Three signs of emotional intelligence in the interview room

Emotional Intelligence (EI) – the ability to understand, name and manage emotions in positive ways – is taking up more space in the recruitment process these days than ever before. Companies increasingly are recognising the vital role EI plays in enabling employees to connect with their colleagues in a meaningful and authentic way. With the promise of many workplace benefits in the offing – the ability to help teams relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict – the meteoric rise of EI is not surprising. And that’s before we add the ability of emotionally intelligent leaders to inspire an entire workforce to the mix.


That’s all very well, but how can recruiters recognise emotional intelligence in job candidates? It’s certainly not easy to make the call from a CV. According to HR Magazine, it’s all about what happens in the interview room. There are several green and red flags to look out for to ensure the candidates you pursue are blessed with this valuable attribute.


  1. In response to the mighty ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ question, candidates with low EI will try to manipulate the answer to showcase strength. So they might focus on how they’re hardworking to the extent that they don’t leave enough time for themselves. Or they’ll wheel out the line about being too much of a perfectionist. They tend to respond with generic answers that don’t reveal much. They’re often quick to criticise and blame others without calling into question their own actions.


Someone with high EI, however, will provide a thoughtful, honest answer to this common interview question. They’ll name a genuine weakness and then, with humility, focus on how they’re endeavouring to deal with it.


  1. Positive body language – including a relaxed yet confident posture, a firm handshake and consistent eye contact – are signs of emotional intelligence. Giving people enough space, sitting and standing straight, and putting away all distractions (e.g. mobile phones and watches) are also common signs of emotional intelligence.


All the opposite body behaviours – e.g., slouching, fidgeting, standing too close, a limp handshake and jerky eye contact – are usually indicative of low EI.


  1. A candidate who comes to the interview prepared with some thoughtful questions is likely to have high emotional intelligence. Those questions won’t all refer back to the self (that is, the candidate). At least one of them will be outward-looking, seeking to find out about the interviewer’s unique experiences and opinions. Examples of such questions are ‘What do you think is the biggest challenge someone in this role will face?’ and ‘What do you most like about working for [company name]?


Conversely, those who don’t ask any questions often have low EI, as well as looking disinterested.


To sum up, candidates with high emotional intelligence tend to have a sharp self-awareness, a growth mindset and be thoughtful. Self-management, social awareness and relationship management arguably also have a place on this list. To explore the topic further, please read a fascinating article on the topic published by


ABL Recruitment, the UK’s leading multilingual recruitment agency, wishes you all the best with every aspect of your recruitment challenge. If you’d like some support with any or all aspects of it, please get in touch. With over 30 years of experience in the field and a vast pool of talented, active job seekers on our books, we will find the perfect match for all your exact requirements. Please email us at or call us on 020 7092 3939 to brainstorm the options.