No matter who you are or how experienced you might be, interviews always tend to get those anxiety butterflies fluttering. This is because we invest a lot of time researching companies, reviewing our experience and qualifications, and preparing for the potential questions we might be asked. It all starts to build up the feelings we might be having about being quizzed on being the right person for the job.
There are many common questions, such as ‘Tell me about your strengths’, alongside more specific ones related to the job at hand and your particular experience. But what about questions like ‘How do you handle setbacks in your job’ or ‘How do you go about supporting your team when there’s conflict?’
These questions might feel a bit more personal. They’re not trying to catch you out - they’re seeking to explore your Emotional Intelligence at Work.
What Do We Mean By ‘Emotional Intelligence Questions’?
Emotional intelligence is our ability to recognise, understand and regulate our emotions in response to various situations, triggers and stimuli.
Mayer and Salovey (1990) are credited with first developing the concept of emotional intelligence. Their developmental model devised sixteen steps that show the development of emotional intelligence from childhood to adulthood. The sixteen steps are divided into four main categories:
- The ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others accurately.
- The ability to use emotions to facilitate thinking.
- The ability to understand emotions, emotional language, and the signals conveyed by emotions.
- The ability to manage emotions to attain specific goals.
Emotional intelligence interview questions seek to uncover your level of emotional intelligence in relation to everyday workplace challenges or situations. These questions will essentially ask you about various situational or hypothetical scenarios to see how you would behave, engage, and react. Interviewers who use these types of questions want to understand how you regulate yourself and respond to others in workplace contexts.
It’s important to know that there are no real ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ answers when it comes to these questions. It’s only about you, how well you understand your emotional self-awareness, and your capacity to express this.
Possible Emotional Intelligence Interview Questions and Answers
Below I’ve picked out five possible emotional intelligence questions you could be asked, along with some guidance on what the question is trying to uncover, as well as some advice on answering them:
1. Who inspires you, and why?
More than an ice breaker question, this is seeking to understand what type of personality and approaches you respect and potentially want to emulate yourself. When answering this question, consider:
- The organisation’s culture and values: Who inspires you who exhibits similar values?
- Before suggesting someone, make sure you know really known about them and the individual's public profile: You don’t want to be aligning yourself with someone who may have said politically incorrect statements.
- Their capacity to build relationships and partnerships: Are they a team player more of a lone wolf? How could this be perceived in the context of the job you’re applying to?
2. How do you value friendships in the workplace?
This question looks to get a bit deeper into how you build relationships and what value you place on friendships as part of healthy workplace culture. So, in your answer, talk about:
- Whether you’re still friends with colleagues from past workplaces.
- Focus on the qualities that help you build relationships and demonstrate how this enables great co-working to achieve projects and goals.
- How friendships in the workplace have helped you achieve work-life balance.
- You can also see this as an opportunity to ask about the current culture and team.
3. What kind of behaviour makes you angry?
This is probably one of the trickiest questions! How exactly do you answer? Too much honesty could land you in hot water but denying you get annoyed or angry at work is unrealistic — we all do from time to time. When answering, consider:
- Your self-awareness for how you handle pet peeves: Having some pet peeves is fine, but they want to hear how you manage these professionally and proactively.
- Don’t talk negatively about specific people or organisations: Keep your answer general and focused on you and your self-awareness.
- Keep it light: Use humour to prevent this from getting too heavy. Talk about how you understand this particular frustration/pet peeve of yours is part of the role/industry and you’re proactive in not letting it get to you.
4. What is one of your proudest achievements?
This question wants to get to the heart of what’s important to you. How you answer can reveal a lot about what you see as success. In your answer, consider:
- Whether you want to pick a solo achievement or team achievement: Depending on the organisation and the role, which one you choose could be a real deal-breaker.
- Why this achievement was essential to you, and why it made you proud.
- How you achieved it: Tell a story highlighting any perseverance or resilience required to achieve it.
5. How do you recover from failure?
This question is a little double-edged. Firstly, they want to hear about a time you failed (never a comfortable topic) and how you overcame it. Essentially, they want to know how you bounce back from setbacks. In your answer, consider:
- Using a professional example rather than something too personal.
- Describe what went wrong without assigning blame, make sure you demonstrate appropriate ownership and introspection.
- Talk positively about how you overcame it: Who did you speak to? How did you reevaluate? What did you put in place for next time?
Emotional intelligence interview questions aren’t designed to catch you out, make you feel stupid, or prevent you from securing the opportunity you’re after. Instead, they are great questions to use outside of any context to help you develop your self-awareness for your emotional intelligence and uncover potential personal and professional growth areas.
Don’t wait for an opportunity to come along to sit down and reflect on what your answers might be to some of the questions included above. Your answers might surprise you.
Mayer, J. D. & Salovey, P. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.2190/DUGG-P24E-52WK-6CDG