As the job market becomes more competitive, employers have turned to measuring soft skills in order to determine which candidates will make the best impact on their organization. One of the most important and highly sought-after soft skills is emotional intelligence. The simplest version of emotional intelligence states that it is the way a person perceives emotions and uses these perceptions to react.

A popular model of emotional intelligence breaks the concept up into categories that include self-awareness, social skills, self-regulation, motivation, and empathy. All of these traits are credited towards high levels of leadership, teamwork, work ethic, and overall job performance. While some employers may use surveys to determine emotional intelligence levels, it is becoming much more common for interviewers to ask pointed questions meant to judge emotional intelligence. To help you ace your next interview, we’ve compiled several common interview questions geared towards emotional intelligence and show you how to best answer them.

Q: Tell me about one of your greatest achievements.

How to answer: While this question can incorporate past relevant experience, it is not intended to judge your skillset. Interviewers asking this question are likely looking to see if you feel your successes are solely based on your work or if you recognize that other people and factors have contributed to your achievements. When answering this question, briefly recognize the support you received from colleagues or the circumstances which made your achievement possible, as well as how you individually contributed to the success. This will show that you’re proud of your achievements, as well as recognize the importance of teamwork (which will highlight leadership qualities). Additionally, speaking about an achievement that positively impacted others signals strong emotional intelligence.

Q: Which type of people should I hire for this position, and why?

How to answer: It may be your instinct to ramble off textbook qualifications for the role you are applying for, but the question asks which type of people should be hired. The interviewer is looking for you to outline which values you feel are important for an employee to have, providing insight into the type of person you strive to be. While strong work ethic and assertiveness are both great traits, be sure to mention values like trustworthiness and reliability which implies interaction with other people.

Q: Explain something new to me. Or teach me something I don’t know.

How to answer: This question can be unnerving because you are suddenly being forced to rack your brain for some skill or game that you know and your interviewer doesn’t. However, your interviewer is worrying less about what you decide to teach or explain to them; they are focusing more on the way you approach them with new information. Have a positive, open energy while explaining something new. Being approachable and handling confusion well is a sign that you will make a good leader, especially in a senior role. Asking questions about the interviewer’s level of understanding throughout the “lesson” can also show you are an empathetic person who genuinely cares about subordinates’ success.

Q: Who is someone you admire or are inspired by?

How to answer: This question is essentially asking who you aim to be like. You may answer this question with a well-known figure or someone you know personally. In both instances talk in-depth about that person’s values and how it relates to their successes. Basing your answer solely on statistics about a person’s life or newsworthy achievements makes you seem strictly outcome-focused, showing weak emotional intelligence. The person you choose may rely on their excellent interpersonal skills or be known to work independently, however, you should be aware that your interviewer will consider this factor and potentially make a judgment about your work preferences.

Q: Can you tell me about some of the positive relationships you formed at your last job?

How to answer: You can answer this question referencing a multitude of different professional relationships; it is simply meant to judge your social skills. In order to show your emotional intelligence in its best light, it is wise to reference both a mentoring relationship and a friendship that you formed with a colleague. The ability to take instruction well and form workplace relationships shows that you have strong social skills and basic empathy. Both traits are sought after in an employee that will work as part of a team.

Q: What industry experience are you missing? Or where are your qualifications lacking?

How to answer: The first thing to remember when answering this question is that it’s not a personal attack; the interviewer is testing your self-awareness. You may be prepped for a question asking about your weaknesses but this one is a bit different because it does not allow you to immediately reconcile your shortcomings by putting a positive spin on them. Provide a straightforward answer to this question that doesn’t hurt your candidacy. It is best to say that you feel you should have a stronger skillset in something or a greater knowledge of something. Choose an answer that shows you recognize you still have opportunities to learn and grow. Furthermore, emphasize your willingness to close the gaps where your experience or qualifications do not meet your personal expectations. Answering in this way will prove motivation and self-awareness.

Q: Tell me about a time you had a horrible commute to or from work.

How to answer: The key to answering this question is proving you have excellent self-regulation skills. A lousy commute to work can offset anyone’s day, putting them in a bad mood or affecting their work. This is your opportunity to show your interviewer that you can recognize your frustrations and channel your negative energy into positive or neutral actions. In your story, paint yourself as a proactive person who found a way to make use of the time stuck on a train or found a new route to work after being trapped in a gridlocked highway. Even if you had no way to be proactive during your commute, be sure to mention coping mechanisms like talking to a friend – so that the interviewer knows you recognize and can contain your negative emotions during frustrating situations.

Emotional Intelligence

Questions meant to judge emotional intelligence may seem daunting because they cannot be answered factually or with the help of past industry experience. However, determining why an employer is asking the question can be a bit helpful. Remain genuine in your answers, but take a minute to understand what the interviewer is seeking. This will help to develop your answers and allow you to further display your emotional intelligence in its best light.

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