5 Ways to Find Emotionally Intelligent Employees and Advance Your Company

Learn to identify emotional intelligence when you see it.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Photo by Clayton Cardinalli on Unsplash

Smart employers recognize the value of emotional intelligence in the workplace. In a survey of more than 2,600 hiring managers and HR professionals, HR company CareerBuilder found that:

  • 71 percent said they value emotional intelligence more than IQ in an employee
  • 75 percent said they were more likely to promote a candidate with high emotional intelligence over one with a high IQ

Emotionally intelligent employees are invaluable because they help build chemistry. Great chemistry leads to great teams. And great teams do great work.

But as an employer, how can you identify emotional intelligence when you see it?

Here are five things to look for.


As an employer, you want to see candidates who are confident in their skills. But you also want people who aren’t full of themselves and are willing to learn from others.

That’s because every company lives and dies by the success of their teams. A great team can accomplish much more than a single person, no matter how talented. And a single “brilliant jerk” can totally ruin a potentially high-performing team.

Yes, look for a candidate who communicates what they do well. But also look for those who share what they’ve learned from mentors and colleagues, who give others credit for helping them to become the person they are today.


Think “What is your greatest weakness?” is an old and useless interview question? Think again. It’s actually a chance to identify emotional intelligence in job candidates.

Experienced interviewers know that only a precious few job seekers can identify a true weakness. And even fewer have developed plans to strengthen those weaknesses. To do so takes intense self-reflection, critical thinking, and the ability to accept negative feedback–qualities that take years to develop.


Most job candidates try to answer every interview question right away. They’re afraid that if they pause before answering, they’ll appear unqualified or stupid.

But you know what’s really stupid?

Trying to answer a difficult question without thinking it through.

In contrast, look for applicants who embrace the rule of awkward silence. They aren’t afraid to pause a few seconds, even if slightly uncomfortable–because it means getting their emotions under control to give a more thoughtful answer.


You might speak with hundreds of candidates in the course of a job search. If the qualifications and experience are comparable, how can you tell who stands out?

Maybe they write a handwritten note after the interview. Maybe they mention something they liked about the company … or even a question they wish they had answered differently.

Candidates who do this early on show they know how to use the power of emotion to build connection. And that’s a sign of great relationship-management skills.


Remember that a good job interview should be a two-way street: for the potential benefit of the company, and also a chance for the candidate to determine if the company is the right match for them.

So, look for applicants who use thoughtful questions to gather information about your company and its culture. They might ask what their first days on the job would look like. They might ask about company values, and show how these align with their own. They may even ask about the challenges at work.

By asking difficult questions, these job seekers show they aren’t just going through the motions–they’ve given thought to the process. And that type of preparation and careful thought helps keep emotions in balance.

Hiring for emotional intelligence isn’t easy, but it is possible if you know what to look for. So, if you’re conducting interviews, remember:

1. Look for “learn-it-alls.” Not “know-it-alls.”

2. Look for people who work on themselves.

3. Look for people who embrace the rule of awkward silence.

4. Look for relationship builders.

5. Look for those who ask great questions.

Do this right and your company will be able to hire not just for IQ but also for EQ. And that’s a brilliant combination.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


7 Ways to Show Emotional Intelligence in a Job Interview

by Harvey Deutschendorf

9 Ways You Should Use Emotional Intelligence at Work

by Jennifer Fabiano

19 Key Facets of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership & Workplace

by Miles Anthony Smith

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.