What are interpersonal skills, and why are they important in the workplace? Interpersonal skills, also known as people skills, soft skills, or emotional intelligence, 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 coworkers, managers, customers, and vendors.
Strong interpersonal skills are essential for succeeding in today’s workplace.
What Are Interpersonal Skills?
Interpersonal skills are sometimes called employability skills. The word “employability” is a 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, writer, or statistician, you still need to be able to communicate and collaborate with your team.
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.
Even if you excel at the technical aspects of your job, employers won’t want to hire you if it seems like you’d be a disaster to work with.
Types of Interpersonal Skills
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 both verbally and in writing. Some jobs also require skills in effective public speaking.
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.
Part of being a good manager, employee, or 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.
- Helping others
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.
Listening 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 respected and valued.
- Active listening
Negotiation is an important skill for many positions. Depending on the specific job, it might involve creating formal agreements (or contracts) between clients or helping colleagues solve a problem and determine a solution. To be a good negotiator, you must be able to listen to others, use creative problem solving, and arrive at an outcome that satisfies everyone.
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 must be willing to develop some sort of a positive rapport with your colleagues.
Even if your job involves a lot of independent work, you still need to be able to collaborate with others. Teamwork involves several 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 arise.
Showcase Your Interpersonal Skills
Match your qualifications to the job. Review the job description and make a list of the characteristics the employer is looking for. Then match your qualifications to the job by making connections between their requirements and your skills and abilities.
List your skills 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 way you’re showing what you accomplished rather than what you did.
My ability to motivate the individuals I manage is demonstrated in how consistently I meet, and beat, deadlines without burning out my team.
My leadership skills helped my team raise sales by 10% last quarter, despite the fact that many of us were new to the department.
Add relevant interpersonal skills to your cover letter. 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.
Share your skills during the interview. 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.
Use your interpersonal skills to impress. 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.
In-Demand Interpersonal Skills to Highlight
Preparing for a job interview or customizing your resume or cover letter? These are some of the most sought-after interpersonal skills. Look for ways to weave some of these keywords into your application materials or conversation.
- Active listening
- Conflict management
- Conflict resolution
- Constructive criticism
- Creative thinking
- Customer service
- Developing rapport
- Group facilitating
- Helping others
- Inspiring trust
- Nonverbal communication
- Positive reinforcement
- Problem solving
- Public speaking
- Relationship management
- Verbal communication
How to Make Your Skills Stand Out
Show Don't Tell: Whether you're interviewing for a new job or looking for a promotion, be sure to use your interpersonal skills to make a good impression.
Brush Up Your Skills: If your skills need improving or your confidence could use a boost, there are online and offline courses and seminars you can take.
Be Nice: One of the best ways to show that you've got strong interpersonal skills is to remain calm and civil, even in stressful situations.