Hiring for Emotional Intelligence in Management: 5 Tips

A manager meets with one of her employees in a meeting room.

Successful leaders have high emotional intelligence, which Psychology Today defines as the “ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others.” Emotionally intelligent people typically have strong communication, collaboration, relationship-building, and leadership skills, all of which are essential to running a company. It’s difficult to overemphasize the value of hiring for emotional intelligence in management roles.

While you may be able to get a glimpse of a candidate’s emotional intelligence during the resume and phone screening process and from speaking to references, you’ll get a much clearer picture during the interview process if you know what to ask. Behavioral interview questions, the most effective questions for assessing emotional intelligence, require candidates to reflect on past work experiences so you can see how they’re likely to handle similar situations at your company.

Why Emotional Intelligence in Management Roles Matters

Your company will be more successful if you have emotionally intelligent managers. The ability of managers to “read the room” and navigate emotions is more likely to increase employee morale, making your employees more productive, collaborative, and engaged. Companies with high employee engagement are typically more profitable because of increased sales, productivity, and employee retention.

When you have empathetic leaders, your employees will feel heard and valued. They’ll be apt to provide constructive criticism that you can implement to improve your company culture, boost productivity, and retain high performers. Empathetic leaders also are better at marketing to customers or clients because they have a clearer understanding of what they want and need.

Behavioral Questions for Assessing Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

You’re more likely to get a sense of a candidate’s ability to connect with others emotionally during the interview process, as long as you ask the right questions. We’ve pulled together the most effective behavioral interview questions you can ask when evaluating candidates, organized by category.

1. Social Skills

Emotionally intelligent people typically have strong social skills, including communication, collaboration, and the ability to build and maintain personal relationships. You can ask candidates the following:

  • Tell me about a time you relied on your written and verbal communication skills to garner support for a project or strategy. How was it received?
  • How have you built strong relationships with colleagues in past roles? What makes you a good relationship builder?
  • Describe a time you stepped up to help a colleague or direct report with a project or task outside of your normal routine.

2. Leadership Skills

Emotionally intelligent people are often intuitive, positive, encouraging, caring, trustworthy, reliable, and goal-oriented, making them good leaders. You may want to ask the following:

  • Tell me about a time that you led your team through a challenge. How did you change your leadership style to connect with different individuals?
  • How do you motivate your direct reports to accomplish their goals and objectives?
  • What skills and professional values make you a good leader?

3. Problem-Solving Skills

Emotional intelligence, in management as in other roles, typically empowers leaders to analyze issues, evaluate potential solutions, and create and implement a plan. They have the necessary skills to solve the problems that inevitably arise when leading a team. Assess a candidate’s problem-solving skills by asking these questions:

  • Share a time when you needed to use problem-solving skills at work. How did you come up with a solution and what was the result?
  • Walk me through a time you started a project from scratch. What did you do from start to finish and how did you delegate tasks to members of your team?
  • Tell me about a time you faced a difficult problem at work that you couldn’t solve alone. What did you do?

4. Conflict Resolution

Emotionally intelligent people are often good at resolving conflict because they are typically empathetic, diplomatic, collaborative, and have strong relationship-building skills. You can hire for emotional intelligence in management roles by asking the following:

  • Tell me about a time you got into a disagreement with a colleague. How did you handle it?
  • What’s a time you dealt with a difficult coworker, client, or customer?
  • Walk me through a time you disagreed with your manager. How did you resolve it?

5. Resilience

Emotionally intelligent people can regulate their emotions and bounce back from failures and roadblocks. They are typically confident, self-aware, and mature, and should be able to talk about failures and weaknesses without getting defensive. You may want to ask these questions to assess a candidate’s resilience:

  • Tell me about a time you failed at something at work. What was the impact?
  • What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made at work? What happened?
  • What is a weakness that affects your day-to-day responsibilities? How have you improved or found workarounds?

Continue Building an Emotionally Intelligent Team

Now you know the benefits of hiring for emotional intelligence in management roles and how to evaluate a candidate’s emotional intelligence skills. One of the main advantages is that you’ll strengthen your company culture which will help you attract and keep top talent. Continue to build a strong team by implementing more expert-recommended recruitment and retention advice from Monster.