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Software Engineers: How to Demonstrate Your EQ During Interviews

You’ve practiced dozens of coding challenges online, rehearsed how to explain your deep technical knowledge, and have spent a good hour researching the company you’re interviewing with – you’re well-positioned to ace your next interview – almost.

As home to Seattle’s top software engineering consultants, we work closely with area businesses to understand exactly what they’re looking for in their next team member. While your coding skills can help you pass the technical test with flying colors and your professional experience might impress hiring managers, there’s still one critical element that employers are gauging in their candidates – emotional intelligence.

Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important in the Workplace?
Summed up, emotional intelligence, or EQ, guides how you manage your emotions and interact with those around you. Your EQ determines how you respond when you’re faced with an overloaded plate, competing deadlines, or conflict within a project team. When it comes to the success of a project, software engineers with high EQ are invaluable.

To gauge a candidate’s EQ during an interview, employers come prepared with a series of behavioral interviewing questions. Their goal is to get a good sense of how the individual will react when faced with adversity or situations that push them to interact with the team at large.

In their report on emotional intelligence, leading organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry grouped EQ into four categories that have shown to distinguish outstanding performance in the workplace: Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Self-Management, and Relationship Management. A well-rounded and high-performing software engineer should be able to highlight their strengths in these areas during the interview.

The EQ Qualities that Employers Are Looking for During Your Interview:

Do you understand how your attitudes and behaviors impact your performance?
We know what you’re thinking: “Self-aware? I’m interviewing for a senior-level software position. They just care that I have the expertise to get the job done.” The truth is, understanding your strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies, is the foundation for emotional intelligence and a critical quality of high-performing individuals. Employers aren’t looking for perfect workers – they’re looking for people who have a commitment to continuous improvement and who understand how their actions impact those around them.

Behavioral questions to be prepared for:
How do you best receive feedback? How do you react when someone gives feedback you disagree with?
Would you consider yourself competitive? If so, how does this show in your work?

Can you adjust your behaviors and emotions to achieve positive outcomes?
Adaptable. Optimistic. Goal-oriented. We can all agree these are buzzwords an employer is looking for in their next hire – and they all fit under the self-management EQ bucket. Outside of sprinkling a few of these buzzwords around your resume, be prepared to show examples of how you lived up to these words in your past professional experiences. In other words, how do you apply what you know about your tendencies (hello, self-awareness) and adjust them to achieve positive outcomes?

Let’s use adaptability as an example, as it’s a critical soft skill that we look for in our software engineers. Adaptability doesn’t need to mean you can fly by the seat of your pants while handling any hiccup in stride – when it comes to looming project deadlines, nobody likes surprises. Adaptability does mean that you’ve developed proper coping mechanisms for dealing with change, that you understand the show must go on, and that you’re prepared to be a team player to overcome any obstacles.

Behavioral questions to be prepared for:
What’s an example of when you were put under a lot of pressure? How did you respond? How did you overcome it?
How do you juggle multiple priorities?

Are you able to interpret the attitudes and behaviors of those around you?
No software engineer can drive a project to the finish line by themselves. While popular culture may paint a picture of an engineer huddled over their computer alone, software projects require continuous interactions between everyone on the team. When ineffective communication is the kryptonite of even the most promising projects, understanding how others around you are feeling is critical. During an interview, you can bet employers are gauging how well you can collaborate with others.

Software engineers must think empathetically when interacting with their teams and with clients. For example, how are others reacting to their communication styles? Why might one team member be missing deadlines? Why might a client be unresponsive? If they’re not cognizant of the attitudes and behaviors of others, future hiccups to the project are a ticking timebomb.

Behavioral questions to be prepared for:
How do you manage working with others who don’t communicate or think the same way you do?

Describe a time where you noticed a team member was struggling and took initiative to support them.

Relationship Management: Are you able to leverage your soft skills to create positive outcomes for your team and clients?

Relationship management – the EQ MVP. Here is where all of the elements above come into play to determine how you interact with those around you and the impact that those interactions have. When highlighting your relationship management strengths, consider times where you acted as a mentor, lead a project, de-escalated a client concern, you get the gist – this is what employers want to hear.

Businesses come to Rooster Park when they need top software engineers to move their projects forward. Many of them have worked with individuals who in the past, despite being skilled engineers, were missing the critical soft skills that mark a true team player, like communication, leadership, and conflict management skills. Employers understand the importance of relationship management and want to be sure their candidates do, too.

Behavioral questions to be prepared for:
Explain your conflict management style? Can you give an example or two?
If you have a great idea and want your team to get on board, how would you communicate it to them? How would you react if someone disagreed?

Soft Skills Tip the Scales
We see it every day – seasoned software engineers with enviable resumes and technical skills that perfectly fit the opportunity at hand, yet still aren’t the perfect fit. What happened? More times than not, the answer lies in their inability to highlight their soft skills in a way that convinces employers they have the emotional intelligence to not only be a world-class engineer, but to be part of a world-class team.

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