Delving into the realm of Emotional Intelligence (also referred to as EQ, or Emotional Quotient) during job interviews has become more than just a trend — it's essential to help you identify candidates who have the soft skills that are vital for thriving at work.
In a recent study from Leadership IQ, hiring managers shared that 23% of hiring mismatches were due to the fact that the new hires ended up having a lower level of emotional intelligence than they desired, which many admitted they completely overlooked when conducting job interviews!
Exploring EQ sheds light on candidates’ underlying motivations, reactions and people skills, and it helps you better predict how well they'll adapt, communicate and work within your team. If arming yourself with this information before making your hiring decision sounds good to you, then read on.
We’ll tell you which EQ questions to ask, how to assess emotional intelligence and potential red flags 🚩🚩 to look out for (plus things that can be cleared up with a little further questioning).
These emotional intelligence interview questions are designed to explore different facets of emotional intelligence, including self-awareness, empathy, communication, conflict resolution and adaptability. ✨ They'll enable you to assess how candidates handle various challenges at work and reveal their capacity for emotional growth and collaboration. Pick a handful and start getting to know your candidates better!
➕ Tell me more about this. What were the specific challenges you faced? How did you work through them?
➕ Could you walk me through the steps you took to adapt to the unexpected change? How did you keep your team members aligned and motivated during that transition?
➕ Could you share more about the teamwork dynamics within that project? How did you collaborate and encourage other team members to contribute their strengths as well?
➕ When you received that feedback, what were your initial thoughts and feelings? How did you process the feedback afterward, and did it lead to any changes in your approach?
➕ Were there any challenges or barriers you encountered while providing support, and how did you overcome them? How did the team member's emotional state or motivation change after your interaction?
➕ Was it challenging to understand the person’s (or your team’s) point of view? How did you work towards a deeper understanding and create a space for meaningful dialogue?
➕ Were there any differences in opinions, needs or goals that you had to bridge during the negotiation or decision-making? How did you identify those differences?
➕ What was your thought process as you approached that conflict?
➕ When you provided critical feedback to your colleague, can you elaborate on the steps you took to ensure the conversation was constructive and respectful? How did you approach balancing honesty with sensitivity?
➕ Describe the key factors that helped you manage your stress effectively during that high-pressure project. Were there any techniques or practices you relied on to stay composed?
📣 Hiring remotely? Be sure to throw in some good remote worker interview questions!
Even if interviewing candidates on their skills and values is already part of your hiring process, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be familiar with all the ways to assess a candidate's emotional intelligence. It requires a thoughtful and thorough approach that will become second nature the more you practice it.
Here are the key things to look out for so you can effectively evaluate a candidate's EQ during the interview process.
🔑 Active listening: Pay attention to how well the candidate listens and engages with your questions. Do they provide thoughtful and relevant responses that show they understand the nuances of the questions? An emotionally intelligent person is more likely to actively listen and respond empathetically.
🔑 Empathy and understanding: Ask questions that require the candidate to put themselves in others' shoes. Their responses will reflect their ability to understand and empathize with different perspectives, which is a key aspect of emotional intelligence.
🔑 Self-awareness: Ask about the candidate's strengths and weaknesses, and observe how candidly they discuss their areas for improvement. Someone with high self-awareness can acknowledge their limitations and show a willingness to learn and grow.
🔑 Conflict resolution: Explore instances where the candidate faced conflicts. Pay attention to how they describe their role in resolving the conflicts, whether they took responsibility and if they focused on finding common ground and maintaining relationships.
🔑 Adaptability: Look for examples of how the candidate managed unexpected changes or challenges. Evaluate whether they showed a flexible and composed attitude, which demonstrates their ability to adapt to dynamic environments.
🔑 Stress management: Ask about high-pressure situations and how they handled stress. A candidate with strong EQ will likely describe strategies like staying organized, seeking support or practicing mindfulness to manage their stress.
🔑 Communication: Observe their communication style. Are they able to express their thoughts clearly and respectfully? Emotional intelligence involves effective communication that considers the feelings and perspectives of others.
🔑 Feedback reception: Inquire about times they received feedback, both positive and constructive. An emotionally intelligent candidate will describe how they processed the feedback and used it to improve.
🔑 Collaboration: Discuss experiences where the candidate collaborated within a team. Look for indications that they value teamwork, respect others' contributions and foster an inclusive environment.
🔑 Body language: Pay attention to their nonverbal cues. Typically an emotionally intelligent candidate displays open body language, maintains eye contact and uses appropriate gestures to emphasize empathy and understanding. (Except in some cases, for example, in neurodivergent candidates. More on this in the box below. 👇)
🔑 Consistency: Evaluate whether their responses and behavior align consistently throughout your interview(s). Emotional intelligence isn't just an "interview mode"; it should be a consistent trait.
🔑 Reflective thinking: Conclude the interview by asking the candidate to reflect on their own emotional intelligence. This question can reveal their depth of understanding
Identifying potential red flags related to emotional intelligence during interviews is crucial to avoiding costly and demoralizing mis-hires. It's also important to approach these observations with an open mind and gather more information before making a final judgment. Here are some red flags to look out for, as well as instances that might initially seem concerning but could be clarified through further questioning or conversations with references.
In all these cases, it's essential to follow up with more questions and potentially talk to a candidate's references to gain a well-rounded perspective. References can shed light on how the candidate interacts in a professional context and confirm or contradict observations made during the interview. Keeping an open mind and being willing to explore deeper into a candidate's experiences can provide a more accurate understanding of their emotional intelligence.
📣 Need to ask a candidate for references? We have easy-to-fill-in email templates for both the candidate and the reference provider.
While technical skills are important, a candidate's soft skills and emotional intelligence (as well as your team's!) can significantly impact their long-term success within your company. According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, who wrote the book 📘 on emotional intelligence, “Organizations and employers who prioritize EQ foster a safe working environment in which people work closely together to solve problems, take ownership for any mishaps and keep a level head when under pressure.” Ask the right EQ questions, pay attention and you'll be much better equipped to see which candidate is going to thrive within your team.