Hiring the right employees can be tough. It’s no longer enough to see impressive work experience, awards, and educational backgrounds. Sticking only to technical skills and professional experience when interviewing potential employees neglects a major essential component of a good worker: emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and be aware of your emotions as well as the emotions and feelings of others. It allows you to handle relationships with empathy and rationale.

A survey conducted by CareerBuilder found that 75 percent of hiring managers value emotional intelligence over IQ, and as time goes on, its importance in the workplace will increase.

It can be difficult to gauge right away if someone is emotionally intelligent. They won’t outright tell you and it isn’t something you can guess about someone based on technical questions you ask them. A lot of the time, candidates prepare for interviews with common, generic questions they find on the internet.

It’s important to hire employees that harness emotional intelligence because it allows for handling tough situations in a calm and mature manner. Work can get super stressful and it’s imperative to have employees who can harness that energy into something positive.

When it comes down to it, how do you know that the people you’re hiring possess emotional intelligence? Here are three tips to make sure you do.

1. Conduct behavioral event interviews

Behavioral event interviews focus on how people act, think, and feel in a work situation rather than solely focusing on hard skills, experience, and what they might do in a situation. Its primary goal is to assess a person’s frame of mind when it comes to handling different situations, how they’d realistically behave, and if they’re able to accomplish tasks in a respectful, level-headed manner.

The best way to interview this way is to give your candidate action-based questions. Ask them to explain a specific situation where they faced pressure and hardship and focus on exactly how they handled it. What were they thinking when this was going on? How did they feel? How did their emotions and thought process guide them to solve the problem, if at all?

It’s important to assess whether or not this is a person who knows how to handle not only their own emotions but those of others as they’ll be working with many other employees who are different from themselves. Find out how they feel about working with others, not just under pressure, but in a normal everyday environment as well. While they explain their experiences, take note of how they talk about their coworkers and managers and how they respond to their thought and feelings.

It takes the main focus off of education, background, and experience and instead prioritizes action. It’s not that hard skills aren’t important, but when you hire for emotionally intelligent workers, you need to dig deeper than a standard interviewing process would.

2. Talk to references

It’s a waste to neglect the list of references on your candidates’ resumes. These are people who have worked with them directly and can give you a wealth of useful information about your potential employee.

While on the phone with references, ask them behavioral-event-specific questions much like you would your actual candidate. There are certain qualities you’ll want to assess when questioning them:

  • If the candidate shows empathy, caring, and understanding for others
  • How the candidate handles stressful, out-of-the-blue situations and if they adapt well
  • How self-aware they are about their feeling, behaviors, and thoughts
  • The amount of respect they show for those around them
  • Their level of emotional awareness and maturity

Some examples of questions might look like this:

  • Tell me about a time the candidate experienced a stressful situation or had a big project to complete. What was that like? How did they handle it?
  • Explain a time when their opinion or thought process clashed with a coworker’s. How did that pan out? What did they do?
  • Describe a time they had to complete a frustrating task or had a tough decision to make. How did they manage it?

These questions are similar to what you would ask your actual candidate during the interview. Using the same type of questions for references will give you a clearer idea of where your candidate stands because it’s unprepared for and, therefore, more honest in nature.

3. Ask follow-up questions

Interviews are all about asking questions and getting answers, but what’s important is to dig as deep as you can.

Let’s say you asked a potential employee about how they handled a tough situation. They’ll then tell you they did X, Y, and Z. Now that you know what they did, this is the time to find out why they did it. It’s all about the why.

Why did they choose to act a certain way? Why did they have the mindset or thought process they did? Why did they think that was the best route of action to take?

Focusing on why people do the things they do will end up telling you more about their emotional intelligence rather than what they did. Anyone can try to solve a difficult problem. Anyone can be put in a stressful situation at work. But when they act, why do they do it in that particular way? What exactly motivates their actions?

Over to you

When it comes to hiring new employees, what tactics will you use to gauge their emotional intelligence? It’s an essential skill to have in the workplace as it brings forth empathy, rational problem solving and understanding even under high pressure. Of course, there are other aspects of a person that qualify them as a worthwhile employee, but EI is one of the most important factors there are for a successful business. The more hiring that’s done to find emotionally intelligent people to work with, the better the outcome will be.