How to Interview for Emotional Intelligence

When hiring new employees for your business, there’s undoubtedly a list of prerequisites you’ve compiled to determine who’s the best fit for the role. But are emotional intelligence interview questions on that list? If not, it’s time to reevaluate how you’re interviewing and what kinds of individuals will be most beneficial to your team. By learning which emotional intelligence interview questions to ask during the hiring process, you can better your chances of bringing a qualified and personable employee onboard.


Post a Job

What is emotional intelligence?

Everyone’s familiar with intellectual intelligence, but not everyone is aware of the equally (or sometimes more) important element of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand, manage and perceive emotion accurately and in a positive way. The five characteristics of emotional intelligence, according to American psychologist Daniel Goleman, are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Emotional intelligence and the workplace

By adjusting your hiring process to include emotional intelligence interview questions, you can significantly improve the quality of communication and respect in your workplace by bringing in employees who possess the five key elements of emotional intelligence. A worker who’s emotionally intelligent can work well with others, communicate clearly, have a positive impact on clients and customers, behave appropriately at the office and avoid office drama by navigating personal situations intelligently.


Effective emotional intelligence interview questions

To successfully hire employees who are emotionally intelligent, you’ll need to take time to curate emotional intelligence interview questions that reflect the qualities you’re seeking for the person who fills the role. There’s a broad spectrum of questions you can ask to assess a candidate’s intelligence across the five elements of EI.


Questions for assessing self-awareness

  • Think of a coworker you don’t necessarily get along with. How would they describe you?
  • Who is one person you’d never want to give me as a reference and why?
  • Describe a time when you considered blaming someone else for a problem or error instead of dealing with it yourself.
  • Tell me about a time you believed you were right but later changed your mind based on new information.
  • What was the last sensitive conversation you had in the workplace? How did you handle this?

Questions for assessing self-regulation

  • How do you unwind after a stressful day at work?
  • Have you ever partaken in meditation or breathwork? Is this something you implement daily?
  • How do you stay focused on your personal goals and ambitions?
  • What’s your favorite way to spend your lunch hour?
  • What’s something you like to do to make time for yourself?

Questions for assessing motivation

  • When you have extra time at work, do you ever take steps to make your workflow more efficient or easier? How?
  • What motivates you to go to work on a daily basis?
  • If you find your work repetitive or uninteresting, how do you motivate yourself to continue with accuracy?
  • Tell me about a time you were struggling to meet a tight deadline. How did you stick to the deadline?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you believe this role will help you get there?
  • How do you challenge yourself to improve at your role over the long term?
  • (For managerial positions) Tell me about a time you motivated other team members to step into a new role or improve their work ethic. How did you go about doing this?

Questions for assessing empathy

  • Can you tell me about yourself?
  • How’s your relationship with your colleagues from your previous role?
  • What’s your reaction when someone in the workplace comes to you for assistance? Does this change if you’re having a busy day?
  • What things or people inspire you? Why?
  • What are some of your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Would you describe yourself as a team player?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • Would you describe yourself as helpful?
  • How do you handle delivering bad news?
  • How do you handle criticism? Tell me about a time you received constructive feedback and implemented it successfully.
  • Would you describe yourself as optimistic?
  • Is there anyone in your current workplace who challenges you to be better at your job?
  • Everyone has bad days. How do you deal with negative emotions?
  • Why do you want to leave your current job?

Questions for assessing social skills

  • Tell me about a time you had to work with someone you didn’t like or didn’t trust. How did you handle that?
  • How do you build relationships in a new workplace?
  • Describe a conflict you’ve had in the workplace. How did you resolve it? Or was it ever resolved?
  • Can you tell me about a time you persuaded someone to agree to your idea or plan of action? How did you go about doing this?
  • How important do you believe your personal relationship with your coworkers is?
  • How do you feel about team building and office social events?

Assessing candidates’ answers to emotional intelligence questions

A candidate’s answers to emotional intelligence questions can tell you a lot about how they’ll perform as a member of your team, but you need to know what to look for in their answers.


With interview questions for assessing self-awareness, you’re looking for answers that indicate the individual has a sense of who they are and how others perceive them. To some, this may seem like a basic skill, but a surprising number of people in the workforce lack the emotional intelligence to understand how their actions come off to others, which can create friction and workplace drama.


Questions regarding self-regulation help you determine how an employee handles themselves emotionally. Their responses to these questions can be a good indicator of how they deal with stress, which is useful to know if you’re hiring for a fast-paced work environment. You’ll want to hear mature, reasonable answers that indicate a healthy relationship with the self and knowledge of stress coping strategies.


Questions for assessing motivation are useful for eliminating candidates who aren’t applying for the right reasons or may lack the work ethic to succeed in your company. Answers from ideal candidates should indicate the ability to take initiative, a desire to succeed, a willingness to learn and a plan for the future.


When asking questions that assess the empathetic aspect of EI, you’re looking for several qualities. Naturally, you want an empathetic employee who’s capable of understanding others and communicating with them in a way that achieves results. However, you’re also evaluating a person’s confidence level with these types of questions to determine how they carry themselves, whether they’re a leader and how they view their own ability to perform.


Questions for assessing social skills will tip you off to whether a candidate has the desired interpersonal skills needed for success in the workplace. You’ll want to listen for keywords like team player, collaborator, social, communicative and other terms that indicate the person values positive working relationships.


By interviewing for emotional intelligence, you’re hiring employees who go beyond the basic hard skills of the job. When you look for soft skills and interpersonal abilities in the people you hire, you bring a long-term worker on board who has the potential to grow, transition and move up in the company, building your brand and strengthening your team.

Post a Job

Ready to get started?

Post a Job

*Indeed provides this information as a courtesy to users of this site. Please note that we are not your recruiting or legal advisor, we are not responsible for the content of your job descriptions, and none of the information provided herein guarantees performance.