Life at a startup is different. Compared to corporate work, it delivers more freedom, a faster pace, and a buzz of excitement. For workers who long for an escape from office drudgery, new companies can deliver an antidote.
Joining a startup is also a great way to build a successful career at warp speed. But it’s not always easy to get your foot in the door. If you want to distinguish yourself from other candidates, serial entrepreneur Evan Rubinson offered some advice. He said there’s one single trait founders like him look for when making new hires.
Evan Rubinson: ‘It’s the Simplest Answer’
Rubinson, CEO of ERA Brands, says that new businesses rely on dynamic performers. He believes hiring the right people, treating them with respect, and building relationships is the key to long-term growth and stability in any industry.
When he meets with job candidates, he focuses on their EQ, or emotional intelligence — the ability to recognize and manage feelings in themselves and others.
“It’s the simplest answer: human psychology and behavioral economics. I think that’s ultra, ultra important. I don’t care what industry you’re in, I don’t care what you do, and I don’t care what role in a company, whether you’re mid-market, executive, entry-level, it doesn’t matter to me. If people understand human psychology, how to relate to people, what people want to hear, what people don’t want to hear, and they’re able to blend reality with human psychology, I think that’s the most important.”
Every workplace runs on the engine of human interactions, whether in person, over email, or on the phone. People with high degrees of emotional intelligence make these interplays go smoothly. That creates efficiencies within an organization and when working with clients, suppliers, and other third-party presences.
“Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you’re the smartest guy in the room,” said Rubinson. “If people don’t understand it, or they can’t relate to it, or they don’t want to buy into it, they don’t believe in you. It doesn’t matter if you’re right. It doesn’t matter if you’re the smartest guy. All that matters is people don’t get it and they don’t relate.”
High EQ Workers Are Critical for Startups
High EQ workers help offices gel, understand client needs, and know how to broker deals that all parties can find acceptable. That’s especially critical in new companies that don’t benefit from years of connections and a history of honest dealings.
But Evan Rubinson doesn’t just look for charismatic smooth talkers. His goal is to find the best way of reaching mutual understanding, not tricking people into going against their self-interest.
“I think it can be very detrimental if people just blatantly lie to someone and embellish reality,” he said. “I don’t think that’s productive just to tell people what they want to hear.”
This means recognizing a person’s emotional state in the moment and tailoring your message to it. Research shows that workers who understand emotional intelligence help create more trust, build more collaborative relationships, handle change with ease, and can better manage stress — all great traits for fast-paced environments.
Lesson Learned From Dad
Rubinson said he learned the importance of emotional intelligence from his father, who started and managed several brands of musical instruments.
Recalls Rubinson, “He was a brilliant person in human psychology and understanding what people wanted, what to tell people, how to treat people, how to get people to come back, how to get people to be loyal and want to fight for you and want to die for you in metaphorical battle. And I think that’s a really, really great trait.”
Keeping his dad’s model in the forefront of his mind has helped Rubinson make sound hiring decisions when leading companies in the financial, real estate, and music industries.
“I think that’s ultra-important to blend both worlds, to have a severe aversion to lying to people or to stretching the truth, but to be able to beautifully blend both worlds together and say, ‘Hey, look, maybe this is not exactly where we are right now, but this is where we want to be. This is where we need to be and this is where we’re striving to be.’ So I guess in a nutshell, I would say blending reality with human psychology and not having too much of a difference between those two,” said Rubinson.