Tips for Interviewing for Emotional Intelligence

Interviewing Tips for Interviewing for Emotional Intelligence

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Two colleagues sitting in a restaurant. One with a displeased look on her face.

Experts agree that emotional intelligence should be an important consideration when hiring new employees. Daniel Goleman, one of the most passionate promoters of the importance of EI /EQ, divides emotional intelligence into four domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness (sometimes categorized as empathy), and relationship management.

So how can you evaluate prospective hires for emotional intelligence?

Pre-hire assessments which target emotional intelligence and social behavior are increasingly popular. If designed properly, they can offer revealing insights into the candidate’s EI. It is important to know how to apply findings from these tests to your hiring decisions. Always balance assessment results with your other information sources such as resumes, interviews, and recommendations.

It is best to combine testing with personal interactions with candidates. Interviews, whether initial phone screens or in-person meetings, are an important means of evaluating a prospective employee’s emotional intelligence.

It is important to note that there is a difference between your personal feelings about a candidate and their social and emotional intelligence. What you are looking for is not mere geniality, but signs that the person has the qualities noted in Goleman’s dimensions.

The questions you ask during a phone screen (Tips for Conducting a Phone Screen) or a more formal interview will vary according to your needs, time considerations, and the current stage of the hiring or interview process. Many of the most recommended interview questions touch on emotional intelligence. However, there are a number of questions that specifically target this area.

Before selecting your questions, think about situations in your workplace that have required you or others to use emotional intelligence. These can help you create more detailed what-if scenarios for candidates to respond to.

Ask follow up questions. Don’t allow candidates to give evasive answers or deny that they have ever had any misunderstandings or conflicts with others. Answers should show self-reflection, an understanding of others’ motivations, and an ability to navigate problems and relationships.

Here are some questions to ask when interviewing for emotional intelligence:

How do you what other people are feeling? Give an example.

Describe a time you had to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

How would your (coworkers or supervisor) describe you?

Tell me about a time when you had to work as part of a team.

Tell me what your favorite coworkers are like. Look for detailed descriptions of the real person, not just the surface description of their favorite coworkers.

What is the best quality you contribute to group projects?

How do you try to relate to new people?

Have you ever had a coworker who wasn’t pulling their weight? What did you do about it?

What would you do if you had a hard time getting along with a coworker or supervisor?

When has someone come to you with their problems at work? How do you handle that?

What type of work do you prefer to do individually?

How do you handle stressful situations?

Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a goal.

Have you ever made a mistake at work? What did you do about it?

How do you respond when you feel overburdened?

Tell me about a time you had to deal with a misunderstanding.

How did you meet your last supervisor’s expectations?

What could you have done to be a better employee (manager, supervisor, etc.)?

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