Measuring Emotional Intelligence: Tangible Markers for Evaluating Candidates

Advice from experts · 6/12/2024 · 1 min read

Measuring Emotional Intelligence: Tangible Markers for Evaluating Candidates

Most business leaders will agree that emotional intelligence (EQ) plays a big role in our success and "fit" in the workplace. Nowadays, EQ is one of the most commonly overused workplace buzzwords, and for good reason too - that's because EQ is a crucial determinant of an employee's success and a predictor of how well they can lead.

However, identifying EQ in job candidates is not always easy. How do you measure something as vague as emotional awareness and empathy? In this article, I'll share how to create tangible markers for evaluating emotional intelligence in job candidates based on my experience and observations.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand, manage, and influence one's own emotions and those of others. According to an article co-written by a Harvard professor of Organizational Behavior and Psychology, there are 12 elements to emotional intelligence. I've narrowed the 12 elements down to 5 that are most frequently cited among experts when defining EQ:

  1. Self-awareness: Recognizing and understanding your emotions.

  2. Self-regulation: Managing or redirecting disruptive emotions and impulses.

  3. Motivation: Having a passion for work that goes beyond money and status.

  4. Empathy: Understanding the emotions of others.

  5. Social skills: Managing relationships to move people in desired directions.

Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

Emotional intelligence is vital because it affects almost every aspect of work life. I've noticed that employees with high EQ:

  • Communicate effectively.

  • Work well in teams.

  • Lead with empathy.

  • Resolve conflicts efficiently.

  • Adapt to change seamlessly.

  • Experience higher job satisfaction and retention.

Creating Tangible Markers for Evaluating EQ

To incorporate emotional intelligence into your hiring process, consider these tangible markers I've seen used:

  1. Behavioral Interview Questions: Use structured questions to explore past behaviors that indicate emotional intelligence. Examples include:

    • "Can you describe a time when you had to manage a difficult team member? How did you handle it?"

    • "Tell me about a time when you had to cope with a significant change at work. How did you manage your emotions and those of your team?"

  2. Situational Interview Questions: These assessments present candidates with hypothetical, job-related situations and ask them to choose how they would respond. The responses can reveal their ability to handle emotional and interpersonal challenges.

  3. Presentations/Role-Playing Exercises: Simulate workplace scenarios to observe how candidates react in real-time. This can include:

    • Presentations with time to prep at home

    • Problem-solving exercises

    • Team collaboration tasks

    • Customer interaction scenarios

  4. Psychometric Assessments: Utilize standardized tests designed to measure various aspects of emotional intelligence. These can provide a more objective and quantifiable evaluation of a candidate's EQ.

Practical Applications of Tangible Markers

Based on my experience, here's how these markers can be practically applied:

  • Enhanced Communication: Candidates who demonstrate clear and empathetic communication skills in role-playing exercises are likely to excel in collaborative environments.

  • Effective Teamwork: Behavioral interview questions can uncover past experiences that highlight a candidate's ability to work well in teams and manage interpersonal relationships.

  • Leadership Potential: Situational judgment tests can reveal a candidate's potential for leadership by assessing their decision-making processes and emotional regulation under stress.

  • Conflict Resolution: Role-playing via presentations to a live audience can provide direct evidence of a candidate's ability to navigate and resolve workplace disputes.

  • Adaptability: Candidates who show resilience and a positive attitude towards change in behavioral interviews are likely to adapt well to new environments and challenges.


With the exception of a few types of roles, emotional intelligence should be a requirement for any potential new member of your team. Creating tangible markers for evaluating EQ is not easy, but it can help assess a candidate's potential to contribute positively to your organization.

Not all of the examples that I listed above will make sense for your hiring practices (take-home exercises, presentations, and role-playing, for example), but the important thing is to be mindful of emotional intelligence and incorporate the use of some of these factors into your already existing candidate assessment process/scorecard.

Let us know what you think. We'd love to learn what has worked for you!