Catching the Star: Questions to Quickly Assess Emotional Intelligence


You may have read 500-point lists of qualities high-EQ people should necessarily possess. And probably saw 300-page descriptions of techniques to assess emotional intelligence during a candidate interview. We’ve prepared for you a very quick summary of the key qualities to pay attention to and questions to ask to identify your candidate’s EQ level.


As a business leader, you surely care about you team’s productivity.  And probably think how the people you are going to hire will influence the culture and internal climate of your company. As we wrote in the previous articles, the scientifically confirmed fact is that EQ to a great extent defines an employee’s job success.

For instance, psychologist David Goleman during several years studied the work of 500 companies to identify the key factors influencing employee performance. It turned out that sales volume of the professionals with strong social skills were two times larger compared to other sales employees. Departments led by high-EQ executives overfulfilled their plans by 20%. And the top 10% developers’ output was 320% higher compared to other programmers in the company altogether. Developers with high EQ were more cooperative and responsible for the whole team’s result.

A lot of time is usually needed to get to know new people. However, when selecting an employee, you have to find out almost everything about them in 30-60 minutes. So which qualities are most indicative of high EQ and which questions do you have to ask to help the person reveal them?

Catching the Star


Curiosity, passion for learning

Ask the interviewee which skills and knowledge they are still lacking. Passion for continuous learning is a clear indicator that the person is willing to become better in their professional or personal life. Those who believe they know everything are not oriented to permanent development – do you really wish to work with such people?


Positive attitude

Observe the person’s behavior during the interview. Make sure they are not dominated by negative emotions such as irritation, bitterness, worry, guilt. For example, if they frequently blame others, we can logically assume they are not fully ready to forgive and take responsibility.

Everyone has their own battles. However, people with high-EQ learn to manage their responses to triggers in a proactive way. They learn how to calm down and relax in situations where low-EQ people revert to panic and fear.

It makes no sense to hire people only because of their ‘good nature’, but keep in mind that optimists always bring a positive charge to the company’s culture.


Interest in others’ feelings

The meaning of this trait is that the person will take others’ feelings into consideration when making decisions. Instead of seeing life through the lens of their own needs and wants, people with high EQ have the ability to look at the world from a bigger perspective and walk a mile in another person’s shoes.

Pay attention to the candidate’s tone of voice and ability to listen. Ask them to talk about a situation where they had to persuade others – how did they choose their arguments? Also tell them to describe step-by-step an interpersonal conflict they successfully sorted out.  How did they approach other people, what did they do to defuse the situation?



Every company faces situations of directions or priorities shift. Putting ‘on rails’ new processes, managing change, establishing constructive relationships with new clients or partners – flexibility is the ability to move forward under instability with little stress.

Ask the candidate how they would help their team understand and accept the new goals if the company’s priorities change. It also makes sense to ask them to describe the examples of change management activities from the previous places.


Acknowledging others’ contribution

Ask the person which factors are accounting for their success. Take notice of how many times they use the word ‘I’, ‘we’, ‘team’ (or ‘family’) in the answer. If they mention others’ contribution and are able to be grateful for the value created by their colleagues or just people around them, the candidate will logically be ready to care about the interests of people who are doing the job shoulder to shoulder with them.


Ability to build long-term friendships

Ask the interviewee if they established long-term relationships at previous jobs or at the university. People need time to make friends with others.

Ability to invest own time, energy or money into relationships is a sign of developed EQ. This means it is important for this person to take care of others.

Some of these qualities and behaviors may seem far from ‘real’ business or daily tasks the employee is expected to perform. But they indicate that the person sitting in front of you is likely to have a high emotional intelligence. If their skills and experience also fit the job description, such an employee will be successful at your organization and make productive the team they work with.

Thank you for reading!


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