Top Interpersonal Skills That Employers Value

Tips for What to Highlight on Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviews

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What are interpersonal skills and why are they important in the workplace? Interpersonal skills, also known as people skills or soft skills or emotional intelligence skills, are related to the way you communicate and interact with others.

When employers are hiring, interpersonal skills are one of the top criteria used to evaluate candidates. Regardless of the type of job you have, it’s important to be able to get along well with co-workers, managers, customers, and vendors. Strong interpersonal skills are essential for succeeding in today’s workplace.

Why Employers Value Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are sometimes called employability skills. The word “employability” is the tip-off about the importance of interpersonal skills: they’re so crucial that hiring managers really don’t want to hire candidates without them.

Many careers require consistent, if not constant, interaction with other people. This is true even for jobs that would seem to favor introverted personalities and independent work styles. For example, even if you’re a software engineer or a writer or statistician, you still need to be able to communicate and collaborate with your team.

Even if you excel at the technical aspects of your job, if you’re a disaster to work with, your presence in the office will not be well received.

As a result, it’s important to emphasize your interpersonal skills in your cover letter and resume, and then back up those claims with your behavior during job interviews.

How to Showcase Your Interpersonal Skills

It’s important to reference your interpersonal skills throughout the job search process. Firstly, you might include them in your resume, particularly if your resume features a summary at the top, or if your work history section is formatted with paragraphs, rather than bullet points. This is because each interpersonal skill you reference should be connected to an anecdote, or an example, of when or how you used this skill. It's easier to do that in a paragraph rather than a bullet point.

For example, you might say, “My ability to motivate the individuals I manage is demonstrated in how consistently I meet, and beat, deadlines without burning out my team.” Or: “My leadership skills helped my team raise sales by 10 percent last quarter, despite the fact that many of us were new to the department.” This way, you’re showing what you accomplished rather than simply what you did.

Secondly, include similar examples of how you used your interpersonal skills at work in your cover letter. Remember to focus on what you accomplished by using these skills.

Finally, be prepared to answer interview questions about your interpersonal skills. Like in your cover letter and resume, provide an anecdote about a time you demonstrated a particular skill in the workplace, and how you used that skill to add value to the company.

Remember, actions speak louder than words, so you’ll want to be sure that you successfully embody any traits you claim to have when you’re interacting with your interviewer. For example, if you emphasize how your friendly demeanor has brought you success in the workplace, make sure you appear warm and approachable during the interview.

Match Your Skills to the Job

You should highlight those skills that are most important for the specific job to which you are applying. A job in sales, for example, might require excellent communication skills, the ability to develop a rapport, and persuasiveness. A human resources position, however, might be better suited for an individual with an ability to inspire trust and strong problem-solving, motivational, and mediation skills.

Review the job description and make a list of the characteristics the employer is after. Then match your qualifications to the job by making connections between their requirements and your skills and abilities.

Top Interpersonal Skills

Illustration by Alison Czinkota. © The Balance, 2018

One of the most important interpersonal skills in any job is communication. Whether you work in IT, customer service, construction, or any other industry, you will need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with others. You will have to interact with others through oral and written communication. Some jobs also require skills in effective public speaking.

Related skills:

Conflict Management
Whether you are a manager or an employee, you will likely need to resolve conflicts at some point in your job. This might involve solving an issue between two staff members, between yourself and a colleague, or between a client and your company. You will need to be able to listen fairly to both sides and use creative problem solving to arrive at a solution.

Related skills:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Constructive criticism
  • Counseling
  • Mediating
  • Problem-solving

Part of being a good manager, employee, and colleague is the ability to understand and show empathy for others. If a customer or colleague calls with a complaint, for example, you will need to listen thoughtfully to the person’s concerns, and express compassion for their issue. Empathy is an important skill that will help you get along with everyone in the workplace.

Related skills:

  • Caring
  • Compassion
  • Diplomacy
  • Diversity
  • Helping others
  • Kindness
  • Patience
  • Respect
  • Sensitivity
  • Sympathy

Even if you are not a manager, it is important to have some leadership experience and ability. Leadership requires being able to motivate and encourage others and help a team achieve success.

Related skills:

is a skill that goes hand in hand with good communication. While you need to be able to express your own ideas, you also need to thoughtfully listen to the ideas of others. This will help your clients, employers, colleagues, and employees feel like they are respected and valued.

Related skills:

Negotiation is an important skill in many jobs. Depending on the specific job, it might involve creating formal agreements (or contracts) between clients, or helping other colleagues solve a problem and determine a solution. To be a good negotiator, you have to be able to listen to others, use creative problem solving, and arrive at an outcome that satisfies everyone.

Related skills:

Positive Attitude
Employers want to hire employees who make the office a brighter place. They want people with a friendly, positive demeanor. This doesn’t mean you have to be the most social person in the office, but you have to be willing to develop some sort of a positive rapport with your colleagues.

Related skills:

Even if your job involves a lot of independent work, you still need to be able to collaborate with others. Teamwork involves a number of the skills already mentioned: you need to be able to listen to others, communicate your own goals, motivate your team, and resolve any conflicts that may come up.

Related skills:

More Essential Workplace Skills

Review a list of the best skills to include on your resume and LinkedIn, incorporate them into your job search and career materials, and mention them during job interviews to ensure your showing prospective employers you have the skills they are seeking.