What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence, also called emotional quotient, or EQ, is the skill of recognizing, understanding and managing emotions. Psychologists coined the term in the 1990s and identified the following elements of emotional intelligence.
Self-awareness is the ability to assess and recognize your own emotions, particularly as they relate to your environment. People with excellent self-awareness use their understanding of their emotions to guide their actions and decisions.
Self-management is the ability to control powerful emotions, particularly under tense situations. Those who can effectively manage their emotions are superb at projecting a calm and positive persona while they may feel otherwise internally.
Social awareness is the ability to recognize and understand how others are feeling. People who are socially aware are also skilled at adjusting their own emotions to match those of their environment and being comfortable doing so.
Relationship management is the ability to connect with others emotionally and make them feel comfortable. It’s also the ability to successfully resolve conflict by addressing the underlying emotions to preserve the relationship.
Why is emotional intelligence important in the workplace?
Since its identification in the 1990s, emotional intelligence has proven a vital component of workplace success. Various workplace researchers have found that emotional intelligence:
- Improves relationships between colleagues
- Helps people handle conflict and stress at work
- Improves work performance
- Increases job satisfaction
A company full of people with high emotional intelligence is more likely to create strong and capable teams, produce less conflict and demonstrate excellent productivity and work performance.
How to assess whether a candidate has emotional intelligence during the hiring process
If you’d like to incorporate emotional intelligence assessment into your hiring process, consider using these steps.
1. Provide a self-assessment
Send candidates an emotional intelligence self-assessment to complete and return to you. Many examples are available for you to use for free or for a small fee online. Self-assessments are useful because you can compare the candidate’s answers to their actual emotional responses during the interview and with evaluations from previous colleagues or supervisors.
2. Conduct emotional reference checks
When calling to perform routine reference checks, ask the reference a few questions about the candidate’s emotional intelligence, like:
- Did the candidate get along well with their colleagues?
- Did the candidate struggle to regulate their emotions?
- Did the candidate ever seem uncertain about how they should act around peers?
This information is useful on its own, but it’s also helpful when compared to the candidate’s own self-assessment.
3. Administer an assessment
During the interview, administer a written emotional intelligence assessment. This test differs from the self-assessment in that it asks the test taker to respond to hypothetical situations and answer questions rather than rate their own behaviors and responses.
4. Ask pertinent questions
During the job interview, ask questions specifically designed to give you insight into the candidate’s emotional intelligence. Consider relating these questions directly to the role they would perform for your company to see how they might react on the job.
5. Provide situational examples
Alongside interview questions, provide situational examples for the candidate to solve during the job interview. Provide examples they might actually encounter in their position, like mediating conflict between peers, building rapport on a team or handling a stressful situation.
Interview questions related to emotional intelligence
Consider these interview questions and explanations related to emotional intelligence to help you prepare to interview candidates and gauge their responses.
Describe a time you failed working on a project.
This question should tell you whether a candidate is capable of taking responsibility for their actions and identifying the emotions they felt during the project. People with high emotional intelligence are capable of recognizing what they did wrong and how they can improve in the future. Candidates who try to pass blame to others on the project or who seem to still be upset over the failure may lack emotional intelligence.
Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a colleague.
Not everyone will have a major conflict to share, but most candidates can remember a time they disagreed with a peer or wanted to take a project in a different direction. An emotionally intelligent person should be able to identify their emotions and those of the other party involved and explain how they resolved the conflict. Someone lacking emotional intelligence might struggle to understand why their colleague was upset or how they themselves felt during the disagreement.
Can you teach me about your favorite hobby?
As the candidate describes their hobby, ask follow-up questions. Pretend you’re having trouble understanding how it works and ask for continued clarification from the candidate. See how they react to your confusion. Emotionally intelligent candidates should adapt to your emotional needs and try different styles of communication to help you understand. Those with low emotional intelligence may become frustrated and short with you.
Emotional intelligence is an important skill for all employees. Consider adapting your hiring strategy to increase awareness of potential candidates’ emotional intelligence to improve communication and productivity in your company.