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Hiring for values and assessing emotional intelligence in Aged Care

Written by Lauranne Beernaert, Sector Support Coordinator

Multiple issues had happened with rostering and this client had many services cancelled. I fully understood why they were angry and disappointed. I apologised profusely and told them it was unacceptable and explained what the company’s appropriate feedback/complaint process entailed. I gave her a date when I would be able to get back to her with an update’* 

That was the response I gave when I was asked to tell about a time I managed to calm an customer who was agitated and angry on the phone. This response demonstrated several aspects about my personality: my ability to empathise with someone else’s feelings, and my capacity to keep my own emotions under full control in a stressful situation. These are emotional skills that were valued by the company I was applying for. Additionally, it also showed that I am customer centric, which is a value of the organisation. 

I had made a significant invoicing error and the Finance Manager contacted me about it. I genuinely could not remember the details, but since it came from my personal account I took full responsibility for it. I remembered that this period had been stressful for my team because many staff were sick, which may explain why it happened. I felt really embarrassed because this was clearly the result of me rushing into the task, which created trouble for my company and the client’.  

The question I was asked was: can you tell us about a time you made a mistake, and how did you feel? My response shows that I am comfortable taking full responsibility for my actions, even if external factors may have played a role too. I was aware of the specific emotion I experienced but was able to explain the situation and acknowledge the impact it had on others. This response provides good insights about my emotional intelligence. 

Why values and emotional intelligence?

Last June, Sector Support hosted their Regional Forum for Aged Care service providers focused on ‘Building an aged care workforce fit for current and future demand’. You can read a summary here.

One topic that was raised by participants – and is certainly an important one, was around the assessment of candidates’ suitability for Aged Care work, in particular their values and emotional intelligence.  

Emotional intelligence refers to the level of self-awareness, empathy, and emotional regulation of an individual. A person who is emotionally intelligent will be in full control of their emotions, even in crisis, and is able to read other people’s emotions and respond accordingly. These are clear pre-requisites for home care work, where the worker is often working unsupervised in someone’s home.  

The initial CV screening of candidates may provide some elements of response, such as current or previous involvement in volunteering work (demonstrates empathy, care for others), but it does not give a full overview of how the candidate manages their emotions in challenging situations, builds relationships or adapts to new environments. There are many available tools or surveys to help assess these skills, but you can also incorporate targeted questions in interviews. See the below examples by Workable: 

  • Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma at work? If so, what was the issue and what did you do? 
  • Tell me about a time someone criticised your work. How did you respond and what did you learn? 
  • Tell me about a time you had a conflict with your supervisor. How did you resolve it? 

Check these articles with examples of Values-based interview questions and answers, and Emotional intelligence (EQ) interview questions and answers 

Red Flags 

When I started applying for student jobs at the age of 16 years old, I used to respond to the question ‘What is your greatest weakness’ that I was a perfectionist. This answer was clearly rehearsed and was not providing enough details for the interviewer to evaluate my level of emotional intelligence.  

Workable mentions a range of red flags in relation to the assessment of emotional intelligence: 

  • Boilerplate, templated answers  
  • Short, general answers 
  • Criticizing or accusing supervisors and/or co-workers 
  • Contradictory body language signals 

Red flags in relation to value alignment: 

  • Candidates cannot support their arguments 
  • Their values do not match the position’s requirements. 
  • They seem inflexible 
  • They show signs of arrogance. 

Linking values to your Employee Value Proposition 

Remember the interview is as much for the employer as the employee. Through this process, candidates can assess the company’s culture and values, especially if these had not been clearly spelled out on their website or job description. 

In the current context with workforce shortage, it may be useful to revisit your Employee Value Proposition. There may be qualified workers looking for a role in a different organisation that matches their expectations better.  

Are we a provider of choice for candidates? Do we know which type of candidates we want to attract? 

Are these values clearly articulated and demonstrated via several channels (website, interview process, verbal/non-verbal/written communication)? This article Building Your Employer Brand to Build your Workforce explores this topic and provides additional resources. 

Further reading 

*Note: Although these are realistic scenarios, they do not reflect the writer’s personal experience in her current or previous employment.