Academic degrees, job experience, technical skills, and maybe even GPA traditionally have been the information of which to form judgments about a job candidate's intelligence and qualifications. However, while hard skills and experience are important, the traditional signs of intelligence are no longer sufficient.

An employee's ability to understand their own emotions and those of others while adequately regulating them has become increasingly important in the workplace. The problem is this: Interviews don't often explore an applicant's emotional intelligence or emotional abilities.

That was the key issue a recent study by Paychex, a payroll and human resources company, tried to solve by identifying specific questions and behaviors potentially indicative of a job applicant's emotional intelligence.

3 Questions to Identify Emotional Intelligence

Identifying emotional intelligence in an interview setting can be tricky, but scrutinizing candidates' answers to specific questions can reveal more than hiring managers may think. Asking the following questions can help assess a potential hire's EQ: 

  • How did you handle a day when everything went wrong for you?
  • How comfortable are you asking for help at work?
  • How well do you handle stress and pressure?

Candidates with high emotional intelligence implemented the best solutions to their problems and tried to remain positive. They also said they are extremely comfortable asking for help and are excellent at handling stress and pressure.

On the other hand, the following answers are signs a candidate may have some work to do in the emotional intelligence department:

  • After a bad day, they couldn't stop thinking about how terrible things were and/or lashed out and blamed others for the things that were happening.
  • They are not at all or are only slightly comfortable asking for help at work.
  • They handle stress and pressure only fairly or worse.

When it comes to the more open-ended questions about strengths and weaknesses, survey respondents who cited positivity, confidence, and diligence as personal attributes had higher average emotional intelligence scores than those who chose to highlight different traits.

On the opposite end, admitting to taking on too much work, working too hard, and focusing too much on small details were weaknesses that also correlated with higher emotional intelligence.

Signs to Identify High and Low Emotional Intelligence

As hiring managers know, answers to questions are not the only factor in which to determine whether a candidate is fit for hire. The way they carry themselves during the interview also impacts the decision. And just like answers give insight into emotional intelligence, certain behaviors separate the high and low scorers. 

Those with high emotional intelligence exhibited the following:

  • They were extremely likely to ask questions during the interview.
  • They were extremely comfortable asking the interviewer for extra time to formulate an answer to a question.
  • They were most likely to ask about expected accomplishments within the first 90 days if hired.

On the other hand, those with low emotional intelligence were described as follows:

  • Only slightly likely to ask questions during the interview.
  • Somewhat comfortable asking for extra time to formulate an answer.
  • They would most likely ask about compensation.

While the hiring process is often time-consuming and hiring managers need to be efficient in filling open positions, it's essential to find the right person for the job. Asking for an emotional quotient score on a resume may not be the best bet, but degrees and experience aren't the only things you should consider. Listen carefully to the answers that candidates give to your questions -- they can be a better sign of what's to come.