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5 questions to ask in an interview to test someone's 'people skills'

Spot the jerk.<em> (Photo: Getty)</em>
Spot the jerk. (Photo: Getty)

The old adage still rings true: “A company is only as good as its people.”

But nearly half of Aussie hiring managers still have a major blind spot: not enough emphasis is placed on screening the emotional intelligence of a potential employee, and it can make all the difference.

People with high levels of emotional intelligence are better at collaboration, have higher levels of motivation or morale, they’re better at managing projects, better at leading and more effective at conflict resolution, according to survey results by recruitment firm Robert Half.

Hiring employees with high emotional intelligence also has a pleasing knock-on effect: employees working a comfortable and flexible environment will feel more motivated.

This contributes to a workplace culture that can serve as something that sets the company apart from its competitors, and in turn attracts more top employees.

But for employers, it can be a tough balance: not only do you have to balance questions about a candidate’s technical skills with questions about their soft skills (such as self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and social skills), but interviewing for soft skills is usually harder.

“Employers need to be proactive in identifying candidates with the right amount of emotional intelligence, such as by asking behavioural interview questions to gauge how the candidate manages difficult situations, and asking references how well an applicant handles criticism, resolves conflicts, listens to others, and motivates team members,” Robert Half Australia director Nicole Gorton advised.

In order to determine whether the candidate in front of you is a winner or not, you could try asking these five EQ-related questions:

  1. If you’ve previously reported to multiple managers at the same time, how did you get to know each person’s preferences and juggle conflicting priorities?

  2. Tell me about a challenging workplace situation you were involved in, either with your peers or someone else in the company. How did you manage that challenge, and were you able to resolve it?

  3. What would a previous boss say is the area that you need to work on most? Have you taken steps to improve in this area, and if so, what have you tried to change?

  4. Tell me about a day when everything went wrong and how did you handle it? And in hindsight, how would you have handled it differently?

  5. If business priorities change, describe how you would help your team understand and carry out the shifted goals.

Job hunters – don’t say you haven’t been warned.

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