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How to Hire for Emotional Intelligence

Why worry about Emotional Intelligence?

Although measurable intelligence such as GPA, certifications, and credits are essential within the workforce, there is a type of priceless intelligence that cannot be easily calculated: emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to communicate feelings and to be aware of other’s emotions. A team of individuals with high educational experience and low emotional intelligence simply cannot be productive as a unit. The lack of ability to handle personal obstacles, inspire coworkers, work with others toward a common goal, and avoid unnecessary stress are all downfalls of hiring an employee that lacks this realm of understanding. As the world moves towards more technology and less social skills, we are seeing less emotionally intelligent workers while the ones that do have a high EI are not being hired.

How has Emotional Intelligence been overlooked?

Resumes are often scanned based on GPA, test scores, expensive schools, and pedigree. Even though these things should be sought after and are extremely important characteristics of an employee– they are not the only requirements that need to be considered. No amount of schooling or training can give an employee the ability to be trusted by their peers and to be self-aware. A high GPA will reflect in certain work areas but a lack of emotional intelligence and social skills will prevent any client from desiring to work with this employee. If all of your employees have been assessed for technical skills but lack the ability to assume personal responsibility your business still cannot be trusted with them. How will the company operate punctually if the majority of employees cannot comprehend working as a team towards a common goal? A true team member with a high emotional intelligence is rare-to-find but when one is discovered, there is a huge return on investment.

In recent years, employers are beginning to understand the mistake of ignoring EI as an asset for their organization. As the business environment is continuously evolving, an employee with great emotional intelligence is essential to a company who seeks to network and grow. A recent World Economic Forum report has predicted that Emotional Intelligence will become one of the top ten skills for employees by 2020. Business leaders have cited that benefits of hiring individuals with a high EI produce increased motivation, boosted morale, improved collaboration, and increased leadership. However, as business professionals are becoming increasingly aware of the need for emotional intelligence, there is still a struggle of assessing an individual for these soft skills. You can hire for emotional intelligence, but the idea on how to accomplish this successfully is not as well-known.

How to Interview for Emotional Intelligence:

Don’t use personality tests. Typically, these kinds of tests only measure personality traits which can confuse an interviewer to think different personality types directly correlate to levels of emotional intelligence. Despite common stereotypes, someone who is rather introverted can have a higher level of EI than someone who seems to branch out more socially and vice versa.

Don’t use a self-report test. This method of measuring EI is almost a total waste of time because someone who isn’t self-aware cannot honestly assess themselves.


Do speak to their references. Instead of simply reading reference letters, speak to the references directly and ask them how the candidate handles specific difficult situations. Try to get details on how the potential employee interacts with others around them.

Do interview based on EI. Many employers believe that they are currently interviewing for EI, but they are confused on how to do this with success. To accurately assess EI, one cannot allow the candidate to be vague in their answers. Stray away from broad questions, and stick to behavioral event interviewing.

With behavioral event interviewing, the candidate has less of a chance to give a vague answer that is based on how they want to view themselves, and not actually on how they behave in real situations. The purpose is to determine what motivates the candidate and to access complete scenarios that reveal their thought patterns and actions in difficult events. Through this information, an interviewer can learn of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and how they are utilized in their employment.

Tips for Behavioral Event Interviewing:

Make the candidate comfortable. In order for there to be a possibility of a transparent conversation, the interviewer must make the experience light, warm, and familiar.

Ask a few easy questions about their background. Don’t start off with the hard questions. The candidate needs to feel confident going into the deeper conversation and not feeling like they are being probed.

Ask the candidate to describe a successful situation. Encourage them to share of a situation where they are proud of themselves and they deemed themselves successful. First, go over the story quickly. Then go over the story with them again where specific questions are asked on how they felt, thought, and did for themselves and to others in the situation. From this information you should be able to read what motivates them in the workplace and how they treat their coworkers in their own success.

Ask them to recall a specific failure. Ask your candidate to describe a situation where they failed. Again, go over it quickly and then ask for more specific details. Gauge whether they have self-accountability or blame others for their failures through these questions without asking them directly. You can see how the candidate handles stress, how they view others in difficult situations, and how they manage emotions which all calculate EI.

Finish with discussing another positive story. You want the candidate to leave feeling good about the interview and about you.

Though behavioral event interviewing is more time consuming than a standard interview, there is a much higher payoff when the importance of emotional intelligence is weighed in. Once you find a candidate that fits your company profile along with a deeper understanding of others and themselves, you will see that they work more efficiently and cohesively with their team around them. With the quickly changing business field around us it is essential to not ignore the priceless qualities of what makes a great employee.

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