How to Hire Employees with Strong Self-Management Skills

It makes a huge difference to hire for social-emotional competencies.  So, you want to know HOW?  In this paper, I share my favorite interview questions to evaluate for the competencies of self-regulation and self-motivation.

Ask questions in the interview process to get an idea of their emotional intelligence competencies.  Use the reference call process, too, to get at these competencies.

  • How self-aware is the candidate as opposed to having major triggers and blind spots?
  • How well does the candidate self-regulate as opposed to becoming embroiled in conflicts or having outbursts?
  • How self-motivated is the candidate—how able to achieve goals and persist in spite of obstacles?

SELF-MOTIVATION—to be successful at work requires a certain degree of achievement drive, commitment, willingness to align one’s goals with the goals of the organization, readiness to act upon opportunities and demonstrate initiative, and an ability to persist in pursuing goals despite obstacles.  Here are some of my favorite questions for getting at these competencies.

  • When are you the most self-motivated?
  • Please tell us about a time you were responsible for a project and how you confronted obstacles or setbacks.
  • What story would a former employer tell us that reveals how you go about meeting high standards?

SELF-REGULATION—to be successful in the workplace, a professional needs to have achieved a level of self-regulation, the ability to manage distressing emotions and disruptive feelings. They need to be able to stay composed, positive, and unflappable, even in trying moments, such as dealing with an irate customer. They need to be able to think clearly and stay focused under pressure.  Below are some of my favorite questions for getting at this set of competencies.

  • Please tell us about a time that you were upset about something on the job and it took some effort to manage your reaction.
  • Please tell us about a time you had to realize that circumstances were changing at work, and how you handled it.
  • Can you tell us about a time you were tempted to bend the truth at work, and how you handled it?

Of course, these questions, like many others, can help you get a sense of other social-emotional competencies, such as self-awareness.  For example, someone who can’t identify any times they were challenged by setbacks or any times they had to manage their reaction is either demonstrating an unwillingness to share their vulnerabilities and weaknesses with you, or they are not able to recognize their own challenges and struggles.  Do what you can to coax them past any need to present as perfect in the interview, because it can cause serious problems for you and for the organization if you hire someone with very poor self-awareness.  After all, a person can’t regulate themselves very well if they’re not aware of their own triggers, emotions, and reactions.

When you spend more of your time in the hiring process evaluating for social-emotional competencies, you will hire better and avoid many of the big hiring mistakes that can be so costly to your organization.

What are YOUR favorite interview questions to get at self-regulation and competencies for self-motivation?

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If you would like help improving your hiring, contact Dr. Ginny– psychologist and experienced manager and leader– at 720-443-5056 or

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