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10 Interview Questions to Determine Emotional Intelligence

As an employer, who you hire into the organisation is one of the key determinants of business success. Interview processes only offer a limited time to ascertain if the individual has the requisite skills to perform the role, and whether or not they will fit into the company culture. Cultural fit and one’s ability to get on well with colleagues and clients will be predominantly driven by their emotional intelligence. Whilst emotional intelligence is a crucial ingredient, it is notoriously hard to test during an interview.

Our top 10 emotional intelligence questions will help you to draw this out and get into the mindset of the individual and understand how they think. These are by no means trick questions, but they are designed to be less likely prepared for, and therefore you are increasing the probability of receiving a genuine rather than a ‘scripted’ answer.


1 – During a period of organisational change, where the strategy is changing, and so are individual objectives – how would you realign?


Change is inevitable and necessary for organisations who want to succeed in today’s fast moving global economy. Some individuals struggle with change and can drag their heels when anything affects the status quo. The ideal candidate first seeks to understand the change, evaluates it, incorporates the change, and then presses ahead with renewed focus.


2 – What inspires you and why?


This question could result in so many answers but at its route it is seeking to understand what motivates somebody, which is a valuable thing to know about your potential future employee. Why? Because it will help you to know how to motivate them and ensure they are successful.


3 – What quality do you value most in a manager you work for?


There are lots of good responses to this question which would exhibit emotional intelligence. In fact this is one where you are more likely to be looking for any concerning answers such as, ‘I value a manager who just keeps out of my way day to day.’ Perhaps a more emotionally intelligent way to provide the same theme of answer would be, ‘I value a manager who trusts me enough in my role to allow me to oversee day to day activities, but spends time with me periodically so I can gain management oversight and feedback.’


4 – Do you maintain friendships from places you have worked previously?


You are not looking for someone to have made best friends at every former employment. However it is a good test to see if someone was well liked and formed ongoing alliances/friendships.


5 – Can you think of something complex that you do in your job role and explain that as you would to a student intern?


This is a hugely attractive skill and it is an art to explain something complex in a simple way without it being perceived as patronising. An empathetic individual will often check in with the person they are explaining to, just to make sure they are understanding and have no questions to aid understanding.


6 – What has frustrated you most thus far in your career?


This question could prompt a wide array of responses and it is seeking a view of something that prompted a negative emotion, which the interviewee may quite naturally feel nervous to expose. However it is normal to feel frustrated and an emotionally intelligent candidate will likely volunteer how they went onto manage the frustration, and/or turn it into a positive outcome.


7 – What skill/expertise do you feel you want to work on in the short term?


This question is trying to ascertain if the individual has a good grasp of their own skill set and where they feel there is room for improvement. An individual who says they have no areas for improvement may not be an ideal hire!


8 – What one thing has provided you with the most career success thus far?


There are many answers to this question but an emotionally intelligent individual would likely pause for a moment and consider the question before providing a genuine and thoughtful response.


9 – If you had a new team member who was a peer and you noticed that they were doing things incorrectly, what would you do?


Clearly the type of role and the particular errors will determine the course of action, but where possible you would expect the interviewee to say they would attempt to pick up a mentoring role and assist the new team member. Of course, if that was unsuccessful it may be appropriate to speak with a manager.


10 – On a day in the past when you woke up not feeling like you could face work – what made you feel like that and how did you address it?


Steve Jobs famously said, “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” Self-awareness is very important and the ability to assess what might be playing on one’s mind and to find a proactive and positive way to address it is key.


Hopefully we have provided you with some good ideas for questions that you can use in an interview to gauge emotional intelligence. As Daniel Goleman, noted psychologist and author of Emotional Intelligence, reminds us, “Emotional intelligence accounts for 80 percent of career success.” 

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10 interview questions to determine emotional intelligence


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