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Predictor of Job Performance

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Predictor of Job Performance

Lesson Content

As I mentioned in a previous module, EQ has been compared to IQ from the early days of Emotional Intelligence. A clear example is in the title of Daniel Goleman’s first book on EQ entitled “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ“. While the idea that EQ maybe more important than IQ is certainly appealing, they have not been successful at defending this claim. So let me just say right now that despite what you may have heard elsewhere, Emotional Intelligence is important to consider in selecting and developing talent, however, it is NOT a better predictor of job performance than IQ. We’ll get back to this EQ vs IQ comparison and the way it has been misquoted and spun into hype.

But first I need to explain an underlying assumption which is, “why are we assuming IQ matters the most?” I mean why aren’t people saying EQ is more important than work experience or years of education? The answer is simple; intelligence as measured by an IQ test, is highly regarded as an effective measure of predicting performance.

In a previous lesson, I explained that the power of a meta-analysis article and its ability to summarize years of research across many studies. Well, it was Frank Schmidt’s and John Hunter’s 1998 seminal meta-analysis article in the journal, Psychological Bulletin, that summarized over 85 years of peer-reviewed academic research on the efficacy of pre-employment decision tools and it’s that that we can credit for focusing on the importance of General Mental Ability as a predictor of job performance.

General Mental Ability is the technical term for what the rest of us think of as intelligence or IQ as the popular press likes to loosely refers to it. Schmidt and Hunter found that there is a short list of tools that were clearly much more highly correlated with job performance than some of the other more commonly used methods such as the number of years of work experience or education level.

In fact, they found that General Mental Ability tests and work sample tests were the top two best overall predictors of job performance across jobs, industries and cultures based on their strong correlation to job performance. Their meta-analysis study also showed that combining intelligence tests with one additional pre-employment decision tool (for example Conscientious personality tests) incrementally improved the prediction of overall job performance. Now Hunter and Schmidt did not include Emotional Intelligence tests in their study, likely because it was not considered a common selection tool at the time and much less research had been published on EI tests than the other more common selection tools.

Earlier I had stated that despite what you may have heard, Emotional Intelligence is NOT a better predictor of job performance than IQ. The first meta-analysis study to examine this was done by Van Rooy and Vish in 2004 which I mentioned previously. Specifically, their meta-analysis study examined 59 research articles and the data they had on the correlations of EI tests to performance, IQ test scores and personality test scores. What they found is that overall EI (across all three EI streams research) was correlated with job performance at a level similar to personality tests and less so than the correlation to the IQ tests with job performance. Overall EI has a similar correlation with IQ tests indicating that EI tests and IQ tests have some overlap.

However, this correlation to an IQ test drops to less than half when the ability-based performance EI tests (which was research stream number 1) were excluded from the data analysis. They also discovered that EI tests overall provide a modest gain beyond using an IQ test to predict job performance. The bottom line here is that IQ tests are better predictors of job performance, but Emotional Intelligence tests are also getting something unique from IQ tests. In fact, there is a benefit of combining IQ and EQ tests to improve predictions of job performance.

Craig Haas


Craig Haas

Dr. Craig Haas is a Management Consultant and Executive Coach at Advantage Performance Group with over 15 years of experience in helping companies select high quality talent and develop leaders.


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