During a job interview, you are likely to field questions about your interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills, also known as “people skills,” are those related to how you interact with others.
Most employers consider interpersonal skills to be very important for employees. Someone with solid interpersonal skills can work well with others, is a good team player, and communicates effectively.
Because people skills are so important, expect at least a couple of interview questions about your interpersonal skills.
Read below for advice on how to answer questions about interpersonal skills. Also see a list of common questions about interpersonal skills, and sample answers.
What Are Interpersonal Interview Questions?
An effective worker solves problems, resolves conflicts, and identifies creative solutions. He or she can do this through interpersonal skills. These skills are not hard skills that you can quantify and measure, like computer programming skills or legal knowledge. Instead, they are soft skills—qualities or attitudes that a person demonstrates.
While job candidates may be technically savvy, many struggle to work in diverse teams, so it's important to find workers who can work collaboratively.
Therefore, interpersonal questions are geared toward identifying whether or not a job candidate has these important soft skills.
Employers are also looking for your areas of weakness. If you have trouble with personal conflicts, for instance, that's a signal that you cannot separate personal passions from your job performance, a major issue in any workplace. It's important to be able to set firm boundaries between your work and personal life.
Interpersonal Skills Questions and Best Answers
Here you will find frequently asked interview questions about interpersonal skills. Below each question, you will find an explanation of what the interviewer wants to know, a sample answer, and the reason why it works so well.
1. Tell Me About a Time When You Had to Work With a Coworker You Did Not Like or Trust.
What They Want to Know: The key to this question is not to focus on the negative or blame your coworker. Instead, focus on being professional. Tell the employer that you recognize that not all coworkers will be best friends, but it's necessary to be able to collaborate with everyone. Highlight how you set aside personal differences.
Coworker works differently. In my last job, I had a coworker who tended to work alone and was not very sociable. This made it difficult for me to work with her on team projects. So I asked to speak with her privately, and tried to find common ground—to understand how she liked to work, what type of things she specialized in—and we broke the project up to best fit each of our skills and interests. In the end, we met the deadline more efficiently because we each could take ownership of a part of the project.
Why it Works: This candidate wisely refuses to “take the bait” of criticizing a fellow coworker. Instead, she recognizes that different people have different strengths, demonstrating that she understands how to create a complementary, productive relationship with someone she doesn’t personally care for.
2. Describe a Conflict at Work.
What They Want to Know: Again, do not place blame on anyone. Highlight where the disagreement came from, what the issue was, and what your rationale was. Emphasize how you worked proactively to resolve the issue and conclude with what the final results were.
It's never easy to confront a coworker. But I learned that if you explain the situation respectfully you can take steps to resolve the problem. This particular coworker was missing deadlines that pushed our projects behind schedule. I pulled him aside to discuss the situation, and we worked together to improve our workflow by splitting up the work evenly.
Why it Works: Here, again, the interviewee proves himself to be a problem-solver rather than a complainer by offering a specific example of how he has used his interpersonal skills to resolve a challenging issue.
3. If You Have Staff That Reports to You, How Would They Describe You?
What They Want to Know: Focus your answer on concrete examples, such as a time you gave your team autonomy or the freedom to come up with creative solutions.
I think my staff would say that I'm thoughtful. I try to make a connection with each of them. Find out what they would like to work on, and find opportunities, when applicable, for them to take the initiative. I think they also find that I am approachable—I encourage them to speak up when a project needs clarification, or speak to me privately if they need help.
Why it Works: This candidate has taken the time, before the interview, to reflect upon her own unique interpersonal strengths. She can thus readily use them to strengthen her response.
Before your interview, list the interpersonal skills that you believe set you apart from other people. Try, then, to allude to these in your answers.
4. When You've Started a New Job, How Did You Build Relationships?
What They Want to Know: Employers want to see that you will be proactive about fitting into the company culture. Emphasize how you've volunteered for projects, joined employee clubs, or invited coworkers to lunch to learn more about their roles.
Being the new person at a company can sometimes be stressful. But I find that if you make an effort to break the ice, people will generally like you, and you will like them. I make it a point to introduce myself and to get to know coworkers on a personal level to integrate myself in their team.
Why it Works: Here the candidate is clearly thinking ahead to how he will be able to mesh easily into his new workplace.
Tips to Answer Questions About Interpersonal Skills
Review these practical tips to help you prepare for job interview questions about interpersonal skills. Each tip also has an explanation to help you impress your interviewer.
Prepare Answers Ahead of Time
Review common interpersonal questions ahead of time, and practice your answers. This will help ensure that you have a number of thoughtful anecdotes ready to answer any and all interview questions.
You can also narrow down the list of questions you prepare for by first making a list of the most important interpersonal skills required for the job. Look back at the job listing and circle any interpersonal skills mentioned. Be sure to prepare an anecdote that proves you have each of the interpersonal skills needed for the job.
Share Specific Examples
When answering questions about your interpersonal skills, using concrete examples is important. Anyone can say they are great problem-solvers; but if you have an example of how you used out-of-the-box thinking to identify options and decide on an appropriate course of action, you will look far more credible.
Use the STAR Interview Technique
Consider using the STAR technique to answer questions. It is a useful strategy for answering interview questions in which you should answer with an anecdote.
- First, explain the situation you were in (where were you working at the time?). Then, describe the specific task or problem you faced.
- Next, explain what action you took to solve the problem or complete the task.
- Finally, explain the results of your actions (did you achieve a success for yourself? Your team? Your company?).
Demonstrate Your Skills
Throughout the interview, you can also demonstrate your interpersonal skills in how you engage with the interviewer. From your initial firm handshake and smile to the way you listen carefully to the interview questions, your body language and tone can help convey that you are a thoughtful, friendly person who gets along with others.
How to Make the Best Impression
No matter what sort of job you are applying to, interpersonal skills are important because they help employees build strong work relationships. They can help increase team productivity, and create a positive work environment for everyone.
Your first impression should be the best it can be. Follow these general tips to prepare for the interview, make your resume standout, and take the time to dress the part. Then, during the interview, show your interviewer that you are a good team player who can communicate effectively.