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Skills are one of the key criteria considered by employers in the recruitment process. There are several main categories of skills and here we will focus on one of them, namely the interpersonal skills.
If you are in the job market, you know that education and experience say a lot about your professional profile. What you might not know is that CV skills are just as important – they represent your actual capabilities and say a lot about your personality.
We’ll help you define interpersonal skills and understand the differences between each skills category. In addition, we’ll answer the question:
Why are interpersonal skills important and how do you present them to your potential employer?
In this article, you’ll find practical examples, a list of interpersonal skills, case studies of CVs and cover letter that showcase the skills, and useful activities to develop interpersonal skills for the workplace.
What are interpersonal skills?
Interpersonal skills fall under the soft skills category. They are often also known as social or people skills. Interpersonal skills, such as kindness, reliability, empathy, social awareness, determine the flow of cooperation, teamwork and general communication. Although they often come naturally and result from one’s personality, this certainly doesn’t mean that they cannot be acquired, learned and practised. Interpersonal skills are extremely important in the work environment. One can say they are not indispensable at work, however, they certainly contribute to maintaining a good working atmosphere and avoiding conflicts arising from misunderstandings. There is no denying that we work better with people we feel comfortable with.
Before we move on, it’s worth mentioning that any CV skills we talk about can be divided into two basic categories:
Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Hard skills, also referred to as technical ones, include acquired skills, specific to an occupation or given situation. They are obtained through courses or training and improved with experience. These skills, due to their specificity, are more measurable than soft skills.
Examples of hard skills include:
- Proficiency in specific software applications,
- A/B testing.
Soft skills, on the other hand, include those abilities that are often related to character traits, communication or networking skills. Because they are more generic, they apply to a wide range of situations and occupations, i.e. they are more transferable.
Examples of soft skills include:
- Critical thinking.
Why are interpersonal skills important?
Interpersonal skills are extremely important, both in your private life and of course at work because they impact the relations between people. A person who has well-developed people skills will easily find their way into a team. What’s more, they will make other colleagues feel comfortable in their company. This, together with the specific skills for the job, will make work run smoothly and efficiently.
Think for yourself – would you rather work with a friendly but professional co-worker who knows when it’s time to laugh and when it’s time to work or an overly grumpy one who takes every criticism personally and only gives short, snappy answers to any questions.
You see, the working environment is largely built by the employees. So, the more developed the interpersonal skills, the better the working atmosphere. And that promotes all-around growth.
Interpersonal skills are also very important on the application stage. Why? Well, first of all, it starts with written communication, i.e. CV and cover letter. If you feel that your interpersonal skills such as communication, problem-solving, persuasion or other skills relevant to the role could be an asset to the company you are applying to, consider using the personal statement and skills sections of your CV to highlight this.
The next step is a job interview during which you have to put your interpersonal skills to practice: it includes the way you present yourself, your body language, the ability to build a connection with the person interviewing you as well as the ability to listen and draw conclusions.
Well developed social skills are also a great recipe for success.
For example, a good leader should have excellent interpersonal skills. When writing a CV for a managerial position, consider skills such as:
- the ability to manage a team
- active listening
- clear communication and delegation of tasks
- working as part of a team
- high work ethic
- objectivity and the ability to give constructive criticism
- ability to recognise success and motivate others
- conflict management
This skill set will allow them to run the team smoothly and efficiently while maintaining good atmosphere and healthy environment.
Interpersonal skills examples
Interpersonal skills include the social skills that affect building and maintaining good relationships with others. This is because open, honest communication at work and trust in colleagues create a healthy atmosphere in which it is easier to admit mistakes and therefore locate and correct them, as well as to achieve and celebrate successes.
Check this list of interpersonal skills representing qualities that are highly valued in any workplace:
This includes all the skills that facilitate good interactions with others and the ability to convey and receive information clearly. It includes oral and written communication, so also creating reports, drafting professional emails, making phone calls.
It involves managing a group of people in such a way as to achieve a set objective in an effective and qualitative manner while maintaining good relations and morale among team members.
Problem and conflict solving
An umbrella term for a combination of soft skills to help ease tension between two or more parties. The process of problem-solving consists of listening, analysis and decision.
Ability to make decisions independently
An essential skill at work is independence, assessment of situations and the ability to make independent decisions. This enables a much faster and more efficient workflow.
Many jobs require working with other team members. People who have well-developed teamwork skills will ensure the effective and smooth progress of work in a good atmosphere.
Sometimes you need to know how to say 'no' or to stand up for yourself. Standing one's ground with good arguments is a great trait for a responsible, confident employee.
Ability to persuade and influence others. This interpersonal skill is especially sought after in professions related to e.g. sales.
Easily meeting new people and maintaining good relations with them helps a lot both in everyday life and in business. You can network face-to-face, e.g. at business conferences, or online, e.g. on Linkedin.
Negotiation is a specific art of communication in which the skills of quick analysis, persuasion and assertiveness are combined in order to achieve the most favourable result.
Ability to recognise the reactions and feelings or emotions of other people. It helps to better understand the people around, empathise with them and react appropriately to the situation.
Responsibility for own actions
Characteristic of mature, responsible people. At work, people with a well-developed sense of responsibility understand that they are accountable for the results of their work, so they approach it with seriousness and dedication.
Ability to listen and learn
Very useful trait in any environment. Especially helpful when you are making a career change, for example. Ability to listen and learn also influences the quality of conclusions drawn.
Includes gestures and body movements such as posture or direction, facial expressions, gaze or management of personal space. Body language can say a lot about a person, so it is worth paying attention to it, e.g. when preparing for a job interview.
Ability to respond to criticism, failure
The way we react to bad news is also important in the workplace. Being able to respond to constructive criticism in a mature way allows you to learn and grow.
Ability to evaluate and give feedback objectively
The ability to give constructive feedback, especially when it is negative, in such a way that the recipient can understand their mistakes and learn from them helps to reduce the risk of future mistakes.
How to use communication and interpersonal skills in a workplace
These three tips on how to use interpersonal skills in a workplace will help you improve the quality of your communication at work:
- Understand that everyone has an individual work style. Empathise with your co-workers. See and acknowledge them. Maybe the colleague that sits by a desk next to yours isn’t actually rude, she just has a harder time talking to new people.
- Convey information in a clear and unambiguous manner. Especially when you have important news to share. Sugarcoating and circling around the topic can only lead to misunderstandings.
- Do not confuse assertiveness with being rude. Respect the boundaries and opinions both of yourself and others. When you set your boundaries clearly, it is much harder to violate them.
The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most useful and appreciated interpersonal skills. No matter what position you work in, communication is a key CV skill.
Communication at work consists of verbal messages as well as written and graphic ones. We are talking about giving information, delegating tasks, reporting or giving feedback. This includes not only conversations, but also emails, chats, presentations or graphs, as well as the ability to talk about more difficult topics: admitting mistakes or failures, but also negotiating a promotion or pay rise.
Well-developed communication and interpersonal skills shape the way a team works and help develop good professional relationships. Open communication allows to quickly locate and avert problems, efficient flow of information, and control over the process. Statistics also show that good communication between a leader and their team contributes to high morale. A well-informed employee and a greater sense of belonging to the team and a sense of responsibility for results. On the other hand, a leader who promotes open and honest communication at work has a better awareness of the tasks performed by team members and can spot potential scuffles or successes more quickly. This, in turn, builds mutual trust and contributes to the mutual growth of the employees and the company.
How to highlight your interpersonal skills on CV
If you have ever written a CV, you know that it is divided into specific sections. The most common type of CV in the UK is the reverse-chronological format. It contains the following sections:
- personal statement
A common mistake made by many job seekers is to neglect this third section – CV skills. However, it is here that you can present the skills that might catch the attention of recruiters.
If you want to present interpersonal skills, you can either do so in the personal statement section, a separate column next to hard skills, or you can present both soft and hard skills without separating them and then discuss them further in your cover letter.
Interpersonal skills on CV - case study
Let’s take a look at a CV example for a purchase manager. Hugh has selected seven skills that he believes were best suited to the role. Although he didn’t use any categorisation, he listed the soft skills first and then the hard skills.
- Skilled negotiator
- Organised and detail-orientated
- Strong analytival skills
- Project managment
- Budget management
- Strategic planning
Now here we have the CV of Anna, who is a SPA therapist. Like Hugh, she has used the reverse-chronological CV format . She presented her skills in two columns: the first focuses on skills specific to her profession, while the second covers soft skills, including interpersonal skills.
- Massage therapy
- Aroma therapy
- Holistic therapies
- Face and body therapies
- Excellent customer care
- Cross-selling strategies
- Excellent communication
- Postive work ethic
How to highlight your interpersonal skills in a Cover Letter
A cover letter is a formal letter to a recruiter or potential employer that aims to expand on the information in your CV and better present your professional profile. This makes it the perfect opportunity to highlight the interpersonal skills that might be an asset for the role.
The standard format for a cover letter includes:
- and a conclusion.
A body of a cover letter is the ideal place to reference your interpersonal skills and demonstrate their relevance to the job ad. The best way to showcase them is to use specific examples (you can get inspired with our list of examples of interpersonal skills). A cover letter is usually only few sentences long so be straightforward.
Interpersonal skills in cover letter - case study
Let’s take a look at another case study – an example of a perfectly crafted cover letter. This person is applying for a Shop Assistant position at a popular grocery shop chain. As she already has experience in a similar position, she is well aware of what type of skills are really important in this role and she highlighted them to let the recruiters get to know her professional profile a bit better.
Activities to develop interpersonal skills
Now that you’ve got to know interpersonal skills better, you have surely noticed how important they are in your professional life. Employers and recruiters pay special attention to them because well-developed social skills combined with the right hard skills ensure that work gets done efficiently and effectively in a healthy team atmosphere.
Although they do indeed largely result from people’ personality traits, this doesn’t mean that they can’t be learned. Willingness and enthusiasm are most important, and the rest will come with practice!
What practice? Let’s see some activities to improve interpersonal skills:
- Interpersonal skills are best developed on a daily basis. See how others deal with different situations. Practise several scenarios and ask for help from people you feel comfortable around – for example, to practice a difficult conversation.
- Take advantage of the abundance of sources available. The Internet allows us to access knowledge in virtually any field – so use it. If you want to better master the art of negotiation, assertiveness or any other skill, you will surely find an interesting training course, lecture or podcast online that will help you.
- Smile more often. Kindness and sincerity are the foundation of good interpersonal skills. A smile can often be a great icebreaker and save a situation. Additionally, scientists have proven that the very act of smiling improves our mood. Win-win!
- Body language also falls into the category of interpersonal skills. This includes the ability to maintain eye contact. So the next time you talk to someone, observe how your body is behaving. Try to maintain natural eye contact. Take care not to fidget too much, especially when the other person is talking and you are listening.
- And when it comes to listening, it is worth mentioning that active listening is a highly valued interpersonal skill. How to improve the interpersonal skill of active listening? First, really focus on what the other person is saying to you. When you put your mind to it, your body will join in. Show your conversation partner attention and respect and they will certainly feel more comfortable and be willing to be more open.
- Take care of your mental health. Remember, when we feel good, our actions reflect it. Take care of yourself first and you will surely find it easier to nurture your relationships with others.
- Both at work and in our private lives, we are texting more and more, so we may find that talking face-to-face gradually becomes a challenge. To practice communication, talk to others more often! So simple, yet in the age of ubiquitous text messaging it’s easy to forget.
Good interpersonal skills can take you places
Let’s summarise all the information about interpersonal skills gathered in the text:
- Interpersonal skills are social skills that contribute to establishing relationships and maintaining good relations with others
- The importance of interpersonal skills cannot be underestimated. They are very important in the working environment, so if you apply for a new job, mention them when writing your CV and cover letter
- There are different types of CV skills. Check the list of interpersonal skills and see which ones fit you
- Communication is a key skill in both business and private life
- Although interpersonal skills are a result of character traits, they can be developed, practised and improved, e.g. through frequent contact with people you feel comfortable around.
SEO Content Writer, Translator
Jagoda Obszarska is a certified copywriter, Polish language translator and career advice expert. She never stops improving her skills and learning new things. Over the years, she has worked as a copywriter and translator with people from over 50 countries worldwide and completed nearly a thousand projects.