CIO hiring process to focus on emotional intelligence in 2021

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Technical intelligence may no longer serve as the driving factor in the CIO hiring process, according to Gartner, which predicts that future candidates will be screened for emotional intelligence instead.

The research firm found that individual determination and sensitivity were ranked as two critical personal characteristics in 70% of hiring processes in 2021, along with growing demand for strong leadership and core emotional dexterity competencies.

The focus on emotional intelligence in 2021 is dictated by the strenuous, unprecedented circumstances of the previous year, namely the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Gartner senior research director Daniel Sanchez-Reina: “CEOs are looking for executives who are capable of weathering crises.

“They are still unsettled about the future and want determined CIOs who make and implement timely decisions while displaying emotional dexterity to be tactful and supportive,” he added.

The demand for determination competency among new hires has been on the rise in recent years, having increased by over a third (34%) between 2020 and 2019. During the same period, the demand for sensitivity has increased even more drastically, by a staggering 92%.


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According to Gartner’s TalentNeuron data, both competencies are in the top 10 of increasing demand in recruitment processes, which is expected to also extend to existing employees. The company found that the vast majority of IT and business leaders believe that soft skills are to be valued as the most important skills in the next 10 years.

Among the most admired emotional dexterity leadership competencies, transparency was ranked highest, followed by authentic communications and collaboration.

Gartner senior research director Rob O'Donohue said that awareness of the “positive impact these behaviours and practices bring is paramount as organisations consider their vaccine strategy and employees return to work”.

“They’ll be as important, if not more, than the technical skills a typical CIO embodies,” he said.

O'Donohue added that the CIOs surveyed by Gartner had one thing in common - spending “an average of 30 minutes daily in learning and development”.

According to O'Donohue, this shows that “it is not the quantity, but the quality of time spent on focusing on the right behaviours that is important”.

Sabina Weston

Having only graduated from City University in 2019, Sabina has already demonstrated her abilities as a keen writer and effective journalist. Currently a content writer for Drapers, Sabina spent a number of years writing for ITPro, specialising in networking and telecommunications, as well as charting the efforts of technology companies to improve their inclusion and diversity strategies, a topic close to her heart.

Sabina has also held a number of editorial roles at Harper's Bazaar, Cube Collective, and HighClouds.