Now that I am a recruiter, I can make judgments on candidates for law firms that might be more persuasive than my judgments were when I practiced law.

One summer I was given the task of getting to know our Dallas summer associates and recommending which ones to hire. Although I was busy, I took my task seriously and I took each one to lunch, hosted a summer associate in-home dinner, and I looked over some of their work. When it came time to offer associate jobs, firm leaders ignored my recommendations and offered jobs almost exclusively based on class-rank and the prestige of their law school.

While those criteria were important, I didn’t believe they gave us as good an indicator of the students’ future success. How was I looking at it differently and why?

Psychologists have found that in the workplace, emotional intelligence is an 85 percent predictor of employee success, as opposed to only 15 percent for IQ.

The concept of Emotional Intelligence, made popular by Daniel Goleman, who wrote a bestselling book by the same name, was conceived in the mid-1990’s as the ability to perceive, access, generate, and reflectively regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is essentially the measure of someone’s skills, which Goleman says can be more critical to success than IQ.

A person’s level of emotional intelligence is not dependent on his or her innate personality. In other words, a person who is introverted could have a high emotional intelligence.

Mitch Anthony, author of Selling With Emotional Intelligence tells the story of a best-in-nation mutual fund salesman who almost didn’t get hired because he failed a personality assessment. The company wanted results-driven, high-energy go-getters.

“But, he was soft-spoken, more of an analyzer and togetherness personality,” Anthony says. The man convinced managers he could be successful, telling them, “I may not have that rah-rah personality, but I build relationships and am good at servicing clients.” Within three or four years, he was the number one producer in the country.

So, if personality alone is not an indicator of selling success, what characteristics of emotional intelligence do rainmakers share? Anthony says there are five traits that are common to the top salespeople in any profession.

1. Optimism
Optimistic people are generally more pleasant to be around than their gloomy counterparts, so clients are attracted to lawyers who are upbeat. Lawyers may be trained to think in terms of worst-case scenarios, but the ones who exude confidence will retain and attract more business.

2. Resilience
Anthony calls resilience the “spinal column” of emotional intelligence in sales. It’s the ability to hear 15 “no’s” before you get a “yes.” In law practice, winning a client can be a matter of timing. Some relationships take awhile to develop, and the needs of clients change. The business owner who didn’t need your services in January might feel differently in June or October, and you will be remembered favorably if you’ve kept in touch during the intervening months.

3. Self-Motivation
Some experts say self-motivation is difficult to teach, and this may be true when it comes to reaching external goals like a sales quota or billable hours. But everyone has a desire to meet personally devised goals that really matter to them. If you take responsibility for your future, designing an action plan with your goals in mind, your internal motivation will propel you to meet those goals. You will also attract the clients whose needs are aligned with yours.

4. Personability
Clients gravitate to lawyers they like. A friendly, sociable associate will attract more clients than a surly lawyer who finds meeting people an unpleasant chore. Although some people may be naturally more outgoing than others, anyone can improve their social skills through coaching or simply observing

5. Empathy
This is the underpinning of all emotional intelligence skills. Using emotional radar to discern what makes a person “tick” is essential. If you’re a good listener, if you study body language, and if you communicate well, you’re an empathic person. In Myers Briggs tests, the vast majority of lawyers are thinkers rather than feelers. For this group, listening and trying to see the world from the client’s perspective is even more important.

So, is your firm like my old firm and focused only on class rank and quality of a candidate’s law school. or are you thinking more long term and seeking to determine the EQ of your candidates?