Are you tired of having to constantly recruit fresh new talent? We spend significant resources of time and money in creating emotional intelligence interview questions because we all know that people can make or break our business.

How can you be sure you are hiring the best people into your organization? Will these individuals stay for their entire career? Will they be a catalyst that pushes your company past all of its competitors?

The answers to all of these questions are YES…if you are hiring emotionally intelligent candidates.

Recruiting Emotionally Intelligent People

We all know that the higher up the proverbial corporate ladder you go, the more important your emotional intelligence skills are. Unfortunately, when you are entering the job market hiring managers tend to stick to more traditional interviewing methods (such as one-on-one interviews) and hiring techniques (such as ubiquitous series of interview questions).

As an HR professional, your goal is to improve the candidate pool and hire the best. You want the cream of the crop to pick your organization as their employer of choice to continue their career. However, during the traditional one-hour interview you do not always wean out the best of the best. So, why is that?

Well, potential candidates are often asked more interview questions relating to their IQ and technical skills, and very few, if any, emotionally intelligent interview questions.

Although you might be hiring the recent graduate who was top of his/her class, you do not know if have they have the emotional intelligence skills needed to lead teams in the future.

According to Daniel Goleman, “as a leader moves up in an organization, up to 90 percent of their success lies in emotional intelligence.” It’s an essential skill that in the past has been undervalued as a ‘soft skill’, but now these skills are at the forefront of great leadership. “The rules for work are changing. We’re being judged by a new yardstick: not just by how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other.” (Daniel Goleman)

The Core EI Workplace Competencies

Richard Boyatzis has identified 14 core competencies that differentiate “outstanding leaders, managers, advanced professionals and people in key jobs” from average performers. Only two of these competencies are cognitive – the remaining twelve are emotional and social intelligence competencies.

So, ask yourself:

  • Are you tired of gambling to see if the up and comers you hired for their technical skills will have the talent and skills to provoke and ignite passion in others?
  • Will these candidates have the leadership you will be looking for later on in their careers?
  • How will you know if these individuals, as smart as they are, will have the skills to energize and inspire employees to make their best contribution to the organization?
  • Do they have the ability to motivate other great employees to stay?
  • Will they be able to keep all the best talent within your four walls?

Testing for Emotional Intelligence

Many hiring managers have a hard time testing for emotional self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Therefore many HR professionals fall back on trusting their gut instincts and subjective first impressions.

The secret to enhancing your HR techniques and practices and ensuring you are screening out the best of the best is to utilize a few emotional intelligent questions throughout your interview process.

People who have low emotional intelligence do not understand or know how to manage their own emotions. Additionally, they also don’t know how to read emotions in others. This much is evident when we see employees struggling to deal with stress, overcome obstacles, or resolve conflict. We see people who struggle with emotional intelligence when they are negative, blame the system/process, are excessively entitled, point fingers at others, resist change, procrastinate, and/or are overly sensitive or critical.

Nowadays every smart or experienced candidate has figured out how to answer the basic interview skills questions. While they may be technically competent, it is your job as a hiring manager to move away from the traditional interview model.

The traditional interview model consists of probing individuals about their past experience, and/or coming up with hypothetical and situational questions about similar circumstances. To move forward, the interviewer needs to delve into the candidate’s views and awareness of themselves, particularly in relation to others. These questions need to be non-leading and open-ended behavioural questions…which can reveal a lot about a person’s emotional intelligence level in how they answer them.

This will allow a candidate to open up and offer their own candid perspective versus the scripted one they practised to land the job back at home role-playing when facing the mirror in their bathroom.

Emotional Intelligence Interview Questions

Here are a few questions you can use throughout your interview process to gain a better sense of the candidate’s emotional intelligence level.

1) Can you tell me about a time when you made a mistake in the workplace?

An emotionally intelligent person takes responsibility for their mistake; the non-emotionally intelligent candidate blames others for the mistake. Someone who has high emotional intelligence would know it is okay to make mistakes; sometimes that is where the most profound learning comes from. They would also acknowledge the error, learn the lesson, make adjustments, and share with others how to avoid making similar errors.

2) Share a time when you received negative feedback about your performance

The emotionally intelligent person is open to feedback, appreciates him or herself, and is self-aware. They would use this feedback as an opportunity to grow and develop. Someone who has low emotional intelligence would become defensive, offended and perhaps shut down.

3) Can you tell me about a time when you accomplished something you were proud of, but needed help to do it?

An emotionally intelligent individual would share his or her success. Watch carefully the word choices the candidate uses. If they use words like ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘my’…they may be self-centred and ego-focused. If they acknowledge the team for their help in achieving the success the team had, they take into consideration the feelings and efforts of others.

However, be careful – it’s a fine balance of using ‘I did…’ to show leadership, versus ‘I did…’ to take all of the glory. Traditionally behavioural-based questions are intended to lead into the ‘I did….’, or ‘my involvement was…’ answers, but you want to see if the candidate can answer these types of questions in that fashion while including and appreciating the rest of the team.

4) Describe a time when you had to share some bad news with a colleague.

 People with strong emotional intelligence will display empathy in their delivery of the bad news.  They would be able to share the news while staying composed and not getting enmeshed in the other person’s stuff. They can respect and appreciate the feelings of the other person, but they can separate themselves from that person.

These four interview questions are just a starting point; so use them as a springboard for coming up with more, or adapting these to better fit your needs. Either way, with a few good emotional intelligence questions spread into your interviews, you can start to identify the level of emotional intelligence the candidate holds.

If you are meeting with someone who can demonstrate a self-awareness about their own emotions, positive or not, and those of others, then you are heading down the right path. Chances are these candidates can move past anger, doubt, and anxiety; and they are flexible, empathetic, and confident when working with others.