The need for strong social and interpersonal skills has dramatically increased with the Covid-19 pandemic and the evolving workforce. In one McKinsey Global survey, the number of companies reskilling their employees in empathy and interpersonal skills doubled in 2020. 

Meanwhile, a report by Deloitte Access Economics says that by 2030, two-thirds of all jobs will be soft-skill intensive. So developing strong interpersonal skills is key.

In this article, we will cover what interpersonal skills are, why they are critical for your career, how you can showcase them on your resume and during your interview, and how you can develop them as part of your career toolkit.

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Table of Contents

What are interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills (also called employability skills, social skills, people skills, or soft skills) are what you use to understand, communicate, interact, and relate with other people. These encompass a broad array of verbal and nonverbal skills like collaboration, negotiation, teamwork, and problem-solving.

Your interpersonal skills will differentiate you from someone who only has technical skills. The stronger your people skills, the more you become an asset to your company or organization.

Interpersonal skills definition

Examples of interpersonal skills in the workplace

Interpersonal skills come in many shapes and sizes, to the point that you probably don’t even realize that you’re using them. Here are a few people skills and how you use them in the workplace:

  • Demonstrating empathy towards others

This means that you consider other people’s feelings and emotions and deal with them with respect, knowing what it feels like to be in their shoes.

  • Pitching an idea or solution to your boss

This is when you share an idea or a solution with your boss or colleagues and make sure that the message you are trying to convey is clear, concise, and simple. 

  • Asking questions 

This includes thinking of the right questions, articulating what you want to ask, and communicating this effectively with your boss, peers, or colleagues. 

  • Offering help and support to others

This includes taking on a little extra work to help a struggling coworker, offering to make copies for someone to help them out, or even just offering to throw away your coworker’s empty coffee cup while you’re up.

  • Seeking feedback from others to improve your performance

This could be taking notes during a performance review or asking someone to look over your reports and tell you which parts to edit.

  • Accepting constructive criticism gracefully

This includes not taking criticism from your supervisor or other coworkers personally. If you have ever taken criticism during a performance review without complaint and made adjustments to how you work, you have exercised this skill!

Why are interpersonal skills important in the workplace?

Employers want to onboard the best talents who can bring the company to the next level. To make this happen, employers need employees who have strong people skills who can lead teams well, empathize with customers, and build strong relationships and trust within the team. 

Here are six reasons why having strong interpersonal skills is important:

  1. It gets you the job.

No matter how qualified you are, if you cannot work well with others, the entire work environment will suffer, and employers don’t want this. That’s why recruiters and employers consider not only your technical expertise and hard skills but your social skills as well when searching for candidates. 

  1. It builds trust.

In the workplace, you will meet and interact with many people from different backgrounds – your boss, supervisor, colleagues, customers, friends, and even strangers. With solid people skills, you can create a safe environment, build trust easily, and maintain strong and lasting relationships at all levels of the organization.

  1. It increases employee morale.

People who have strong people skills are easy to get along with. They also know how to ease tension and resolve conflicts. This helps create a more positive work environment that increases the team’s overall output, productivity, and morale.

Reasons why interpersonal skills are important in the workplace
  1. It drives collaboration.

Social skills help you work with other people even when they don’t always agree with you. Strong social skills help you understand others and adjust to how you deal and communicate with them.

  1. It increases motivation.

People skills help you bring out the best in others. These skills help you create a unified team and bring direction to those under your leadership.

  1. It opens up more career opportunities.

Because you are able to work well with others and navigate through different circumstances, it is highly likely that you will assume more leadership roles, move up the ladder, and get promotions since you add incredible value to the company.

How to identify interpersonal skills

If you’re not sure if you have good interpersonal skills, here’s what you can do to assess your abilities:

Think about how you interact with other people in your personal life. 

  • Do you find it easy to communicate with others and build relationships? 
  • Are you a good listener? 
  • Do people warm up easily to you?
  • Can you empathize with other people?
  • Do you find it easy to encourage and motivate others?

Think about how you react in difficult situations.

  • Are you able to stay calm during conflicts? 
  • Do you handle feedback and criticism well?
  • Are you able to resolve conflicts and disagreements?

Identifying your interpersonal skills starts with self-awareness. Taking time to think about the questions above will give you a good head start in assessing your interpersonal skills and seeing how you can improve.

5 interpersonal skills to include on your resume

Your interpersonal skills can either make you or break you during your job application. Here are some important interpersonal skills you can include on your resume

1. Communication

This is your ability to communicate clearly, in both verbal and written form. This includes active listening, being able to give and receive feedback, and being able to understand nonverbal cues. You might use this skill when presenting to a group, leading a meeting, or writing an email.

2. Collaboration

This pertains to how well you work with others in a team. This includes being able to compromise, being able to take on different roles within a team, and being able to manage conflict.

3. Problem-solving

This is your ability to identify and solve problems. This includes being able to think creatively, being analytical, and being resourceful. You use this skill when trying to find a solution to a difficult problem or when trying to come up with a new idea. While problem-solving can be done alone, it frequently involves other people.

list of interpersonal skills

4. Conflict resolution

This is your ability to resolve conflicts without making them worse. This includes being able to stay calm, empathizing with others, and finding a solution. You use this skill when mediating a disagreement between two people or when finding win-win situations.

5. Emotional intelligence

This is your ability to understand and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. This includes being self-aware, being able to regulate your emotions, and being able to empathize with others. You use this skill when trying to calm down after a stressful situation or when trying to understand why someone is feeling upset.

How to highlight interpersonal skills on a resume

Knowing what interpersonal skills are and how to use them in the workplace is great, but you also need to know how to highlight them on your resume. Here are some tips on how to do just that. 

1. Mention projects or results that required interpersonal skills

If you have examples of times when you’ve used interpersonal skills in the workplace to achieve something, mention them on your resume. 

This could be anything from leading a team to completing a project to resolving conflict between coworkers. Maybe you’re known for being especially good at giving constructive feedback, or perhaps you’re always the one people come to when they need help with something. 

Whatever the case, mention instances where you achieved something using interpersonal skills.

For more examples of accomplishments to include on your resume, check out our article here!

2. Mention volunteer experience, hobbies, or side projects that showcase interpersonal skills

If you don’t have much (or any) professional experience, that’s okay – there are plenty of other ways to showcase your interpersonal skills. Any volunteer work or hobbies that you participated in can be great examples. 

For instance, if you’re a sports team member, you’ve likely had to work closely with other people to achieve a common goal. Or if you’re involved in any creative endeavor such as graphic design, painting, writing, theater, or filmmaking, you probably had to collaborate with others from time to time. 

These are all examples of how you’ve used people skills outside of the workplace, and they can be just as impressive to employers.

3. Use keywords from the job description

When applying for a job, it’s essential to tailor your resume to each position. One way to do this is to include relevant keywords from the job listing on your resume. 

If the listing mentions anything about teamwork, customer service, or communication, include those exact keywords on your resume. 

This shows employers, hiring managers, and recruiters that you have the interpersonal skills they’re looking for. This also helps your resume get past the applicant tracking system, or ATS, which might filter out resumes before they even hit the hiring manager’s desk.

It’s always a good idea to run your resume through an online tool like Jobscan’s resume scanner. This tool will tell you exactly which keywords you need to include on your resume to increase your chances of getting a job interview.

4 steps to highlight interpersonal skills in a job interview

Once you’ve made it past the initial application stage and secured a job interview, it’s time to demonstrate your soft skills in person. This can be difficult and intimidating, but don’t worry – here are some tips to help you turn your words into action.

1. Use specific examples

When the interviewer asks about a time when you used teamwork or overcame a difficult issue, have a ready answer with a detailed example. 

This shows that you not only have experience in the relevant area but that you can also communicate effectively about your work.

Think back to a time when you dealt with an irate customer or a coworker who was having a bad day. How did you handle the situation? What was the result? Or perhaps you had to take on extra work when a team member was out sick; how did you manage your time, and what did you learn from the experience? 

Be prepared with a story that backs up the claims you have on your resume.

2. Use those skills in the interview itself

An interview is a great avenue for you to showcase your interpersonal skills in real time. This is your chance to show that you can think on your feet and stay calm under pressure – two very important interpersonal skills. 

Make sure you use open body language and don’t forget to smile. You got this! 

3. Make connections to responsibilities included in the new job

When asked about your previous experiences, make a connection to the responsibilities included in the new position. This attention to detail shows that you understand exactly how your skills can be applied in the new role. It will also give you an opportunity to talk about any additional skills or knowledge that you may have. 

For example, if you’re applying for a job that involves managing a team, you could talk about a time when you had to deal with conflict within a group. Maybe you had to mediate between two employees who were disagreeing, or maybe you led a team through a challenging project.

Be sure to include as many specific examples as possible to show that you’re the best person for the job.

4. Give examples that helped you develop interpersonal skills

Give concrete examples of moments that helped you develop your social skills.

If you had a customer service job where you had to deal with difficult clients, or you volunteered for an organization where you worked closely with others, these are the instances you’ll want to recall. 

Whatever the experience, talk about what you learned from it and how it will help you in the new role.

For more tips on how to ace your interview, check out our article here!

How to develop interpersonal skills

First things first. As with any other skill, interpersonal skills can be learned and developed. Here are some ways you can work on building these skills: 

  • Join or volunteer for a club, group, or team. This will help you learn how to cooperate and communicate effectively to achieve a common goal. 
  • Take some classes! Whether it’s through your local community college or online courses, learning in a structured environment helps you build your people skills. 
  • Get a job in customer service. This is a great way to learn how to deal with different types of people daily and how to manage challenging situations. 
  • Practice active listening. This involves paying attention to what the other person is saying and trying to understand their perspective. This is a crucial skill for effective communication

Developing strong interpersonal skills can take time and effort, but it’s worth it. These skills are essential for your success – not just in the workplace but in every part of your life.

Key Takeaways

To recap, here are a few pointers on interpersonal skills:

  • We use people skills when we interact and communicate with others.
  • Self-awareness is the first step toward understanding your interpersonal skills.
  • Building strong interpersonal skills and other soft skills opens up career opportunities that will catapult you into greater professional success.
  • Although some people are more naturally-gifted with interpersonal skills than others, developing these skills is possible. It requires patience and deliberate practice.

Companies are not just hiring people just to fill positions. They are also slowly building up a pipeline of people who will assume leadership roles and bring the company to the next level.

That’s why developing interpersonal skills is critical for your career success, regardless of your current role. Consider a few examples. They are part of essential executive assistant skills, as they often need to communicate with various people in an organization. When considering medical assistant skills, interpersonal abilities are vital in providing empathetic and effective patient care. Barista skills also include these qualities for excellent customer service. Finally, cashier skills require interpersonal strengths for positive customer interactions and efficient transactions.

No matter what your profession, be sure to include these key skills on your resume and cover letter. And make sure your resume gets to the hands of a real recruiter by optimizing it for applicant tracking systems.

You can actually see how well your resume is suited for a particular job by running it through an online tool like Jobscan’s resume scanner. This tool will provide you with a resume score. If your score is too low, you’ll be given tips on how to fix your resume so it scores higher.

You can see your score rise in real time by using the Power Edit feature. The higher your score, the better your chances of getting an interview!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills are the skills we use to interact and relate with other people. They involve communication, relationship building, and collaboration, among others.

What are good examples of interpersonal skills?

Here are some examples of interpersonal skills or social skills:

  • Active listening 
  • Being able to understand and empathize with others 
  • Managing conflict 
  • Building lasting relationships 
  • Teamwork
  • Motivating others
  • Leadership
  • Negotiation and persuasion

What does interpersonal skills mean?

Interpersonal skills is the term used to refer to the skills we use to interact with other people. They include things like how you handle conflict, build relationships, and work in a team.

Workplace interpersonal skills include which of the following?

Interpersonal skills can include:

  • Active listening 
  • Communication 
  • Conflict resolution 
  • Relationship building
  • Leadership
  • Negotiation 

These are only a few examples, as interpersonal skills are anything you use when interacting with others!

What are the benefits of good interpersonal skills?

Having good people skills can help you:

  • Understand others and adjust your approach.
  • Articulate project ideas and share solutions with colleagues.
  • Deal with arguments and conflicts.
  • Motivate your team.
  • Empathize with customers and deliver excellent service.
  • Do product presentations well.
  • Negotiate and persuade.
  • Better manage stress and uncertainties.
  • Be more productive.
  • Move up the leadership ladder.

How do you improve interpersonal skills?

We all have some interpersonal skills in varying degrees, but some people are naturally better at them. If you struggle to connect with co-workers or advance in your career, there are steps you can take to improve your skills.

  1. Communicate. Intentionally converse with others and understand how you speak and share your message. Practice expressing yourself clearly and deliberately practice being an active listener. 
  2. Be confident. We are all a work in progress. Be confident that you, too, can grow in your people skills.
  3. Be open-minded. Learn from other people and be open to understanding viewpoints especially when they contradict yours.
  4. Be patient. With yourself and with others. Interacting with others can be challenging, so be sure to take a step back if you feel frustrated.

How do you assess your interpersonal skills?

It all begins with self-awareness. Pay close attention to how you behave around other people and how you interact with them. Observe how people react to whatever you say and do. 

You can also straight up ask others what they think about how you interact with them. Doing this will help you understand your interpersonal behavior and improve on certain behaviors accordingly.

How do you include interpersonal skills on your resume?

Including interpersonal skills on your resume can increase your chances of getting the job. Here’s how you do it.

  1. Determine what interpersonal skills the employer is looking for based on the job description. 
  2. Elaborate on these skills in your resume. Explain how you’ve used these skills in your past work experiences.
  3. Make sure your examples are specific and measurable.
  4. Take note of relevant skills and keywords found in the job description and include them in the skills section of your resume.
  5. Incorporate these skills into your resume summary.

How do you highlight interpersonal skills in your cover letter?

You can showcase your interpersonal skills in your cover letter. Here’s how.

  1. Determine three or four people skills mentioned in the job description.
  2. Recall specific stories from your past experience where you used those skills and mention what you achieved by using them.
  3. Relate your examples to the job you are interested in. 
  4. Explain how your people skills will help in the new role you are applying for.

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