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How to assess emotional intelligence before hiring

Before 18 months is up in a new job, almost 50% of employees will fail due to lower emotional intelligence

Those with lower emotional intelligence struggle to comprehend or handle their emotions and can’t interpret others’. There is evidence of this in the workplace where people lack positivity, can’t handle stress, blame others, don’t satisfy colleagues’ and customers’ needs and so on.

When recruiting, interview time is short and applicants’ emotional intelligence is difficult to determine. If you are armed with strong interview questions and know the correct (and incorrect) answers, you can ascertain whether the candidate is able to get beyond negativity or establish that they are typically positive, confident and flexible.

Next are two open-ended questions (and actual answers) for interview to gauge emotional intelligence.

Q: Describe a time when you made a mistake at work

Those low on emotional intelligence generally avoid accepting blame for mistakes they made. In contrast, candidates who are aware that it’s acceptable for errors to occur if they admit to the mistakes, work with colleagues to avoid repeats and navigate the situation are the ones to recruit.

It’s simple to see which of these responses is right and wrong:

A customer told me a report I produced had been done wrong. I’d always done it that way previously without anyone saying anything. I looked in to it, discovered the instructions hadn’t been documented and the staff member who told me to run the report that way had left the business. Being blamed for somebody else’s error made me angry so from then on I made sure I protected myself from this happening in the future.

When there was a production line issue I asked for the entire system to be closed off. The fix was lengthy and, meanwhile, I discovered that a colleague could have rectified the issue thus minimising production downtime. Looking back, I see that I took a call on things very quickly due to feeling overwhelmed. It was embarrassing that I didn’t think about all the potential solutions but it’s something I’ve learned from.

Q: Describe an instance when your boss gave you negative feedback

People with high levels of emotional intelligence build thick skins so they can take and use criticism while being confident in their own abilities, self-aware and open minded. In contrast, those with lower levels of emotional intelligence are easily offended and can act defensively if given negative feedback. Again, these actual answers give clear examples of each end of the spectrum.

I was taken by surprise when my manager said something negative to me about how I behaved at work. I asked her for more details yet she couldn’t give me any examples of this supposed behaviour, so then dropped the issue. I felt furious about the incident.

I spent ages getting a training session ready. My boss told me he thought I’d gone into too much detail and hadn’t kept the presentation top level enough. I was surprised and disheartened by the comments yet took it on board as beneficial feedback. I hadn’t catered the session to the audience and had included too much irrelevant information. I made sure that this changed for future training sessions.

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