Social skills are essential for workplace success. Also called “interpersonal skills,” social skills are what we all use to interact and communicate with other people. These skills include both verbal skills (the way you speak to other people) and nonverbal skills (your body language, gestures, and eye contact).
Why Employers Value Social Skills
Social skills are important soft skills. While professional hard skills are acquired through education, training, or job experience, these more personal qualities are developed while interacting with others, and are key to doing so well.
Almost every job requires social skills. If you work on a team, you need to be able to get along with others. If you work with clients, you must listen attentively to their questions and concerns. If you are a manager, you will be called upon to motivate employees.
Even if your job does not involve interacting with other people very much, you still need to possess social skills to interact effectively with your employer and colleagues.
Because social skills are so essential, almost every employer looks for job candidates with these competencies. It's important that you demonstrate that you have strong social skills in your resume, cover letter, and interview.
Top 5 Social Skills
Here is a list of the top five social skills that employers seek in candidates for employment. Plus, take a look at tips to help you demonstrate your social skills throughout your job search.
To interact well with others, you must be able to understand how they are feeling. That's a two-part undertaking. First, you need to understand how people feel — for instance, maybe a customer feels frustrated by a broken widget or a co-worker feels overwhelmed by a project. The second aspect of empathy is relating to others.
Empathy is especially critical when dealing with clients who come to you with questions or problems. You need to express genuine concern for their issues, as well as helping to solve them.
Employees value this skill because it furthers collaboration and leads to strong workplace relationships.
Cooperation is especially important when you work in a team, where you will be required to partner with others to reach a common goal. However, even if you do not work in a team, cooperation is still necessary on those occasions when you are asked to work alongside colleagues to help achieve the goals of your organization.
Employers have a preference for candidates who can work well with others, and won't obstruct progress.
3. Verbal and Written Communication
Verbal communication is the ability to express yourself using clear language that others can understand. You’ll need solid verbal communication skills whenever you speak to others in person or on the phone. Written communication comes into play whenever you write an email, text, letter, report, or presentation – here, appropriate grammar, spelling, and format are necessary.
No matter what your role is at the company, communication skills are essential. Without them, you won't be able to share details about what you're working on, why it's important, and when you need help from others.
Another important communication skill that helps you interact well with others is listening. You need to be able to listen carefully to what your employer tells you to do, to what your colleagues say in a meeting, and to what your employees ask of you. You must listen to clients’ concerns, and express to them that you have understood them.
People respond well to others when they feel they are being heard.
5. Nonverbal Communication
While verbal communication is an important skill, so is nonverbal communication. Through your body language, eye contact, and facial expressions, you can express that you are an empathetic person who carefully listens to others. If you walk around with a smile, people will more readily engage with you than if you have a scowl on your face.
How to Show Your Social Skills During a Job Search
Try to demonstrate that you have all of these social skills throughout your job search process. Firstly, be sure to incorporate the social skill words discussed here (“empathy,” “cooperation,” “verbal and written communication,” “listening,” “nonverbal communication”) into your resume.
Secondly, you can use these words in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, providing specific examples of a time when you demonstrated them at work.
Thirdly, you can use these skill words in an interview. Make sure you have at least one example of a time you applied each of the skills listed here. Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.
Interviews also provide the perfect forum to demonstrate your interpersonal talents.
Make sure to use verbal and nonverbal communication skills to convey your interest in the interview, the employer, and the job. Speak clearly, and listen carefully to the questions being asked. Displaying these interpersonal skills in person is the best way to convince an employer that you have what it takes to excel in the position they’re offering.
How to Improve Your Social Skills
For some people, social skills come naturally. But that's not the case for everyone. If you receive negative feedback in these areas, or struggle with some of these essential social skills, prioritize improving them. Here are some strategies you can use:
- See what others do: Observe how friends, family members, and co-workers with strong social skills interact with others. Then, aim to copy their techniques. Soon enough, you may find that it comes naturally to you too.
- Practice your small talk: If you're shy around co-workers, people may interpret it as standoffishness. Try practicing making small talk and engaging with others. Start by aiming for one conversation a week, and build on that.
- Be interested: It's far easier to make conversation and connect with others if you're interested and genuinely curious.
- Listen carefully and speak clearly: Make an effort to listen when others talk. Then when it's your turn to speak, respond to what they say and speak clearly (don't mumble!).
- Consider how you carry yourself: It may help to ask friends to take photos or video to get a truer sense of your nonverbal abilities. For example, you may discover that when you speak with others, you frequently have a frown on your face. Or, maybe during meetings, you opt to sit in the corner hunched over. Practicing making eye contact, having an open expression on your face, and other nonverbal communication can make a real difference in how you come across to others.
SOCIAL SKILLS ARE IMPORTANT IN THE WORKPLACE. Your application may focus on hard skills, but these soft skills are prized by employers and essential to your success at work.
HIGHLIGHT THESE SKILLS DURING YOUR JOB SEARCH. You can include keywords within your resume and cover letter that show you have these soft skills, as well as demonstrating them during your interview.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. If you find that social skills don't come easily, don't despair—the more you work on these skills, the better you'll get. Here's how to improve your social skills for career success.