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Assessing emotional intelligence: interview questions to ask

Assessing emotional intelligence: interview questions to ask

For years, employers have widely acknowledged the importance of qualities like self-awareness and empathy to the success of professionals and organizations. But interview questions have traditionally focused solely on skills and experience, to the exclusion of those other important qualities collectively referred to as emotional intelligence. Interview questions, to be effective, should address emotional intelligence (or “emotional IQ”).

In fact, assessing job candidates’ emotional IQ is now an integral part of the employee selection process. It’s not just about the individual, either. There’s also an organizational impact as emotionally intelligent employees tend to bring out the best in their colleagues and foster more trust and better teamwork.

Here are the ways that employers and recruiters are getting a more complete picture of their job candidates, including some interview questions that will help you better assess their emotional IQ.

Select candidates who are honest about themselves

It takes emotional maturity to be realistic about one’s own psychological makeup and limitations. You want employees who accept challenges, but you also want them to be realistic and honest about their capabilities. Many otherwise competent professionals lack this form of emotional intelligence.

Look for ways to probe this in the interview. “People with high emotional intelligence would answer honestly the question, ‘How do you get around one of your weaknesses?'” says Ashley Goodall, director and chief learning officer for leadership development at Deloitte.

Be direct

In the interview, ask candidates to talk about how they’ve resolved stressful situations. “You can ask, ‘How do you handle a procrastinator who has something due every Wednesday and doesn’t deliver?’ These ‘how do you handle’ questions give you a lot of keys,” says Sylvia Lafair, a workplace consultant and author.

She also stresses the importance asking all the candidates the same set of questions, in order to reduce hiring-bias liability.

Seek hires that will attract collaborators

After self-knowledge, emotional intelligence is really about knowing how to relate to people and work with them. Professional success comes down to three things, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, vice president of research and innovation at Hogan Assessments. To assess emotional intelligence, interview questions should include variations of the following:

  • “Do you have the skills and IQ to learn the job?”
  • “Will you work hard?”
  • “Are you rewarding to deal with?”

Chamorro-Premuzic also suggests asking the candidate how their colleagues benefit from working with them. Are they motivated to do those things that will help the whole team succeed?

Consider formal assessments, in context

Some firms offer testing instruments specifically intended to evaluate emotional intelligence in the workplace. These written assessments may play a role in your overall evaluation of a candidate’s emotional IQ, but they won’t tell the whole story. Interviewing candidates across a range of situations (such as telephone, video, group situations, and one-to-one meetings) also can yield valuable insights on emotional intelligence.

Look out for cultural bias

Human emotions may be universal but their expression is not. For example, body language — particularly avoidance of eye contact during the interview process — may signify fear or disagreement in one culture, and in another, simple respect. So beware of the risks of assessing emotional intelligence by way of gestures or other communications in the interview, verbal or nonverbal, whose meaning may be culture-dependent.

Emotional dysfunctionality and the triumphant bully

If you’re the first in your organization to raise the importance of emotional intelligence with your board of directors, be prepared for pushback. It’s common for directors to accentuate the positive results that a scorched-earth executive has achieved, and to ignore the negative.

But ultimately, if bad hires are made and bullies cause too much damage to the organization, the interpersonal liability will become so great that they’ll eventually be jettisoned. To avoid this type of situation, take the time to check a candidate’s track record via references.

Get a handle on emotional intelligence, interview questions, and more with Monster’s help

Just because they graduated at the top of their class and know your industry inside and out doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll help your company achieve results, especially if they lack emotional intelligence. Interview questions targeting their ability to work with others can be invaluable. Learn about fine-tuning your interview questions, perfecting your, recruitment strategy, and more by subscribing to our free e-newsletter, Monster Hiring Solutions.