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INTERVIEWING: EQ Interview Skills for Managers

lisa 1.1webIn our morning WAM meeting (Weekly Action Meeting), I was sharing the focus of this week’s blog. One co-worker commented, “Just tell people to please refrain from asking questions like “if you could be any flavor of ice cream, which flavor would you be?”  Hmmm……I thought to myself, “peppermint stick.” Oh dear, what does that say about me? That I like pink or that I’ve been watching one too many Christmas DVDs with my daughter? Does it say anything about my ability to be successful on the job? I don’t think so, but, please, chime in here if you see it differently.

How often in our interview process do we ask favorite questions because they are “easy, fun or interesting,” but don’t really give us good information as to the best person to hire? In today’s economy, where you post a job opening and get thousands of resumes, how DO you distinguish between so many seemingly top candidates? How do you measure who is going to be an asset to your organization in the long haul versus someone who will leave in six months with all those training dollars going out the door? How do you minimize the cost of poor hiring and make the right decision?

Daniel Goleman, the author of the groundbreaking 1995 book who coined the term Emotional Intelligence, says, “The research shows that for jobs of all kinds, emotional intelligence is twice as important an ingredient of outstanding performance as ability and technical skills combined. The higher you go in the organization, the more important these qualities are for success. When it comes to leadership, they are almost everything.”

In the September 2010 issue of Harvard Business Review, Gilkey, Caceda and Kilts noted that in a recent study around strategic thought, their best strategic performers actually used the areas of the brain associated with “gut” responses, empathy and emotional intelligence more than in the prefrontal cortex, which is recognized as the center for solving problems and rational thinking. If they are correct, then focusing on EQ might be the right answer.

If you want to explore adding EQ to your interview process, consider:

1. Asking behavioral questions that measure a person’s emotional intelligence.

Behavioral questions are those questions that seek demonstrated examples of behavior from past experience as the best indicator of future success. In this instance, I would focus on areas that measure a candidate’s emotional intelligence, specifically, “the ability to recognize and understand emotions, and the skill at using this awareness to manage yourself and your relationships with others.” (Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, authors of the
Emotional Intelligence Quickbook).

EQ is based on personal competence – your ability to be self aware of your emotions and manage them and social competence – your ability to be aware of the emotions of others and use this awareness to better manage relationships with others.

Therefore, you could add any of these questions and probes (and add many more of your own):

a. Describe for me the emotions you experienced throughout your day yesterday. Tell me how those emotions affected your behavior throughout the day.
b. Tell me about a time when you asked for feedback from others. How did this come about and what did you do with the information?
c. Describe a time when you made a mistake on the job. What happened and how did you respond?
d. Tell me about your last job and what held meaning for you about that job.
e. Talk about your own values and how those values played out in the workplace in your behavior. Were some values easier to practice than others; which ones? How would you change your life to be able to practice these values more?
f. How have you constructively dealt with disappointment and turned it into a learning experience?
g. Describe what behavior you have used in the past to judge whether someone is trustworthy.
h. Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way. What was the top key to your success?
i. Tell me about a time when you had to make an unpopular decision. How did others react? How did you respond to that reaction?

2. Measuring Response

Once you have the questions formulated, a good behavioral interviewing process requires you to identify the quality of expected responses to each question on a scale of 1-5 so that you can measure the response. This is where it does get tricky since many of these competencies are harder to measure than your standard job competencies. 

As you can see, it’s not the content of the answer as much as it is having key elements in the answer that counts. It can be done even for these “soft skills” and you can determine a quality rating scale for a fair process.

So, what do you think? Are you convinced or have any of you tried it out? I’d love to hear from others who have been using EQ in the interviewing process and your results.

Enjoy a free download of our Behavioral Interview Guidebook to get started on the interview process. Remember to incorporate some of your EQ questions in your Behavioral Interview setup.

  • Our sincere thanks to New Directions Consulting. Your posts on emotional intelligence and behavioral interviewing are timely and relevant, and complement our coursework for preparing emerging leaders for careers of public affairs. We are using the Behavioral Interviewing Guidebook for seminars on emotional intelligence, supportive communication, teambuilding and problem solving.
    With our thanks and all best wishes,
    Joe Cerami, Ph.D.
    Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University

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