EQ might sound like an airy fairy quality that's nice-to-have but nonessential for new hires. But science suggests finding staff with a fine-grained ability to interpret emotion makes bottom line business sense.

One study out of Yale, for instance, determined that those with higher emotional intelligence tend to make better decisions (a handy trait in business, you have to admit), while another German study found that higher EQ was clearly linked with higher income. In short, hiring emotionally savvy staff will probably help your company make more money.

So how do you find them? More and more big companies are actually using formal EQ evaluations as part of their interview process, but as a small business owner that might be beyond your abilities. Is there a simple, low cost alternative?

According to leadership coach Phil Johnson, the answer to this question is simply to add a few new interview questions to your hiring process. On LinkedIn recently (hat tip to Business Insider for the pointer), he rounded up 20 questions his clients are currently using to suss out if a candidate has solid emotional skills. Here are a few of them to get you thinking:

  1. When is the last time you were embarrassed? (Followed up with: What happened? How did you handle the situation?)
  2. What activities energize and excite you?
  3. What are two personal habits that have served you well?
  4. How good are you at asking for help?
  5. What is one of the internal battles to have each day?
  6. What makes you angry?
  7. Who inspires you? Why?
  8. On an "average day" is your main focus on results and tasks or people and emotions?

The complete post provides a deeper dive into the value of emotional intelligence and how business schools to better cultivate the quality.

Or if you're more concerned with raising your own EQ rather than hiring others with these skills, here are tools to help you evaluate your own level of emotional intelligence and advice on how to boost it further.