Kai Dickerson
Community Specialist
Posted April 17, 2021

Interpersonal skills: everything you need to know

What are interpersonal skills and why are they so important in your career? A list of interpersonal skills with definitions.
Kai Dickerson
Community Specialist
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Interpersonal skills: everything you need to know
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If you’re like most job seekers, when you write your resume and cover letter, you probably focus on your work history and hard skills.

Things like your proficiency with technology or your years of experience in food service.

But hiring managers also want to know about your soft skills — personal behaviors or traits that help you succeed in any workplace.

Interpersonal skills are some of the most in-demand soft skills. In fact, 65% of employers are looking to hire people with interpersonal skills.

Showcasing your interpersonal skills when you apply for a job is important, but it can be harder than demonstrating technical skills.

This article will help you understand what interpersonal skills are, how you can use them in your career, and how to prove to potential employers that you have them.

What are interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills are the skills that help you communicate, interact, and collaborate with others. They include both verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

We all have these skills and use them in our everyday lives, but some people have more well-developed interpersonal skills than others.

Employers seek out people with these skills because communicating effectively and working well with others makes you better at most kinds of jobs.

Don’t worry if your interpersonal skills need work — it’s always possible to improve with practice.

Why are interpersonal skills important?

Most jobs involve communication, interaction, or collaboration. Even if you have a job that isn’t customer-facing, you usually have coworkers, and getting along with them is essential.

Interpersonal skills can be learned, but most employers leave it up to the employee to learn on their own. Only 40% say they offer interpersonal skill training.

That means if you’ve already developed excellent interpersonal skills, you’re a highly desirable job candidate.

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Employers want to know that you can work as part of a team or lead it, depending on the role. They want to know that you’ll be able to communicate effectively with your coworkers, boss, or subordinates (the people who report to you).

If there are disagreements in the workplace, employers want to trust that you’ll resolve them in a positive way. And they want to foster a positive work environment, meaning they need you to be caring and respectful of others.

All of these things rely on interpersonal skills.

Types of interpersonal skills

There are nine main types of interpersonal skills. Most people will be stronger in some areas than others, but there’s always room for improvement.

Communication

Poor communication can be a disaster in any role.

Customers could get the wrong information about a product and end up leaving a bad review. An email from a coworker could be misinterpreted, leading to a delay in a project. Or the whole team could be confused because their manager didn’t clearly communicate expectations.

In some jobs, poor communication could even lead to someone being physically harmed. You can see why employers want employees with great communication skills.

Being a good communicator means you’re skilled at communicating ideas through speaking and writing. It also includes body language and other non-verbal communication.

Listening

Communication shouldn’t be one-sided. Active listening is another important interpersonal skill for the workplace.

It’s not enough to hear your coworker. Active listening means that you make a conscious effort to take in what the other person is saying and reflect on it.

Do you find yourself impatiently waiting for a team member to finish talking so you can make your point? If so, you’re not alone — it’s a bad habit that many of us have. But working on your listening skills can benefit you in your career.

Practice giving your conversation partner your undivided attention. People with good listening skills know how to stay engaged and remain open to the ideas they’re hearing.

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Conflict resolution

We all hope to get through our day at work without conflict, but some disagreements are inevitable.

You might be at odds with a teammate over how to complete a task or a project. If you’re a manager, you might have to mediate disagreements between coworkers.

Conflict management and resolution skills allow you to work through the problem without getting overly upset. You can empathize with all sides of a disagreement and find a positive way forward.

For example, maybe you’re frustrated because you feel your coworker isn’t completing a task correctly, leaving you to fix the problem. Your coworker feels they’re doing the task right.

Instead of getting angry and arguing, you talk to them about the issue and try to understand their point of view. Eventually, you come to an agreement about how to do the job.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to the feelings of others.

It’s extremely important in customer-facing roles. Dealing with customers isn’t always easy, but if you empathize with their needs and problems, you’ll be able to provide the best service.

Empathy is also an important skill for working with colleagues. Caring about their feelings makes you a more respectful and helpful coworker.

Leadership

Being the boss doesn’t make you a leader, and you can be a leader without being the boss.

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Leadership is about inspiring and empowering others to succeed.

When you have strong leadership skills, others look to you to make decisions and map a path forward for them.

Employers are always looking for candidates and workers that show leadership skills — and strong leadership skills can lead to promotions and better compensation.

Negotiation

Negotiation means you can work with others to find an agreeable solution that benefits everyone (not just one person).

In some jobs, negotiation involves reaching formal agreements or creating contracts. But even if your work doesn’t involve official negotiations, being able to negotiate is an important interpersonal skill.

For example, you might have to negotiate with a coworker over the work distribution for a project. Or you might negotiate with your employer to get a higher wage in return for increased responsibilities.

Motivation

It’s hard to stay motivated all of the time. No matter how much you like your job, work can get tedious.

Motivated workers are able to stay engaged with their job and the people around them.

There are techniques to help you stay motivated on the job. For example, break your work into smaller tasks so it feels more manageable. Or take a short break if possible.

Teamwork

Collaboration is important in most jobs, even those that involve a lot of independent work. If you’re part of a larger organization, you’re part of a team.

That’s why 86.3% of recruiters say they look for the ability to work in a team on students’ resumes.

Great teamwork is the combination of listening, negotiation, empathy and other skills. You communicate well with your teammates and listen to their ideas. You negotiate effectively and help motivate the whole team to do good work.

What are some examples of good interpersonal skills?

You use interpersonal skills in every interaction, big or small, that you have at your job. Strong interpersonal skills make a good impression on your customers, your coworkers, and your employer — all important for advancing your career.

Some examples of things people with good interpersonal skills might be able to do are:

  • Work with a colleague to develop a plan

  • Provide constructive criticism without being hurtful

  • Motivate others to work harder

  • Compromise with a coworker

  • Talk through a disagreement without getting emotional

  • Help a colleague solve a problem

Unfortunately, people with poor interpersonal skills often don’t realize it. But, reflecting on your interactions with others at work can help you identify where you excel and where you could improve your interpersonal skills.

Which part of your job usually goes the smoothest? Do you get angry and frustrated with your coworkers? Do you remember what people say after you talk to them?

Everybody has some strengths and weaknesses. Emphasize your strengths in your job search and work on the weaknesses.

How to show interpersonal skills in your resume, cover letter, and interview

Most employers are looking for someone with interpersonal skills, but job seekers struggle to demonstrate that they have these important abilities.

To best leverage your interpersonal skills in your job search, make sure to include them in your resume, cover letter, and interview.

Listing interpersonal skills in your resume

Many job ads list interpersonal skills that employers are interested in. For example, you might see a job description looking for a “team player” or someone with “leadership ability.”

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Use the words from the job description on your resume. You can list them in the skills section or work them into your resume summary.

Listing interpersonal skills in your cover letter

In your cover letter, don’t just list your interpersonal skills. Give examples of times you’ve used them in the past and, if possible, connect those stories to the job you’re applying for.

Keep each story short — the whole letter should only be a few short paragraphs.

Showing interpersonal skills in the interview

Much like in your cover letter, you can use stories and anecdotes to demonstrate interpersonal skills in the interview. You can go into more detail than you did in your cover letter, but don’t go overboard. You don’t want to spend too much time on any one interview question.

The most important way to prove you have interpersonal skills in an interview is to use them.

Communicate well, listen attentively to the interviewer, and show your future employer that you would be easy to get along with.

What jobs require interpersonal skills?

Honestly, we can’t come up with a single job that doesn’t require some level of interpersonal skills.

Most jobs come with coworkers or customers.Even if you’re in a position where you’re working alone from home for your entire shift, you still will have a boss you need to interact with on occasion, at the very least.

Some jobs are very people-focused. For example, good communication is at the heart of customer service.

But you don’t have to be in a customer-centric job to need interpersonal skills. If you have to collaborate with your coworkers, lead a team, or get along with your boss, interpersonal skills will make you better at what you do.

The importance of interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are something most employers are looking for in a new hire.

Identify your strongest interpersonal skills and showcase them in your resume, cover letter, and interview. Once you land the job, great interpersonal skills are sure to give you a career boost, regardless of your field.


For more tips on boosting your career, check out the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.

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