12 Recruitment Tips Using Multiple Intelligences (Part 1)

Posted on February 3, 2014

Maybe I’m a bit geeky for supporting this “Multiple Intelligences” theory. But there’s something in this thing. Something meaningful, something useful, something powerful. Multiple intelligences is one of those theories that improves humanity, improves visions, improves education. And I totally support that.

But theory is no good without theory applied. So, as promised, in this article, I explore 12 ways to use multiple intelligence in your recruitment and team building.

To make this easy, I’ve broken these 12 tips in 4 categories:

  1. Narrow Online Applicants.
  2. Recruit the Strongest Candidate.
  3. Personalize your Applicant.
  4. Conduct Creative Interviews.

(1) and (2) will be broken down in this article. In the next article, (3)-(4) will be explained. In both articles, my goal is simple: to empower recruiters to make better hiring decisions through multiple intelligences.

A Brief Summary of MI Theory

In “How to Hire Effectively with Multiple Intelligences,” I discussed this revolutionary idea. Below is a summary of MI theory.

  • Judge not someone’s level but type of intelligence.
  • Each type is driven by a specific purpose: to solve a problem, or create a product.
  • Think of an intelligence as a skill, albeit a really good skill.
  • Effective recruitment involves a careful eye to: (1) what problems you need solved/products you need fashioned, and (2) which intelligence best solves that problem/fashions that product.

Here is a summary of the seven intelligences:

  • Logical-mathematical intelligence: crunches numbers, analyzes complex symbols, and handles long strands of reason.
  • Linguistic intelligence: uses words effectively, understands written texts well, and is skilled at creative communication.
  • Musical Intelligence: recognizes musical notation and patterns, recreates sounds from listening, and creates sounds for other mediums (videos, movies, commercials).
  • Spatial intelligence: notices fine details in three dimensions objects, comprehends patterns and puzzles well, and is sensitive to location, geography, and space.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: refines the body’s motions to do something useful, remembers better by doing and acting rather than reading and writing, and is skilled at solving mechanical problems with one’s hands.
  • Interpersonal intelligence: communicates verbally and nonverbally effectively, navigates conflict, and see customer/personal problems from multiple perspectives.
  • Intrapersonal intelligence: understand’s one’s own feelings and thoughts, analyzes theories and ideas , and self-directs one’s life—including the life of a business—effectively.

For a more comprehensive guide, check out this website’s graphs. Click here.

Narrow Online Applicants

In my previous article, I recommended using MI theory to narrow applicants. By this, I meant a few things. One, know what you want before you start hiring. Two, pinpoint the right intelligence for your position. And, three, eliminate all applicants whose profiles differ from what you want. In this section, I elaborate this theme.

1. Recruit what you Want

Main Point: know the purpose and goals of your new employees before you recruit them. 

This is an easy first tip. Before you recruit, know what you want.

While this may seem elementary, managers and recruiters still struggle articulating what they want. I’ve been in many interviews, and when I’m asked “do you have any questions for us?” I  ask, “what kind of employee are you looking for?” While I have received some specific job descriptions, usually my interviewers have nothing useful to say. “I’m looking for someone who can effectively handle the cash register and talk to people.” “I’m looking for someone who can talk to customers.” “I had to fire an employee, and I’m looking for his replacement.” 

If you’re someone who struggles with this problem, use MI theory to better articulate what you want.

Let’s dissect this for a minute. As stated before, an intelligence is not determined by quantity, but type. Intelligence is housed in the brain. Different intelligences process information, solve problems, and create products differently. When music is heard, the musical intelligence is activated. When people are around, the interpersonal is activated. When Payton Manning throws an intercepted touchdown pass, the bodily-kinesthetic is activated (and probably the emotional).

My point is this: each intelligence has goals and purposes inherent in its neurological makeup. To interpret a specific kind of information and do something with it—that is the purpose of an intelligence.

If you know the seven types—their purposes and goals—you can better categorize what you want. Do you want someone who can talk with people and handle mechanic work? Then you’re looking for a interpersonal/kinesthetic person. Do you want someone who can solve technical problems? Then you’re looking for a logical/kinesthetic person. Are you looking for a new QB for the Broncos? Then you’re definitely looking for a kinesthetic/interpersonal person.

So use multiple intelligence theory to clarify what you want. But don’t stop there. Communicate this information in your recruitment ads. Be as specific as possible. You probably don’t want to say: “looking for interpersonal intelligence,” unless you want some funny looks. But communicate the meaning of that message: “looking for someone who is good at communicating with people, interpreting feelings and attitudes, and navigating conflict.”

When you know what you want, you should start looking for your candidates. And that is the basis for our next point.

2. Know where to Recruit

Main Point: once you know what you want, advertise at places related to those purposes and goals. 

This is another simple tip, one that is probably overlooked. Once you know what intelligences you are looking for, began searching at places related to those intelligences.

For instance, if you’re looking for a writer, advertise in libraries, bookstores, and colleges. If you’re looking for someone that can relate well with people, advertise in places where people congregate, socialize, and talk. Coffee houses, venues, book clubs, and other “hipster-eque” locations will certainly help. “People skills,” however, is more subjective than objective and thus hard to measure. For this, I advise advertising on the web, especially on social media.

Google Plus helps with this kind of “niche hiring.” Google Plus offers the circles luxury: people join circles according to their interests and likings. When you know what kind of intelligence you’re looking for, find a similar niche on Google Plus.

3. Know what not to Recruit

Main Point: sift through applications and remove the ones unrelated to your desired intelligence. 

This tip is a logical consequence of (1): if you know what you want, then, by definition, you also know what you don’t want. But sometimes you need to wring that knowledge out. You need to extract it, verbalize it, and write it down. You need to have it in view when you sift through applications, when you read online resumes, when you conduct your interviews. People can have charismatic personalities. They can have impressive credentials and awards. But if they do not fit your wanted position, don’t be afraid to remove them from your final list of candidates.

In short, look for signs of intelligence types that you’d rather not have. Then, remove those.

I had to do this process recently. At my college, LaGrange College, the English department needed a new professor, a “Shakespearean,” that is one well versed in the poetry and plays of Shakespeare. I was asked to join the expanded search committee to help narrow applicants.

The English department had 30 candidates. As we sifted though various applications, we were initially paralyzed. Everyone, it seemed, knew Shakespeare. And they didn’t just know him. They were experts. They wrote books and articles about him. They designed seminars and classes around him. They took groups to London to see Shakespeare’s plays performed live. Which professors to pick, then, became a difficult task, indeed.

The head of the English department, Dr. Laine Scott, gave us some advice: identity weaknesses by identifying strengths. One strength to watch for, she suggested, was research. If the candidate had a strong research portfolio, then we could must likely discard that application.

Why? Professors with lots of research are professors who normally don’t handle freshmen students. At large universities, graduate students teach freshmen, not doctorate professors.

LaGrange College is a tiny, tiny, tiny private liberal arts college. Thus, professors engage students every day. Consequently, in addition to the linguistic intelligence inherent in any Shakespearean expert, my college wanted someone with a strong interpersonal intelligence. They wanted someone who could teach freshmen, who could put aside the research to focus on student growth, who could slow down the book publication to teach more classes. When we saw more research and less freshman composition teaching, we threw up the red flags. No matter how many books they wrote, their intelligence type didn’t fit the wants and needs of the college.

So let’s generalize this a bit: identity weak intelligences by identifying strong ones. 

Recruit the Strongest Candidate

Recruiting the wrong employee is one of the bigger recruitment problems I see. If you are tired of firing employees, use these tips to recruit the stronger candidate. The terminology from this section comes from Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons. 

4. Lookout for Group Bottlenecks

Main Point: be careful not to recruit an intelligence that constrains the productivity of other employees. 

“Bottlenecks occur when one intelligence constrains the ability of other intelligences to operate. Most likely, bottlenecks result from weaker intelligences that inhibit the full expression of stronger intelligences. For example, a weak linguistic intelligence may prevent a person from expressing her strength in interpersonal intelligence because she cannot speak well.”

A group bottleneck occurs, then, like the individual one: when an individual’s intelligence overpowers and constrains the intelligences of others.

This is incredibly important to keep in mind. While hiring, you must ask yourself, “does this person fit into the team dynamics? Will he help the others succeed? Will he inhibit them from doing well?” Usually, a bottleneck occurs when one person’s speech overpowers the speech of others. We usually describe these people as “bossy,” “overbearing,” and “domineering.”

While this is important to keep in mind for recruiting, think about this within your own management and leadership. Are you a bottleneck to your employees? Do you often demand, take control, and boss them around? Are you hindering your staff’s productivity or delaying their work by being too uptight?

5. Recruit Compensators

Main Point: lookout for candidates who can strengthen and offset the weaknesses of other employees. 

When Gardner talks about compensation, he talks about individual compensation, how a strong intelligence can compensate for another:

“Compensation occurs when one intelligence makes up for another. For example, strong linguistic or interpersonal intelligence might make up for weak spatial intelligence in a person who may not be able to orient herself in an unfamiliar environment but can talk with people to help keep herself on course…The advantage of compensation is that it supports how a particular job performance might emerge through several different combinations of intelligences.”

I want to spin this a bit. Instead of an individual, I speak of group compensation. In this sense, a compensator builds a team’s effectiveness by empowering, helping, and teaching individuals how to perform a task.

Compensators are always great teachers. They can reframe a task in terms people understand. So, when you recruit, look for people who have a potential to teach. They will come in handy later on.

Again, I have experience to shed light on this concept. I started working at Valvoline in the summer of 2011. I had just finished my first year at college, and I needed a summer job to earn money. My inclination was teaching and counseling, but I didn’t know where to apply. A friend had offered me a job at his “oil-changin’ garage.” Not sure what to expect, I obliged.

I am not a mechanic. I’ll just say that much. In fact, the first week, I was, as my fellow mechanic friends said, “mechanically retarded.”

That’s pretty bad, I know, I know. But after a couple of weeks, I started to understand the mechanics.

How? I had a really good friend, Chris Millete, who taught me my job in terms I knew. Because my spatial intelligence is much stronger than my bodily-kinesthetic, he showed me diagrams and pictures. He broke the car into pictorial systems; then, he broke those systems into parts. “When you change oil,” he said. “Think of the engine as its own system. If you come across a problem, remember the larger system. Then start narrowing down possible problem areas.”

Although I struggled for about a month, the job became easier. When I encountered a problem, I just envisioned  the diagrams and did my best to solve the problem. Because Chris had spatial intelligence, and because he had a superb bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, he was able to teach me cars in terms I knew.

So take this principle to heart: recruit people who can teach others. In other terms, recruit people who can compensate for a weaker intelligence.

6. Recruit Searchlights

Main Point: recruit candidates with multiple intelligences, not just one. 

Hopefully, the last five points have made sense, have helped, and have stayed within your mind. Now we have reached our last point, recruit a searchlight intelligence. Again, I quote Gardner in full:

“Searchlight profiles balance several intelligences. While the laser mind focuses on one or two forms of information, the searchlight mind is characterized by a capacity—and a proclivity—for regularly sampling diverse forms of information.”

The candidate with the strongest intelligences is most likely the strongest to have. 

In general this is true, but I must offer a caveat. Don’t be distracted by a candidate’s jewels. If they have multiple intelligences in addition to your desired one, great. But focus on what you want. The rest is an asset, no doubt. But it’s not the focus.

Recruit with Multiple Intelligences

Hopefully these six principles help you with your recruiting. In next week’s article, we will give you the remaining 9.

Lastly, I want to give you (10) questions to help you use this theory in your recruiting practices.

  1. If I could have my ideal employee, what skills would he or she have? Which intelligence links with these skills?
  2. What frame of mind is associated with these skills? In other words, what are my ideal employees’ goals and purposes?
  3. Where can I find my ideal employee? What might I do to reach out to his or her place of interest?
  4. Which intelligences am I definitely not looking for?
  5. What are my candidates strengths, and how do those reveal his or her weaknesses?
  6. Will this candidate’s intelligence strengthen or hinder my already existing team?
  7. Is this candidate overbearing?
  8. Can this candidate compensate for my employee’s weaknesses?
  9. Does this candidate have multiple intelligences?
  10. Can this candidate teach others on their terms?




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