selection".
"I have not seen a consensus on the validity of the instruments... there's not even an agreement on... the definition of the construct," Wildermuth says.
"Using [EI] in selection, and at this point, could be somewhat dangerous."
According to Mayer, Salovey and Caruso, who Wildermuth considers the most respected EI researchers; EI is "the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions".
HR professionals should focus on ability rather than traits when assessing EI, Wildermuth says, as "traits are unlikely to be changed in adult years".
"Trying to transform somebody who is more challenging [into] a person who is more agreeable is probably an exercise in futility," she says.
Wildermuth and Lee consider the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) to be the most respected of the EI Assessments, but suggest HR professionals might be more familiar with the Goleman Model or the Bar-On model.
Academics have criticised each of them, Wildermuth says. Some believe the tests are too subjective and "more specifically, that the answers could depend on culture and beliefs".
Further, some think EI is a competency, and not a trait, and if that is the case, then "it's too easy to fake it".
There is an assumption that personality is neither good nor bad, for example, "it's not better to be an extrovert than an introvert", she says.
"But when you're talking about things such as being self-aware and managing and controlling your own emotions... you're saying that being high in that is better than being low and if that's the case, there would be a reason for people to fake the results of that test."
Some academics believe that competencies should not be measured through self-report tests at all, she notes.
"One argument for that is that we are terrible at assessing our own competencies [and] that our assessments... correlate weakly with assessments made by others."
Research has shown, for example, that 94 per cent of US college professors say their work is "above average", she says. Further, the bottom 25 per cent of college students also believes their performance is above average.
"So if we're measuring emotional intelligence specifically, is it reasonable for us to expect somebody who is low in emotional intelligence to be emotionally aware enough in order to be aware of his or her weakness?
"The person who is the lowest in emotional intelligence is unlikely to be accurate in the test and therefore the results are not going to be right."
Wildermuth says the bottom line is that more research is still needed, but while it is going on, she "would not recommend using EI for selection, at least not with the existing measures".