Applying EI to the Interview
When hiring, it’s fair to say that some positions require more Emotional Intelligence than others. However, there are very few jobs in which a high level EQ does not give an advantage to an employee’s performance. If you want to make yourself more aware of how to identify a high EQ in the interview the easiest way is to hone on the four main ability types referenced earlier: perceiving emotions, using emotions, understanding emotions, and managing emotions.
The first ability type, perceiving emotions, you don’t necessarily have to screen for in an interview, as it’s more about the applicant’s own ability to perceive the emotions they are experiencing as a result of a particular trigger or stimulus. The remaining three ability types, using emotions, understanding emotions, and managing emotions, are where you want to put the emphasis in exploring how a candidate responds to a given situation.
Many behavioral questions you already have in use in the interview process can be used to identify if an applicant has a high EQ. For example: Tell me about a when there was conflict between you and a peer or manager? What caused the conflict and how did it get resolved?
Let’s start with managing emotions. Is the candidate self-aware? Do they know what their instinctual reaction to the situation is and are they able to self-regulate their emotions? A person with a high EQ will know how the particular triggers in the situation can negatively impact their behavior as well as how to regulate their emotions so they do not react in an irrational manner or allow any fear, anger, or anxiety they may be experiencing to spread to their counterpart.
Next is understanding emotions. Is the candidate able to read the situation and recognize the impact of their behavior on themselves and those around them? Can they stop and process the situation objectively before reacting? If the applicant can sense how their words or actions affect those around them, they are able to have a sense of the larger picture and can more strategically address a situation, often putting the needs of other before themselves.
Finally, using emotions. A person with a high EQ can process their understanding and management of their emotions to make effective, positive decisions in the given situation. A person who is still working towards developing a high EQ, might make mistakes in the process, but they can reflect critically on the situation. Both have the ability to learn from their mistakes or outcomes to apply their knowledge to future scenarios.
A person with a low EQ may take the route of blaming the other individual for the conflict, or to separate themselves from being a part of the solution rather than to empathize, find ways to problem solve, or build relationships.
If you want to come up with additional questions, try thinking about the 15 basic factors of EQ and build off of them. For example to explore an applicant’s assertiveness you might ask them to explain a time when they spoke up knowing that risks were involved in doing so. If you wanted to address flexibility you could request for them to provide a scenario when they had to be extremely adaptable under tight deadlines and what the outcome was. Asking the candidate to describe a situation in which they resisted temptation or did something they regretted can inform you about their impulse control.
The Candidate Perspective
As an applicant going into the job interview, being prepared to showcase your EI can benefit you even if the interviewer is not actively looking to figure out if you have a high EQ. If you can set aside preparation time to understand how you deal with issues like conflict or uncertainty, and learn to speak to issues from a more self-aware perspective, you will have a step up on the competition and be able to provide responses more in line with business objectives.
If you previously tended to get emotional in a workplace setting when conflict arose, learn what your triggers are and what you can do to proactively stop yourself from responding in a negative manner. Your emotional range is directly connected with your level of composure. (This is also good to be aware of in the interview where nerves or fear can have both positive and negative impacts depending on how self-aware you are.)
Develop techniques that allow you to stop and challenge your reactions by re-centering yourself and allowing you to choose better alternatives. This could mean taking a pause or deep breathe, developing a personal mantra or code word, or taking a few minutes to ask questions to understand someone else’s point of view.
Whether you have an high EQ already or want to improve your current EQ, once you are more mindful of what you are experiencing and what your triggers are, you can better speak to scenarios given to you in an interview. You will know yourself better, what you stand for, as well as what you have to offer to a position.
Being more self-aware can also allow you to work on your nonverbal communication that you give off in the interview. After all, many studies have shown that 90% of what we communicate at any given time is through non-verbal cues such as expressions, gestures, and posture, and not by what is said.
Practicing taking the 15 basic factors of EQ and describe to yourself how you can speak to each of them from your own experience and what examples or traits you have that showcase each one. Learning to speak to this will not only help you to be more prepared to speak confidently in the interview but provide you with a better understanding of yourself.
Taking a more thoughtful approach to the interview process by applying the basic principles of Emotional Intelligence can benefit everyone involved. Whether it’s making a better hire because of a more informed selection process or more fully understanding yourself to be sure the role you’re interviewing for is the right fit for your abilities, everyone can achieve more success when they allow their emotions to be their guide in a productive and positive way.
Robin L. Rayburn is the Editor & General Manager of Interviewing.com. Robin was introduced to the recruitment industry in 2007 and her passion for people has never let her stray far from it since. In her spare time she manages her blog, RestlessPillow.com, tweets from @interviewingcom and @chitowntexan, and is always striving to help those around her who have a vision for success. You can also find Robin on LinkedIn and Google+.