Studies at Google have found that their most productive employees and teams excelled not because of their technical skills, but because of emotional intelligence and related soft skills such as communication, listening, problem solving, understanding others and showing empathy.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman has pointed out five key elements that make up emotional intelligence. They are:
- Social skills
How can you convince an interviewer that you have these qualities? Simply claiming “I’m very self-aware” or “I have excellent social skills” won’t count for much. Anyone can say that. Instead, prove it.
Here are 10 ways to do so, divided into four categories: demonstration, stories, social proof and emotional intelligence interview questions.
Demonstrate emotional intelligence and soft skills through your behavior.
1: Show empathy towards everyone you meet at the interview. This might mean asking a question like “How’s your day going so far?” and responding in a way that shows you understand. For example, if they’ve just achieved some nice milestone you might say “Wow, you must be proud of that!” Or sometimes, empathy might mean just flashing a smile because someone is too busy to chat.
To ensure you’ll show empathy, give yourself a chance to actually feel it. Often we see an interviewer as an authority figure or as the keeper of the keys to the castle. That doesn’t leave much room for empathy. Take a few moments before the interview to remind yourself the interviewer is a real, vulnerable human being with feelings. Look at their LinkedIn profile and find to like about them – or use your imagination to make some guesses. (Hints: They probably love someone. They probably enjoy laughing. They may have overcome painful difficulties in their life.) You may find you feel more comfortable and friendly toward the interviewer as a result of these musings.
2: Manners, etiquette and conversation are other aspects of social skills. Do you know it’s more polite to wait to be asked before taking a seat? To turn down an offer of a glass of water (unless you really need it)? Brush up on the fine points if you didn’t grow up with Emily Post. And do you realize you can actually learn and practice small talk?
3: Demonstrate your communication skills in the way you answer interview questions. Prepare thoroughly by outlining clear, concise, relevant answers to the most common interview questions, but not scripting them. Sounding like you’re reading a script is not a good demonstration of emotional intelligence!
4: Listen well. Listen actively. Listen to what’s not being said as well as what is. Listen with undivided attention instead of thinking about what you’ll say next.
5: Self regulation, also known as self management or self control, is severely tested by the anxiety many of us feel in job interviews. Don’t neglect this emotional side of interview preparation. It takes work. Here are four ways to overcome interview jitters:
- Spend time vividly imagining doing a calm, confident, successful interview. This takes concentration but it really works.
- Find breathing exercises online and practice them for days in advance so that you’ll actually know the most relaxing way to breathe – many people don’t! – and remember to use it when you need to.
- Be so thoroughly prepared that you have less to worry about.
Illustrate your emotional intelligence through stories and examples.
6: Identify and practice stories that show soft skills such as coaching others, resolving conflict, solving difficult problems, coping effectively with stress, and so on.
7: Demonstrate self-awareness by knowing your strengths, your weaknesses and what motivates you, and being able to articulately answer the common interview questions about these.
Offer social proof.
8: Cultivate your network and seek introductions to people connected to companies you’d like to work for. This increase the chances that someone will be able to refer you into an interview or put in a good word for you during the process.
9: Get LinkedIn recommendations (the written paragraphs, not the quick-click endorsements in the Skills section). Recommendations are a fantastic way to have supervisors, co-workers, internal/external customers or clients vouch for soft skills like communication, people management, coaching and problem solving. And unlike references, recommendations are public and easily accessible from the very beginning of your candidacy.
Prepare answers to emotional intelligence interview questions.
10: Do an online search for these questions, which may involve situations like “a time when someone criticized your work,” or “how you would deal with an angry customer.” Practice giving detailed answers to these. Make sure your answers are authentic as well as strategic.
Even if your interviewer has never heard the phrase “emotional intelligence,” using the tips above will help you come across as a mature, likeable individual who is good with people. Every employer wants that!