How to Show Off Your Emotional Intelligence in a Job Interview

Emotional intelligence. Experts say you have to have it to be successful. But what is it? And how can you show you potential employer you have it during the course of a 30-minute job interview?

emotional intelligence

First, it helps to understand what it is. Emotional intelligence is a measure of your ability to understand and control you own emotions as well as understand the emotions of others. An easier way to think of it is: emotional intelligence is your people smarts. Are you someone who plays well with others or are you the kid who doesn't get along with anyone else in the sandbox?

Your potential employer wants to know the answer to this question because it can indicate how well you'll do working as part of a team or if you'll be a challenge to work with.

A study by Leadership IQ found that 46 percent of new hires fail within the first 18 months, and it's not because they don't have the skills for the job. Rather, they fail because they don't have good interpersonal skills. The study found that 26 percent of new hires failed because they couldn't accept feedback, 23 percent due to poor emotional control, and 17 percent because of a lack of motivation. An additional 15 percent failed because they didn't have the right temperament for the job.

These problems are all markers of poor emotional intelligence.

Low Emotional Intelligence

People with low emotional intelligence can be challenging coworkers. To avoid hiring a problem candidate, many hiring managers will actually ask behavioral questions designed to gauge your emotional intelligence during an interview. These are typically questions about how you handled a challenge at work, what motivates you, or how you handle negative feedback. Your answers to these questions can give the interviewer a pretty good idea of whether you possess the traits aligned with emotional intelligence, or if this is an area where you're lacking.

To answer these questions well you've got to understand some of the main traits associated with emotional intelligence and what the hiring manager may be looking for.

When screening for emotional intelligence your interviewer will want to know:

Are You Self-Aware?

Do you have a good grip on your own strengths and shortcomings? To assess this trait, an interviewer might ask you a question we all dread: "What is your greatest weakness?"

Your hiring manager wants to know that you know you aren't perfect, that you're willing to acknowledge your shortcomings to others, and that you can take constructive criticism and use it to improve. If you won't open up at all during the interview and blame problems on others, it may be a sign you lack emotional intelligence.

Can You Control Your Emotions?

An employee with high emotional intelligence can remain calm and composed at work and doesn't feel overwhelmed by their own emotions, whether it's anxiety, stress, or fear. A hiring manager is going to look for evidence in your answers that you're able to think before you act and that your emotions don't drive your behavior.

Can You Self-Motivate and Work Toward Long-Term Goals?

The interviewer will be looking for evidence that you possess the initiative and dedication to set and follow through on goals that are important to you. Talk about projects where you demonstrated this trait or personal accomplishments in the same vein.self-motivate and work toward long-term goals?

Can You Understand and Empathize with Others?

Being able to work well with others and as part of a team requires an ability to understand the emotions of others and to see things from their point of view. A person in tune with the emotions of others is someone who listens and respectfully disagrees without belittling. Talking about how everyone at your last job had terrible ideas may be a tip-off that you lack this skill.

Do you have the ability to work with others?

The hiring manager wants to know you're a team player. Give him or her examples of times you worked successfully as part of a team. In addition, it may help to speak about your accomplishments in terms of we, not I, recognizing the contributions of those that helped you achieve different goals. He or she will also want to hear about your experiences resolving conflicts successfully and see evidence of your leadership abilities.

Keep in mind, demonstrating these traits doesn't just involve giving examples of your behavior, you'll also be judged on your behavior during the interview. Arrogance, talking over the interviewer, interrupting, or going off on your own tangent without answering the questions you were asked can all be red flags to an interviewer. You should also remember to be aware of your body language. Aggressive posture or lack of eye contact are signs your social skills may be lacking.

Remember, demonstrating high emotional intelligence isn't just about what you say—it's about how you behave. In an interview, your words and behavior can speak volumes about your emotional intelligence. Make sure they're conveying the message you want to send.

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