How to Hire and Interview for EQ

With the demands of today’s rapid change in business it can be a challenge for even the best leaders and employees to keep from responding reactively and even keeled.  Applicants who tote a steady string of successes may actually be indicating they are over-confident or invincible, which may impair their ability to take calculated risks or imply they may do damage to others and the business in pursuit of their personal gain.

A recent study by the University of Toronto suggests it is more important to assess a candidates ability to accept the reality of business challenges, including failures, and move forward efficiently without judgement and with the appropriate emotional regulation.

Understanding the relationship between mindfulness and decision making can be very significant, especially amongst business leaders.

In this abstract “two case studies from major American investment firms are offered as contrasting examples of the successful and less successful leadership of financial organizations during the recent credit crisis.”

“A connection is offered between these two phenomena: that those holding the role of ‘financial leader’ are vulnerable to seeking relief from the psychological tension of managing the complexity of investment risk while focusing intently on the need to realize profits.”

In other words, the pressures associated with responsibility, title, expectation or crisis can spawn a series of coping mechanisms that can significantly impact business results and impact other employees.

In the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves a clear correlation between performance and the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups (EQ) is boldly placed in higher regards than assessing a candidates actual intelligence (IQ).

As it would turn out, conducting more interviews is not the way to assess EQ in a particular candidate but rather it is about conducting the right kind of interview.   According to Adele B. Lynn, author of The EQ Interview: Finding Employees with High Emotional Intelligence, there are better ways to conduct the interview to assess a candidate’s EQ and ensure they will be able to add value in response to the pressures of the role.

Adding value to the EQ Interview

  1. Self-awareness and self-regulation. The candidate understands the needs and wishes that drive him/her and how they affect his/her behavior. He/she regulates his/her emotions so that any fear, anger, or anxiety he/she experiences doesn’t spread to his/her colleagues or make him/her lose control.
  2. Reading others and recognizing the impact of his/her behavior on them. The candidate has well-developed emotional and social “radar” and can sense how his/her words and actions influence his/her colleagues.
  3. The ability to learn from mistakes. He/she can acknowledge his/her mistakes, reflect critically upon them, and learn from them.

Example Questions for EQ Interview

1. Self-awareness and self-regulation

  • Can you tell me about a time when your mood affected your performance, either negatively or positively?
  • Tell me about a conflict you had with a peer, direct report, or boss–how did it start and how did it get resolved?
  • A manager has to maintain a productive, positive tone even when she’s anxious about a business threat. How have you been able to do this in previous positions?

2. Reading others and recognizing the impact of his behavior on them

  • Tell me about a time when you did or said something that had a negative impact on a customer, peer, or direct report. How did you know the impact was negative?
  • Have you ever been in a business situation where you thought you needed to adjust your behavior? How did you know and what did you do?

3. The ability to learn from mistakes

  • Have you ever been in a situation where you felt you needed to modify or change your behavior? How did you know? How have you been able to take lessons learned from that situation and apply them to another?
  • Tell me about a situation when you discovered that you were on the wrong course. How did you know? What did you do? What, if anything, did you learn from the experience?

Additional Resources

For existing employees, many companies are responding by supporting mindfulness practices as part of wellness programs.

See also about Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” program.

It is apparent that the relationship between mindfulness and business outcomes continues to be a significant emerging trend and considering the fact that the US work stress continues to be on the rise, this is one trend likely to continue to a focus for many years to come.

For additional insight into how to develop emotional intelligence or into the mindful hire see also The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.

What do you think? Is mindfulness an essential skill for the workplace?  And, what other programs, techniques or information have you discovered on the topic?

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Cameron Comstock

Cameron Comstock is a leader with The Hartford who specializes in driving virtual employee engagement and management innovation. He is is an expert at leveraging contemporary communication methodology to drive high levels of collaboration aimed at solving business problems and cultural transformation. Connect with Cameron.


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