How to Tell if a Potential Hire Has Emotional Intelligence

Tom Gimbel (@TomGimbel) is founder & CEO of LaSalle Network, a national staffing and recruiting firm headquartered in Chicago.

People with emotional intelligence (EQ) have many characteristics that make them great employees. They have the ability to work with different personalities. They’re empathetic. They’re diffusers and have the patience to listen to all sides when resolving an issue, whether it’s with a client or between co-workers. They want to invest the time into building relationships with clients and colleagues. They are self-aware. They are curious and want to continue learning and growing.

Ultimately, people with EQ make for great leaders, which is why it’s important to have people with EQ in your leadership pipeline. However, they’re not always the easiest to identify. Here are five telltale signs of EQ to look for during an interview.

They own failures. Emotionally intelligent people don’t shy away from a failure. They are forthright and willing to share how they messed up. They understand that by publicly acknowledging their own errors, co-workers are able to learn and grow as a result. They don’t let pride get in the way of helping the company learn and grow.

They are reflective. People with EQ reflect on every situation and consider the impact it had on everyone involved. Whether it’s an hour later or during their commute home, they replay something that happened during the day in their head and think through how it could have gone differently. If, the next day, someone approaches them about it, they’re not caught off-guard because they’ve already run through all possible scenarios. Ask the candidate to explain what being reflective means to them and whether or not they are.

They are natural leaders. People with EQ don’t wait until they’re asked to help a co-worker; they just do it. Plus, because they understand how to work well with different personalities, they’re likable and people naturally gravitate toward them. During the interview, ask the candidate how they’ve been a leader. Did they mentor a new hire without being asked? Have they owned a project pitched in a staff meeting and rallied a team around it without being asked to?

They focus on the “how.” People with EQ don’t just answer with the “what” but they expand on the “how.” They explain what process they improved or what stressful situation they handled, but don’t stop there. They expand on how it impacted them, their team and the company. They focus on the emotional impact.

They are great at resolving personnel issues. Those with EQ thrive on solving people issues. By being self-aware, they have the ability to remove any personal preference when helping co-workers through an argument or dealing with hostile client. They don’t walk into the situation with an opinion but understand each side’s arguments and are able to help everyone come to a resolution as a completely unbiased third-party.

By focusing on emotional intelligence during the interview, the hire you’re contemplating has the potential to impact not only his or her position in your company, but they can make those around them more effective and more fulfilled in their jobs.


Mar 12, 2017 10:00 pm ET  – The Wall Street Journal