What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Could it be the Key to Nailing that Interview?

by TBJL Editor

December 15, 2020

Emotional Intelligence or EQ (Emotional Quotient) are buzz words you may have heard in your professional development.  While EQ is often times applied to the growth of leadership skills or in the pursuit of career advancement, it has rarely been applied to the needs of the job seeker. Below is a brief overview of Emotional Intelligence and why the future of your career might very well depend on developing this in-demand skillset! 

According to Daniel Goldman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize emotional                         intelligence, there are five key elements:

Self-Awareness – the ability to recognize and understand your own emotions and how they affect those around you

Self-Regulation – the ability to regulate and manage your emotions

Social Skills – being able to interact well with others

Empathy – the ability to understand how others are feeling

Motivation – driven by intrinsic goals beyond the external rewards like fame, money and recognition

Having a higher emotional intelligence (EQ) has been proven to not only help individuals to communicate better, defuse conflict, improve relationships and empathize with others.  It has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.

So how can EQ help you in your interview process?  Let’s look at these five components as related to the interview process and see.

Self-Awareness – having a heightened sense of self-awareness will give you insight into the physical aspects of your presentation during an interview such as posture, facial expressions, tone and texture of voice, and perceived eye contact in our virtual world.

How can we improve our self-awareness in preparation for an interview?

Practice either in front of a mirror or video record yourself.  Watch the recording or mirror for clues and indicators demonstrated by your physical presence.  Do you show confidence?  Do you sound knowledgeable about the topic?  Do you fidget or look away from the camera or mirror frequently? Paying attention to these behaviors and identifying how they feel in your body, eyes and ears will help ground you during the interview and remind you to portray a confident and knowledgeable expression and tone.

Self-Regulation – having the ability to regulate your emotional response during an interview is key to remaining calm, breathing properly and not losing track of the question or topic at hand.  How can you learn self-regulation?  Leapfrogging off of your heightened self-awareness from above, once you have noticed behaviors, body postures, or tone that don’t demonstrate what you are going for, learn to change it.  Just as above, practice in a mirror or record yourself with varying responses and notice which works best for you.  Learn to shift and change as the mood changes.  Run through the emotions you wish to demonstrate on an interview such as happiness, confidence, knowledgeable, inquisitive, respectful, passionate and apply them to varying questions.  Try taking the same question and answer it using different emotional responses and see how well this demonstrates who you are.  Be prepared to shift and change as the conversation evolves.

Social Skills – Learning to play well with others is not only a key to nailing your interview, but it also will help ensure your success once hired.  Remember that how you get along with others is one of the primary components that your interviewer is looking for, outranking experience.  So how can you demonstrate your social skills during an interview?  Starting with a casual chit-chat prior to going into the meat of an interview will not only break the ice and calm your nerves, but it will also demonstrate your ability to connect with your interviewer.  Ask if they had a nice weekend or how they are adjusting to working remotely.  You will also have the opportunity with each question to personalize your response in a conversational tone that will make you appear more approachable.  And of course, don’t forget the tremendous opportunity to demonstrate your social skills during the portion of the interview where you are permitted to ask questions.  Be certain to ask how your interviewer came to work at the organization or what they enjoy most about working there.  Connecting with others will elevate your interview and make you more memorable post-interview.

Empathy – In today’s new environment everyone is dealing with something new, whether that be working from home, educating their children, or limiting their shopping and dining experiences.  Know that in most cases the person on the other end of the interview is experiencing similar if not the same challenges and emotional responses that you are.  Put yourself in their shoes during the interview by being patient if technology isn’t going according to plan or if a child runs into the camera shot.  Compassion and leniency will allow you to connect with your interviewer in a way that they will associate with your ability to connect with your potential coworkers or customers.  How can you improve empathy?  Practice, practice, practice…when watching TV or out in public pay attention to the people around you.  Try to identify the emotions they may be feeling.  You can try to gauge this through their body language, tone of voice, vocabulary, or even their breathing patterns.  The more you practice, the easier it will be to relate to others.

Motivation – What is your motivation?  If your answer is money, title or benefits try to think bigger.  The goal of this exercise is to remove the material from your focus and try to build a motivation that comes purely from yourself, internally, which is also called intrinsic.  When you have intrinsic motivation very few things will shake you.  You will know right away if an opportunity or offer is the right one for you when it satisfies your intrinsic motivation.  One way to try refocusing your motivation to be intrinsic is to, what I call, “peel the onion.”  This practice is to shave away the outer layers of what you are thinking about in order to get to the core.  How can you learn to build intrinsic motivation?  Start with the surface motivator, for example, compensation.  Ask yourself, “if my compensation met my needs, what does that look like?”  You may say less stress around the time when bills are due.  Or maybe you will say that you see your family taking a vacation, etc.  Peel the onion again – what does less stress around bill-time look like?  Well, that may not be something that you can describe as tangible, but rather a feeling.  Security, confidence, freedom.  These feelings are your intrinsic motivation.  Once we have identified these, think of all the other ways they can be achieved.  Take “security” for example.  Yes, you initially correlated that to your compensation, but think about any other way this interview or opportunity can provide you with security, such as a trustworthy boss or a well-proven product the company sells.  Once you realize that there are many ways to achieve your goal, your focus is less on the tangible and more on the feeling.  This will help you focus the answers you give and the questions you ask to satisfy your need for security.  This will also come across in an interview as confident and grounded as you discuss your skills and talents.

Elevating your emotional intelligence is not only a game changer in the work environment but applying these skills to the interview process will undoubtably demonstrate to your potential future employer that you are the right fit for them, their team, and their clientele.  Practice and then practice some more.  Use these skills in your personal life and try out the different techniques described above so that when you are in an interview, you can turn on your EQ with ease!

Be sure to connect with me on LinkedIn at for more articles and insights about Emotional Intelligence and other tools to help you land, keep and advance in that dream job.

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