By Alexandra Frost | The Muse
One of the most valuable traits employers are looking for right now can’t be found on a resume, at least not explicitly. It’s not something you can fake in an interview, or convince your prospective boss that you have without demonstrating it through your behavior and stories.
But emotional intelligence—the savviness to be in tune with your emotions and others’—can help land you that dream job. EQ is one of the most in-demand skills of 2020, according to a LinkedIn analysis. And as workplaces ramp up their focus on employee mental health and positive company culture, they’re looking to hire new additions who can enhance, rather than detract from, this mission.
What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why Are Interviewers Asking About It?
While emotional intelligence may not be something that’s always on your mind in the workplace, it’s working constantly below the surface, impacting how you and colleagues interact on a daily basis and how effectively you complete your projects and meet your goals.
Also known as EQ, it encompasses both internal and external elements, and you can build it up like a muscle. “I think of it as having two components,” says Patricia Thompson, PhD, a corporate psychologist and creator of the “21-Day Crash Course in Emotional Intelligence,” which more than 18,000 students have completed. The first component is “your ability to understand yourself and [your] emotions, and based on that being able to regulate yourself appropriately,” Thompson says. The second, she says, is “to understand others’ emotions to relate to them…and to have a high level of social awareness to use those insights.” In other words, can you recognize and process your own emotions and keep them under control? And are you in tune enough with others to perceive, interpret, and empathize with their emotions?
It’s not just about getting a feel-good vibe from your workplace. Instead, EQ deeply impacts your relationships with bosses, coworkers, and clients as well as your productivity and your ability to come up with and implement successful strategies. Plus, the increased focus on preventing workplace burnout—labeled an “occupational phenomenon” by the World Health Organization—necessitates hiring employees with high EQ, as they can help create a healthier workplace for themselves and others, and eventually will become leaders who do the same.
For all those reasons, you can expect recruiters and hiring managers to be looking for individuals with high EQ. In an interview, questions about your EQ might come at you in the form of behavioral questions (which ask you to share examples of how you’ve acted in certain situations) and other questions that prompt you to share how you process, manage, and perceive emotions. It can even look like the simple “What weaknesses are you working to overcome?” question, for example, which can suss out how self-aware you are, how you take feedback, and how you deal with frustration.
So it’s important to know which common interview questions and other queries you’re most likely to encounter from a recruiter or hiring manager looking to assess EQ—as well as why they’re asking and how to answer.