hr manager interviewing a candidate

Today, there are a number of tests available to find the IQ or EQ of a person.

For example:

ICICI Bank Career portal gives a sample IQ test that a candidate will be asked to take. Likewise, firms like Hay Group and Sixseconds help companies to evaluate a candidate’s EQ.

Then there are companies like Hogan and Predictive Index which will tell you about the personality of a candidate (customer focus, patience, etc.) to better match the job on hand.

But many organisations don’t avail of this, or

They give this test only to fresh graduates / bulk hiring. And not to one-off hiring (as I experienced in one of the companies I worked).

In such a situation how can you, an individual Hiring Manager, check for IQ and EQ?

I share some ways.

1. General Intelligence (IQ)

Today, with the focus on Emotional Intelligence (EQ), we have forgotten to check for IQ.

IQ matters.

In Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, an authoritative book on intelligence, the authors state that other factors being constant, IQ is the single biggest predictor of how well a person does in life.

Low IQ has a high correlation to a person’s susceptibility to crime, unemployment, welfare, child neglect, and poverty.

How to check for IQ?

1. In the absence of IQ tests, a person’s School and College grades are a good indicator of a person’s IQ.

In fact, according to one study, “grades and achievement-test results are markedly better predictors of adult success than raw IQ scores ….. (because) grades reflect not just intelligence but also “non-cognitive skills,” such as perseverance, good study habits and the ability to collaborate – in other words, conscientiousness.”

So ask for a candidate’s SSC, HSC or Graduation report card. Likewise scores on SAT / GMAT Exams too are a good indicator of a person’s IQ.

2. Another option is to get the candidate to answer the short 3-question Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT)

This test was developed by psychologist Shane Fredrick. As per Wikipedia, the CRT correlates heavily with results of standardised IQ tests.

The 3 questions are:

1. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

2. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?

3. In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?

(For answers, please click on the link above.)

2. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

If you do a Google search, EQ is shown as made up of five components: Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social skills.

For simplicity, I have broken it up into two broad categories:

A.  Self-Management (Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation) and

B.  Relationship Management (Empathy and Social skills)

For managers and above, whose job requires working with a diverse set of people and departments, relationship-management skills are crucial.

You can check for EQ by asking the right questions.

Consider the following questions:

(The questions are among the many from the book The EQ Interview: Finding Employees with High Emotional Intelligence by Adele B Lynn.)

A. On Self-Management

i.  Awareness of Triggers:  Tell me about some situations or people that annoy you at work. What do you do about these?

ii.  Self-Assessment of Skills:  What has been a consistent area of development for you? How do you know about this?

iii.  Resilience:  Tell me about the last time you were criticised at work? How did that go?

iv.  Taking Initiative:  Have you ever solved a work-related problem that had been a problem for a long time? What did you do?

v.  Purpose and Value:  What type of work do you find most inspiring?

B. On Relationship Management

i.  Awareness of Impact on Others:  Have you ever decided to delay presenting an idea to someone at work because the timing wasn’t right? What did you do?

ii.  Adaptability:  Were there any behaviours you had to abandon that worked for you in a previous role that didn’t work in a new role? How did you know these behaviours were not working?

iii.  Influencing:  Tell me about a time when someone was resisting you, your ideas or your authority. What did you do?

iv.  Conflict Resolution:  Tell me about a dispute with a peer. What was it about? How did it end up?

v.  Leading Others:  Describe a time when you influenced people to follow you when you did not have positional authority? How did you do it?

If required, to ensure the candidate does not fudge or give ready-made answers, you can ask for more. “Great, can you give another example where …”

Likewise, you can ask for specifics – when, where, and how.

The Big Picture

The big thought behind the questions comes from the book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

The authors, in the chapter on how to uncover the intrinsic talent of a person, write:

“In the interview, ask open-ended questions that offer many potential directions… the direction he takes, spontaneously, will be most predictive of his future behaviours.”

The authors further write – and this is crucial in the context of our EQ questions above –

“Past behaviour is predictive of future behaviour only if the past behaviour is recurring. If the behaviour does indeed happen a lot, then the person should be able to come up with a specific example with only one prompt.”

I think there is infinite wisdom in these 2 lines.

Once you grasp it, you can frame your own EQ questions, and get the most out of a candidate in an interview.

End Note

Before publishing this article, to validate, I sent the above questions (Relationship-Management related) to an ex-colleague.

I had worked with this colleague for years, and admired the way she handled her big department, and also led cross-department initiatives.

My question to her was, “Can you answer the above questions if they are asked to you in the interview, giving concrete examples of each? I don’t need the answers, just your confirmation of how well can you answer these.”

She got back to me with, “All could be answered with examples. Two of them I recently experienced (in the new company that she had joined).”


In case you have never taken an IQ or an EQ test, you can go through the Psychology Today website, a reputed bi-monthly magazine, published since 1967.

It has a test section where you can take different tests. After you take a test, you will get a partial report. For a full report, you will have to pay USD.5 – USD.10, depending on the test.


I have no personal interest in talking about Psychology Today or its tests.