3 Questions to Evaluate a Candidate’s Emotional Intelligence

When looking to fill an open position, a lot of factors go into the screening process for the perfect candidate. You want someone who has relevant experience; an acceptable number of years in the field; a solid work history; and, the skills you’re looking for. But the most often overlooked, and arguably most important, factor you should be looking for is emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence, a term coined by Daniel Goleman, involves self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.

This innate ability has proven to be connected to success in the workplace. In fact, one study found that people who were strongest in emotional intelligence were more likely to succeed in a position than those who were strongest in IQ or relevant previous experience. Add to that the fact that job retention has also been linked to emotional intelligence — and you have a pretty strong case as to why you should be altering your screening process to incorporate Emotional Intelligence indicators. To help assess Emotional Intelligence during the screening process, we’ve gathered three questions you should incorporate and what you should be looking for in a candidate’s responses.

Can you explain to me a conflict you had at work that left you feeling aggravated?

Handling work conflict can be aggravating, but it’s how an individual handles the emotion at hand that makes all the difference. When asking this question, you want to be listening for how a candidate handled their emotions during this trying situation and how they were able to empathize with those they were conflicting with.

As mentioned, take into consideration the five factors of emotional intelligence Daniel Gorman laid out and look at how they understood and handled their own emotions, whether or not they seemed aware of others’ emotions, and whether or not they were able to work through the conflict and still have a relationship with those involved.

Tell me about a time your boss or colleague criticized your work. How did it make you feel and how did you handle it?

An emotionally intelligent person understands that criticism about work is not personal and will use the feedback to positively impact their future work. You should listen for a candidate who sounds defensive or offended when speaking about the feedback or tries to assign blame, as all of these are indicators of lower emotional intelligence.

Assess the way they’re talking about the situation. Do they still seem upset? Can they articulate how they were able to incorporate the feedback to improve upon themselves? How a candidate talks about a situation is just as important as the story they tell. 

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What job skill do you feel you could use improvement on?

People low in emotional intelligence have a hard time discussing their faults, so you want to take note of someone who has difficulty answering this question or someone who has a boilerplate answer like, “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” While most often these types of answers aren’t really true, they are also too vague to be of any help in assessing the candidate.

You want to listen for someone who takes the time and effort to be thoughtful and articulate in their answer. Someone high in emotional intelligence will also be more likely to display curiosity and a desire to learn with their response to this question.  

Kellie Brown

Kellie Brown is the marketing manager at Humantelligence. She is responsible for spearheading Humantelligence’s digital marketing, demand generation, and events efforts. Kellie has built her career upon her passion for the intersection of analytics and creativity that marketing provides. She has extensive experience strategizing and executing demand generation, engagement and awareness programs for human resources and assessment software. When she’s not strategizing, she’s researching and writing about the latest in HR and recruiting technology.

Kellie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo where she studied marketing, advertising and communication theory. She has worked under the marketing function in business consulting, creative advertising agencies, and cloud-based software organizations.