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A top exec at a 21,000-person company reveals the tricky interview technique he uses to assess emotional intelligence

Published by Business Insider on Wed, 25 May 2016

When a hiring manager asks you a super-weird interview question ("What kind of tree would you be'"), it's rarely because they're just a super-weird person.Instead, the interviewer is likely trying to see if you can think on your feet, or to find out whether you'd be a cultural fit without making their motives glaringly obvious.So when Jim Ayres, the managing director of Amway North America, is interviewing candidates for leadership positions and wants to measure their emotional intelligence, he rarely goes with the standard, "Do you work well in groups'"Instead, he prompts the candidate to tell him who's on their team.Say they answer, "Karen, Bill, and Steve." Ayres will respond: "Tell me about Karen." Specifically, he'll want to know about her family, how she works best, and what typically gets in her way.If the candidate doesn't know anything about Karen's work style or personal life, that's a bad sign."It may seem odd," Ayres said, "but if you're a leader and you know [the answers], it's a good indicator that you have emotional intelligence."Ayres wants to see that leadership candidates are going to be invested in their teams and that they value interpersonal relationshipsin other words, that they're emotionally intelligent.The term "emotional intelligence" was coined in the 1990s by psychologist Daniel Goleman, and refers to self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. A growing body of research suggests emotionally intelligent leaders are more effective (though some researchers think otherwise).Ayres believes emotional intelligence is especially important at Amway."Our culture is built on relationships," he said, noting that the company was founded by two business partners, Jay Van Andel and Richard DeVos.Leaders need to be able to relate to people, he said, and work effectively on teams."Technical expertise is important," he added, "but it's difficult to be successful with only technical expertise."SEE ALSO:A former Google exec who now runs her own company reveals the question she asks almost every job candidateJoin the conversation about this storyNOW WATCH: What to do with your hands during a job interview
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