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How do you Identify Candidates with High Emotional Intelligence?

As society and the workplace become more service-oriented, it is increasingly critical to recognize the value of Emotional Intelligence and learn how to identify and hire candidates with a high Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ).

Research has shown that EQ competencies account for 80 percent of the competencies that directly correlate to success in the workplace. Here are a few of the key benefits that highly emotionally intelligent employees can bring to your organization:

  • High EQ employees are more productive remote workers

  • High EQ employees typically have high leadership potential

  • High EQ leaders have less turnover among their teams

  • High EQ employees resolve conflict rather than start it

  • High EQ employees communicate more effectively

  • High EQ employees are more effective at building trust among their peers

What are the Major EQ Competencies?

There are five major EQ competencies:

  • Empathy

  • Relationship management

  • Self-awareness

  • Self-management

  • Social awareness

How do you Find Out if a Candidate has EQ Competencies?

Each of these competencies is associated with key related behaviors. Asking the right interview questions will help you identify and hire high EQ candidates with competencies that help build a great culture in your company.


Empathy in the workplace can be defined as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. Employees who are empathic take an active interest in the emotions and concerns of others around them. These employees can sense others’ development and support needs and bolster their abilities or confidence. They put judgment aside, encourage engaged conversations, and generally help others feel valued and understood.

Use these two behavioral interview questions to target empathy:

  1. Describe a time when you had to deliver difficult news to someone. Who was it and how did you go about it? What was the outcome?

  2. Tell me about a time when you were sensitive to another person’s reaction in an emotional or tense situation. What did you do? What was the outcome?

Relationship Management

Relationship management in the workplace can be defined as the ability to develop, maintain, and strengthen partnerships with others, both inside and outside the organization. Relationship management skills enable employees to identify and nurture mutually beneficial interactions with others who can provide information, assistance, and support. Employees with strong relationship management skills are comfortable asking questions to identify shared interests, experiences, or other common ground. They are interested in what others have to say; acknowledge their perspectives and ideas; express gratitude and appreciation to others who assist them; and they readily offer assistance, information, and support to others.

Use these two behavioral interview questions to target relationship management:

  1. Give me an example of a key relationship you built that positively impacted your work goals.

  2. Tell me about a time when you had to build a successful relationship with a key person who has been difficult for others to work with. What was the situation, and what did you do to try and build the relationship? How did you work with this key person?


Self-awareness in the workplace is the ability to recognize one’s own emotions and their effect on performance. Self-awareness means awareness of one’s own personal strengths and limitations, together with genuine desire to receive feedback to improve.

Employees with high self-awareness exhibit awareness of their own emotions and are able to manage their effect on situations and other people. They can also accurately self-assess and are adept at conveying ideas and opinions confidently and with a positive impact on others. They display confidence in their own decisions or opinions with the ability to handle failures constructively, and possesses the confidence of being suited for the job and accomplishing the tasks involved.

Use these two behavioral interview questions to target self-awareness:

  1. Tell me about a time when something you did or said had a positive impact on a coworker, a customer, or an employee.

  2. Tell me about a time when you were surprised by criticism you received. What was the criticism and why were you surprised?


Self-management in the workplace can be defined as controlling or redirecting one’s emotions and anticipating consequences before acting on impulse.

Key behaviors of self-management in the workplace are Emotional Control/Self Control; Adaptability; Achievement Orientation; Positive Outlook; Initiative.

Use these two behavioral interview questions to target self-management:

  1. Tell me about a time when your workload was causing you to feel stressed. What did you do? What was the outcome?

  2. Give me an example of a time at work when you had to temper your enthusiasm for something.


Social-awareness in the workplace can be defined as managing relationships, inspiring others, and inducing desired responses from them. Socially aware people exhibit empathy; service-orientation; organizational awareness; situational awareness.

Use these two behavioral interview questions to target social-awareness:

  1. Tell me about a time when you realized a conversation wasn’t going very well. What did you do? (Check to see if the candidate was able to redirect the conversation for a better outcome.)

  2. Tell me about a time when you rejected a team member’s ideas or opinions. What was the situation and how did you communicate your disapproval? What potential issues did you need to bear in mind as you conveyed your opinion? What was the outcome?

Emotionally intelligent employees and leaders, and a strong culture of emotional intelligence, are key to a company’s resilience, strength, and overall growth in the years to come. Focus on identifying and hiring for emotional intelligence with every candidate that you interview. Hopefully the items discussed in this blog will be helpful to you in your hiring process.


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