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Emotional Intelligence: The Most Overlooked Candidate Skill


The workplace is an interesting environment; a collection of different people who come together to work towards a common goal. To achieve success, everyone must get along and support each other.

But life is a roller coaster and humans are emotional creatures. The key is to understand your emotions and express them in a healthy way that is received well by others.

An emotionally intelligent person is someone whom can maintain an even-keeled demeanor. They keep their feelings in check so they don’t throw off the flow of the workplace.

When companies take EI into consideration when hiring and also help existing staff improve in this area, the result is more adaptable, collaborative and empathetic employees. Emotionally intelligent employees have a natural empathy for other people’s feelings, which makes them thrive in a team environment. They build trusting relationships and effectively communicate with co-workers and customers. They’re also aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, which means they’re usually more open to receiving feedback than employees with lower levels of social intelligence or emotional awareness.

When it comes to hiring emotionally intelligent people, unlike skills and work experience, a person’s ability to manage their feelings is hard to screen for.

So here are a few helpful questions to pose when interviewing, to help determine the capacity for emotional intelligence:

  • What skill or expertise do you feel like you’re still missing? Curiosity and the desire to learn are vital signs that a prospective employee wants to get better at something.
  • What has been your proudest professional moment?  A candidate with EI might regale you with a story about how their team completed a project against all the odds (or similar) awarding credit to everyone involved. They think in terms of other people, the team and the ‘we.’
  • Describe a time you had a positive impact on someone. Candidates with high EI will have a bank of answers to choose from, showing off their ability to see social cues and behavioural signs that someone might need help – and prove the ability and passion to actually do something about it.
  • Tell me about a workplace conflict you were involved in, either with your peers or someone else in the company. How did you manage that conflict, and were you able to resolve it? A great candidate will show understanding of why and how the issue occurred and how they resolved the situation fairly, sensitively and ensured that everyone involved was happy
  • Tell me about a day when everything went wrong. How did you handle it? Emotionally intelligent people know how to move on and examine a situation without bitterness or resentment clouding their judgment.
  • Describe a time when you had to adapt at work. EI people are good at understanding and empathising with others, they’re also usually very good at adapting their behaviours around different kinds of people to make them feel more comfortable/ happy.
  • Tell me about a hobby you like to do outside of work. Can you teach me about it? Emotionally intelligent people remain patient and calm when faced with a communication challenge. They can easily read social cues when their message isn't clearly getting across, and will deftly pivot their approach to meet the needs of their audience.
  • Can you tell me about a time you needed to ask for help on a project? Emotionally intelligent people will be transparent about their weak points, and will show a real drive to better themselves by collaborating and using all the resources available to them.

These EI interview questions will give a deeper understanding of a candidate’s ability to:

  • be aware of their own and other people’s emotions
  • recognise and regulate their behaviour
  • and manage their emotions to adapt to different environments.

These qualities are an important decision factor in a successful hire, because employees with high emotional and social intelligence:

  • collaborate effectively with their teammates
  • embrace open communication
  • and adapt well to change

By adopting and embedding this approach to hiring and growing employees with EI, the upside over the long-term will ultimately result in better team members, better leaders, and better performance.