Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

How to Look for Emotional Intelligence in a Video Interview

When looking for the best candidate for an open position, do you focus on hard skills, or soft skills and cultural fit? Which one is more important?

Although skills and experience are still important in recruiting, hiring professionals are giving cultural fit an increasing amount of weight when selecting candidates. This is no surprise, considering that culture is a major concern in the workforce.

In fact, a study of more than 3,300 organizations from 106 countries conducted by Deloitte found that engagement and culture was the number one trending concern companies are facing globally. This year, 50 percent of respondents said culture and engagement was a problem in their workplace, about double the amount reported last year.

As cultural fit and personality take center stage, hiring professionals are focusing less on IQ and more on EQ, or emotional intelligence, as an indicator for employees who will work well with others.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is a term coined by Daniel Goleman and is described as a person’s ability to recognize their emotions and the emotions of others, and use that information to guide their behavior and interactions. In the workplace, emotional intelligence can determine how your employees interact, communicate between team members and clients, and how an employee will react in certain situations.

According to Goleman, emotional intelligence is made up of five essential traits:


Self-aware people recognize their own moods, their emotions, and how those factors impact their behavior and affect others. They understand what emotions drive them and recognize their flaws.

In the workplace, self-aware employees evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, and performance realistically, and are confident in their abilities.


Those who self-regulate think before they act. They avoid emotional reactions to stressful situations and try to think a problem through logically.

Self-regulation is extremely important in the workplace. A report released by Workfront in October 2014 found that 81 percent of American adults surveyed said they have experienced a conflict at work with other teams or co-workers.

During a crisis, conflict, or stressful workday, you want employees who can internally process their emotions and react calmly. Employees who self-regulate are open to change, work well under pressure, and can navigate workplace problems.



Motivated people are passionate about what they do and are focused on setting and reaching goals. They work hard to succeed for their own satisfaction, not for money, status, or other external motivators.

Just 31.9 percent of American professionals feel engaged at work, according to the most recent data from Gallup; and motivated employees are needed now more than ever. Motivated employees are driven, optimistic, and loyal. They actively engage in their work to achieve results.



Empathy is the ability to recognize and understand the emotions of others. Those who exhibit empathy can look at a situation from the viewpoint of others and be more sensitive to their needs and feelings.

Empathy is needed to reduce personality clashes and miscommunication, which are the top causes of workplace conflict, according to a survey of working Americans conducted by Workplace Options in August 2013. Empathetic employees are better able to understand the personalities and actions of others — reducing clashes. Communication is easier when co-workers try to understand and respect each other’s point of view.

In addition, empathetic employees understand the needs of clients. In tense situations, empathetic employees won’t write off a client as difficult, but will instead work to accommodate them and remedy the situation.

Social skills

Individuals with strong social skills are comfortable speaking with new people and building relationships. And relationships in the office are important.

In fact, a survey of employees conducted by SHRM in July and August 2013 found that 54 percent of respondents rated relationships with their immediate supervisor as very important to their job satisfaction. In addition, a 2014 report from Globoforce found that 89 percent of employees surveyed said relationships with their co-workers are important to their quality of life.

Employees with social skills can help to build a friendly work culture and keep office morale high.


Gauging emotional intelligence in the video interview

The video interview feels more casual than an in-person one, and candidates may feel more comfortable answering your tough interview questions. Whether you opt for a one-way or two-way video interview, ask these questions to evaluate each part of emotional intelligence, and find the best person for the job:

1. What are the top three reasons for your success?

This question asks a job candidate to look at their achievements, evaluate their performance, and recognize their strengths. Look for employees who answer the question with confidence, but aren’t arrogant.

Emotionally intelligent employees will recognize when the help of others lead them to success or when a project was a group effort. They feel comfortable acknowledging their own success and the success of others.

2. What makes you angry or annoys you the most at work?

Emotionally intelligent professionals know what bothers them and they understand how their emotions impact their work. You want employees who can recognize these emotions and remove themselves from the situation, or acknowledge them in a healthy way.

In the video interview, what actually angers or annoys the candidate isn’t really important — it’s the fact that they recognize it. Candidates who avoid the question may not recognize their faults easily, or may be trying to give you the answer you want to hear.

In addition, be wary of candidates who mention specific co-workers and managers in their answer. Candidates who harp on problems in other workplaces or complain about other people aren’t emotionally intelligent –they’re difficult to work with.

3. What personal habits are an asset to you?

This question puts a spin on the old strengths and weaknesses question. It asks candidates to assess their strengths, but in a new way.

Job seekers can’t show they’re a hard worker or that they’re a perfectionist, in an interview. Instead of listing abstract qualities they can’t really prove, candidates need to talk about specific actions they regularly take that are beneficial to themself and their career. This requires a candidate to assess their actions and determine how they achieve their best work.

This question can also give you insight into how a candidate works best. Maybe they take time for a morning meditation, maybe they keep a list of things they need to improve on, or maybe they create a to-do list at the end of each day to prepare them for the next one. Whatever they do, you can get a better sense of who they are as a professional from their habits.

4. Tell me about a time when your mood affected your performance either negatively or positively. What did you take away from the situation?

Most candidates will probably opt to speak about a time when their mood affected their work positively because they don’t want to expose their flaws to a potential employer. That’s understandable. But an emotionally intelligent candidate is more likely to feel confident discussing past mistakes.

They know what they did wrong, they acknowledge the problem, and they can talk about what they learned from it. Maybe they now know that when they’re frustrated, they find it hard to focus at work. So instead of wasting time, they take a little break when they feel this way and then come back to their work refreshed and ready to focus.

5. When is the last time you were embarrassed at work? What happened? How did you handle the situation?

This is an uncomfortable question. Job seekers aren’t going to want to talk about their embarrassing moments with a potential employer. In a one-way video interview, candidates will have some time to think about their answer, but in a two-way interview they may feel more pressure. Establish a casual tone, and tell a funny story or two about yourself. This may help your candidate open up.

Both their reaction to the question and their answer can help you judge emotional intelligence. Candidates who approach this question with humor likely have strong emotional intelligence, as they can look back on an emotional event without letting it upset them. Their answer also shows you how they react in certain situations. Do they let their emotions take control, or do they use them as an asset to think through the problem and resolve the situation?

If the candidate is obviously very uncomfortable with the question, you can ask them about a workplace conflict instead. Asking about a conflict will give you similar insight and may be more expected and familiar to candidates.

6. If you started your own company, what would its top three values be?

Emotionally intelligent employees are motivated by passion and a desire to succeed. They will feel strongly about certain values, and know what those are off the top of their head. It’s the same values they look for in a workplace culture and employers.

This question gives you two advantages. First, you can see what is important to a candidate and what motivates them. If they struggle to come up with values, they’re probably motivated by their salary, not a passion for the job and the industry.

Second, you can determine if your values align. Candidates with similar values will fit with your culture and will be happy and engaged in your workplace.

7. What skills do you still need to learn?

Not only do you want employees to be motivated to do their jobs well, you want them to be motivated to keep learning and getting better. In terms of emotional intelligence, this question shows a candidate’s awareness of their skills and abilities, and their motivation to improve.

In a two-way video interview, a candidate who struggles to think of a new skill or what they want to learn is a red flag. They could think they know everything already or may not have the drive to learn new things.

In a one-way video interview, watch out for the candidate who dodges the question. This question is similar to asking a candidate about their weaknesses, and in a one-way video interview, the candidate has time to craft a response that doesn’t really answer the question so they can seem like the perfect professional.

Although emotional intelligence is a relatively new idea, the qualities of emotionally intelligent people have been valued by employers for a long time. Using targeted interview questions and knowing what qualities to look for can help you better identify candidates who will fit in with your team, and work well in a collaborative environment.

How do you assess emotional intelligence? Share your best interview questions in the comments below!

Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the Founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform used by 6,000+ customers in over 100 countries.