Interview Questions About Emotional Intelligence

Assessing Applicant Emotional Intelligence (EI)

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What's emotional intelligence, and how does it impact your candidacy for employment? Increasingly, interviewers have begun to assess candidates’ emotional intelligence (EI) during the job interview process. Sometimes, interviewers assess emotional intelligence through written, psychological-based tests. Other times, interviewers simply ask particular questions to assess EI.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability of an individual to understand their own emotions and the emotions of others, as well as the ability to respond to, apply, and manage those emotions.

Testing job applicants for their emotional intelligence (in the form of psychological-based tests) is a growing trend in employment today, where many work settings require effective teamwork to meet project demands or service goals. Job interviews are also used to assess the emotional intelligence of job applicants.


If a worker has high emotional intelligence, he or she is more likely to be able to express his or her emotions healthily and understand the emotions of those he or she works with, thus enhancing work relationships and performance.

What the Interviewer Wants to Know

Interview questions that assess emotional intelligence tend to focus on how the interviewee manages himself and manages relationships with others.

The questions asked are often behavioral questions, meaning that they ask the interviewee to explain how he or she acted in a past employment-related situation. Below are some examples of typical EI interview questions.

Sample Interview Questions About Emotional Intelligence

  • What is one of your weaknesses? How do you overcome that weakness?
  • What motivates you to do your work?
  • Describe a stressful work situation you’ve had. How did you resolve that situation?
  • What are one or two things that make you angry or frustrated at work? What do you do when you get angry or frustrated at work?
  • Tell me about a time when you received feedback on your performance, and you disagreed with the feedback. How did you handle the situation?
  • Tell me about a setback you had at work. How did you handle it?
  • Describe a time when you made a big mistake at work. How did you handle the situation?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to handle multiple work assignments at once. How did you feel? How did you handle the situation?
  • Tell me about a time when you took on a task at work that was new to you. How did you feel doing it?
  • How would you handle a coworker who consistently does not pull his weight on group assignments?
  • How do your colleagues benefit from working with you?
  • Tell me about a time when you did or said something that had a positive impact on an employee, coworker, or customer.
  • Have you ever noticed that someone at work was having a bad day? How did you know? What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you had a dispute with a colleague. What did you do to deal with the situation?
  • Describe a time when a colleague came to you with a problem. How did you respond?
  • Tell me about a time when understanding someone else’s perspective helped you accomplish a task or resolve an issue.
  • Tell me about a time when you motivated someone to accomplish a task. How did you motivate him or her?
  • Why is it important to develop a rapport with your colleagues?
  • How do you build a rapport with your colleagues?

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

Anticipate Tricky Questions: The best way to ace a job interview is to plan on answering difficult interview questions that may arise before you even walk into the room. While questions about your emotional intelligence can be challenging, other questions may be equally tricky, depending upon your individual strengths and work experience (or lack thereof).

Do a Practice Interview: You may be asked questions which you haven’t thought about, such as “Where would you like to be in your career in five years?” or “Tell us about your greatest failure on the job and how you handled it.” So, it’s wise to practice your answers to potential interview questions, as well as to realize that there are certain interview questions that employers should not ask.


One of the best techniques is to ask a friend to play the role of your interviewer so that you can practice these common interview questions and answers.

What Not to Say

Don’t Say Anything Negative About Anyone: Obviously, you wouldn’t trash your former bosses, clients, or coworkers while answering a question about emotional intelligence. But take care not to say anything negative during other parts of the interview that will call into question your EI. Don’t complain about former employers or colleagues—the interviewer will wonder if you’ll say the same about this organization, should you get hired.

Don’t Stretch the Truth to Make a Good Story: Chances are, you’ve overcome setbacks, helped colleagues with their projects, and had a positive impact on your team at some point during your career. Come prepared with a genuine story to relate, rather than trying to put a positive spin on a so-so interaction. Most people are pretty good at telling when the person they’re talking to is being insincere.

Possible Follow-Up Questions

Key Takeaways

ANTICIPATE DIFFICULT QUESTIONS: Be prepared to answer questions about your weaknesses, setbacks, motivation, and interactions with colleagues.

PRACTICE INTERVIEWING: Ask a trusted friend to play the role of interviewer and practice answering these questions.

BE SINCERE: Come to the interview with genuine examples of how you demonstrated empathy, understanding, self-knowledge, and the ability to learn.

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  1. Psychology Today. "Emotional Intelligence." Accessed Jan. 6, 2020.

  2. Social Talent. "Why Emotional Intelligence Is Important When Hiring Top Talent.” Accessed Jan.
    6, 2021.

  3. SHRM. "Want to Really Get to Know Your Candidates? Interview for Emotional Intelligence."
    Accessed Jan. 6, 2020.

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