Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) involves understanding and managing your own emotions and understanding the emotions of others. EI is often broken down into five separate sub-skills:

  1. self-awareness: the capability to understand your actions, thoughts and emotions, and the impact they have on yourself and others
  2. self-regulation: the ability to control what you think, say, and do to achieve a goal
  3. motivation: a reason for doing something
  4. empathy: an ability to understand and share how others’ think and feel
  5. social skills: the capability to effectively communicate verbally and non-verbally in different social situations

Activities where you could develop emotional intelligence skills

Looking for opportunities in your degree programme to work with others can be a great way to practice the social elements of emotional intelligence. Whilst showing your commitment to a project or piece of work can demonstrate motivation. The following activities, which may be undertaken as part of, or alongside your studies, can be good ways to develop your emotional intelligence:

  • Peer Mentoring Develop emotional intelligence by understanding and supporting others through their studies and wider university life.
  • Volunteering Gives you the chance to develop a range of skills while giving something back to the community.
  • Work shadowing Short-term activity, a day or two, to gain an insight into a particular role or industry. Build emotional intelligence by talking and listening to employees about life in that organisation.
  • Feedback. Ask others for feedback on different elements of your emotional intelligence and then act on that feedback.
  • Say “thank you” Send someone a message of thanks for an action you’ve appreciated

How is emotional intelligence assessed in recruitment?

Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test emotional intelligence:

  • What motivates you to succeed?
  • How do you manage a client who is angry?
  • Tell me about a time when you feel you’ve really understood a clients’ point of view.
  • Tell us about a situation where your understanding of others’ feelings helped solve a problem.

If you are unsure how to structure an answer for either application or interview questions, visit the application and interviews section of our website and find out about the CAR (context, action, result) and STAR (situation, task, action, result) models. Our recommendations are based on feedback from employers.

In assessment centres you may be asked to take part in group discussion and role play exercises, emotional intelligence will underpin how you interact with the other group members. Making decisions based not only on facts, but also the possible feelings of the key people involved, will demonstrate your emotional intelligence.

You may also be asked to discuss a case study in a team and show an understanding of the emotions that your decisions will have on the stakeholders in the case study.