Ask These 4 Interview Questions to Screen for Emotional Intelligence

May 9, 2016

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is defined as having a balance of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. And, according to writers, academics, and researchers, it is one of the most highly desirable and rare to find traits in business.

This question is, how do you find people that have high EQ? To find out, we surveyed recruiters for their best interview questions for sourcing emotionally intelligent hires. Here’s what they shared:

1. “Give me an example of a time that you lost your temper. Tell me what happened. What was the outcome?”

Shared by: Annette Matthies, human resources consultant

It’s natural for people to lose their tempers, get agitated, or act irrationally, from time to time. After all, we’re human. Emotionally intelligent people are self-aware of this fact and will own up to their mistakes, without stuttering, as a result.

This interview question can be an illuminating one, according to Matthies.

“Emotional intelligence is about being aware of self and others as well as interacting with others,” says Matthies. “Answers to these questions will tell you how their interactions will be, how much conflict there will be on the job and how the mood of the organization will be.”

Look for people who make amends and focus on problem solving and conflict resolution.


Related: 9 Unexpected Interview Questions That Reveal a Lot About Candidates


2. “Here’s problem, X. Can you offer a win-win solution?”

Shared by: AJ Saleem, director at Suprex Learning

Emotionally intelligent people are really, really good at pushing initiatives forward. Why? Because they’re able to recognize the needs of multiple project stakeholders and find ways for everyone to win.

“I define an emotionally intelligent person as one who can deal well with people and understand perspectives from multiple sides,” says Saleem.

At Suprex Learning, a company that matches tutors with students, for instance, team members often have to work directly with multiple customers (students).

“They must be able to make their relationship with the student as close as possible and make the student want to learn rather than dread learning,” says Saleem. The ability to offer a win-win scenarios is a must.

3. “Tell me about a time that a client was disappointed with your work. How did you respond?”

Shared by: Tiffany Bryant, VP of agency operations at Sterling Communications

Even talented perfectionists have bad days at work, sometimes. Especially when it comes to dealing with customers, the best hires won’t be able to please everyone, all the time. Fortunately, what’s more important than how many homeruns someone hits is how he or she handles the big misses.

“I define emotional intelligence as having a heightened level of self and social awareness, an eagerness to solve problems, the ability to read people and adjust accordingly, and the mindset to view change as an opportunity rather than a setback,” says Bryant.

The best responses to this question will be the ones that reveal a sense of ownership.

“If they can be honest with me about mistakes in a previous job, then there is a high likelihood of them bringing that sense of ownership to their new job,” says Bryant. “As change brings about new opportunities, we always seek out candidates who are forward-looking.”

4. “How would you go about buying a birthday present for a friend?”

Shared by: Erin Engstrom, Content Marketing Strategist at RecruiterBox

Across job functions, it’s critical for companies to hire candidates who can put themselves in other people’s shoes.

“It’s important for every person to build strong, lasting relationships with customers with every decision,” says Engstrom. “This means that team members also need to build strong, lasting relationships with each other to push initiatives through internal queues.”

That’s why RecruiterBox regularly screens for candidates who can empathize with the needs of others.

“We ask this question about buying a birthday present because it gives us insight into a candidate’s thought process when tasked with doing something for someone else,” says Engstrom. “It requires candidates to use preexisting information to the benefit of another person.”

The best responses will be the ones that are genuine—that break down a series of steps that the candidate is willing to take to make another person happy. Look for candidates who care enough to go the extra mile for a friend.

Final thoughts

Emotionally intelligent candidates are also powerful storytellers. In addition to describing a situation, they are well-equipped to analyze what happened, describe their mistakes, and even assess the road not traveled. Seek out candidates who love what they do, while keeping their cool.

*Image from Winnie the Pooh

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