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June 25, 2015

How to spot emotionally intelligent people in an interview

Daily Briefing

Editor's note: This story was updated on September 7, 2017.

Emotional intelligence has proven to be a stronger predictor of workplace success than IQ in multiple studies, but it remains a difficult trait to pinpoint during the hiring process, writes Fast Company's Harvey Deutschendorf.

Make sure you're asking the right interview questions

 According to research from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, 85% of financial success is because of "human engineering," personality, communication, negotiation, and leadership skills. Just 15% is because of technical ability.

"Everyone wants to work with people who are easy to get along with, supportive, likeable, and can be trusted," writes Deutschendorf. "The higher up the organization, the more crucial emotional intelligence abilities are as the impacts are greater and felt throughout the entire organization."

Deutschendorf offers four tips for identifying these individuals in the hiring process.

1. Watch for self-awareness. These candidates understand their drive, weaknesses, strengths, and emotions, and are willing to discuss themselves frankly and without becoming defensive. Often, they employ self-deprecating humor.

To spot self-awareness, ask about a time the candidate was carried away by emotion and regretted his or her actions. Watch out for people who dodge the question, become frustrated, or stall—those are all red flags.

2. Look for someone who can regulate their feelings. These individuals are able to respond to situations "from a place of reason" rather than emotion. They are often thoughtful, reflective, and comfortable with change, the unknown, and the ambiguous.

To spot people who can self-regulate, watch for interviewees who take time to think about their answer before responding to questions.

3. Search for someone with empathy. These people take others' feelings into consideration when speaking and acting.

To spot this quality, ask candidates about a time they dealt with a co-worker who was angry at them. Look for people who tried to understand the reason the co-worker was upset—even if they did not agree with it.

4. Look out for people with social skills. These individuals make for "excellent team players" who move projects along while staying in tune with others' feelings and responding to them.

To spot social skills, interview candidates about projects and challenges they have faced, such as poor team morale and attitudes (Deutchendorf, Fast Company, 6/22).

Make sure you're asking the right interview questions

The best way to know how candidates will perform at your organization is to ask them structured questions about how they handled past experiences—a technique known as behavioral-based interviewing (BBI).

Follow the six steps in our Behavioral-Based Interviewing Toolkit to design, introduce, and sustain BBI at your institution.

Access the Toolkit

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