7 Interview Questions to Weed Out Bullies and Meanies

by Dec 13, 2016

I recently picked up the book, The EQ Interview: Finding Employees with High Emotional Intelligence, by Adele B. Lynn. As you know, I like tangible, actionable, “tell me what I am supposed to do right now” types of books, and this one fits the bill.

Lynn defines emotional intelligence “as a person’s ability to manage herself as well as her relationships with others so that she can live her intentions” (p. 7).

She also points out that emotional intelligence is not the same as social skills. Social skills are about how we interact with the world, which is only one piece of emotional intelligence.


Lynn’s model for emotional intelligence includes five areas (and several components within each area):

  1. Self-awareness and self-control – fully understanding your own emotions and using that information to manage emotions productively
  2. Empathy – understanding the perspective of others
  3. Social expertness – building genuine relationships and bonds, and expressing care, concern and conflict in healthy ways
  4. Personal influence – positively leading and inspiring others as well as yourself
  5. Mastery of purpose and vision – being authentic and living out your intentions and values

We can all use regular tune ups on our emotional intelligence. Everyone needs reminders about healthy conflict, empathy, managing emotions and more. That’s why we have books like Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and StrengthsFinder 2.0. (I’m sensing a theme here.)

While you’re working on your own emotional intelligence, you might also be hiring in new people and hoping they are emotionally intelligent. So, I took the liberty of picking out a few great questions from Lynn’s book (and in some cases added a few follow up questions I thought were important).


Here are Interview Questions to Weed Out Bullies and Meanies

Ask these questions in your interviews to weed out bullies and meanies:

1. Describe a time when you knew you did or said something that caused a problem for a coworker, a customer, or an employee.

What problem did it cause? How did you know it caused a problem? What did you do? What did you learn?

2. How do you know when your words or behaviors have a negative impact on others?

How do you resolve that negative impact?

3. Describe some situations or circumstances that bring out your worst at work.

How do you behave during those times? What do you do about those times? What do you learn in those times?

4. Tell me about the time you were the most stressed out at work.

What caused the stress? How did you handle it? How did your stress affect others? What did you learn?

5. Tell me about a time when you deliberately planned the tone of a conversation.

How did you do that? Why did you do that in this particular situation? What result did it have? What did you learn? How often do you make plans for tone like that?

6. Tell me about someone who is resistant to you.

Why are they resistant? What have you tried to overcome that resistance? How have you adjusted your behavior to “win them over”? What have you learned?

7. Describe a time at work when others wanted to move forward on something you disagreed with or didn’t think would work.

Why did you disagree? What did you do? What did you learn?


Of course, Lynn’s book offers some guidance on what to look for in the answers.

Her book has over 250 questions for a variety of components, including, emotional expression, inner awareness, respectful listening, feeling the impact on others, collaboration, conflict resolution, and many more.

In the end, the one thing I suggest you look for, that Lynn’s book doesn’t necessarily mention, is whether the candidate learned from their mistakes. We’ve all engaged in ineffective conflict resolution, interrupting, talking without thinking first, and fighting aggressively to get our way.

But, it’s what we learned from those experiences that count.

Happy interviewing in 2017!




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Do you know how much money chronically bad behavior costs your company? Spoiler alert – it’s a LOT higher than you want it to be. Download our data and worksheet to see how it’s costing your organization and what you can do to fix it.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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