Interpersonal skills, such as active listening, teamwork, collaboration and leadership, are some of the most valuable skills you can have for just about every industry and job title. But what are interpersonal skills, exactly? And how should you highlight them on a resume to get a job?
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What are interpersonal skills?
Interpersonal skills — the soft skills we use to interact and work with others — are often called “people skills” because they demonstrate how we communicate and collaborate. From verbal and written communication to conflict management, good interpersonal skills are critical for positive and productive interactions with coworkers, colleagues, managers, clients and customers.
“All employers can benefit from having strong communication and listening skills throughout their organization,” says Kristina Minyard, CEO of HRecruit, LLC Recruiter.
“You often hear ‘Communication isn’t a one-way street and it’s true, it’s a multi-lane, multi-directional highway that requires great communication skills up and down the org chart. “
Compared to technical or hard skills, workplace interpersonal skills can transfer across jobs. Empathy, for example, is essential to working well with others, whether you are a back-end developer, customer service manager or a bartender.
Examples of interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills include an array of soft skills involving interactions with other people, such as collaboration, conflict resolution, verbal and nonverbal communication, compassion and listening.
Here are the top interpersonal skills for most jobs and industries:
Working with others requires clear and effective verbal and written expression. Because almost every job involves working with others to some degree, strong communication skills is a top requirement for most hiring managers.
Communication skills include:
- Written and verbal communication
- Active listening
Whether it’s diffusing disagreements, getting different departments to agree on priorities or outcomes, or helping people reach satisfactory compromises, the ability to resolve conflicts is a valuable interpersonal skill — especially if you are a people manager.
Conflict resolution skills include:
- Constructive criticism
Whether you’re working in an office or remotely, hiring managers want to know that you can cooperate and work with colleagues toward a common goal. Traits like flexibility and a positive attitude speak to your ability to collaborate effectively.
Collaboration skills include:
- Team building
- Relationship management
You don’t have to be a manager to have great leadership skills. Inspiring and encouraging teammates and colleagues are valuable examples of interpersonal skills because they guide teams and projects to successful outcomes.
Leadership skills include:
Most hiring managers for jobs that require dealing with others directly, like retail sales, food and beverage service and customer service, place traits like compassion at a premium because they want job candidates who can understand and relate to people.
Top interpersonal skills by industry and job title
Some positions where you work alone or have minimal contact with others, such as being a research scientist or truck driver, don’t often list interpersonal skills as a requirement in their job descriptions. But the vast majority of jobs will involve situations in which you must work or communicate with others — and that’s when having the top interpersonal skills for each position can separate you from other job candidates who might otherwise have similar qualifications.
Here’s a sampling of specific jobs and industries that place an especially high value on interpersonal skills:
Examples of workplace interpersonal skills for top industries
- Conflict resolution
- Relationship building
- Cultural awareness
- Relationship building
- Active listening
Examples of interpersonal skills by job
Customer service representative
When you’re dealing with customers and clients on a daily basis, listening skills, conflict resolution and patience are not only preferred but required.
“A good bedside manner” is a prerequisite for this position, and good bedside manners include interpersonal skills such as empathy, sensitivity and patience.
To be an effective teacher, you need to have a command of the subjects you teach, and you also have to connect with your students. You also need to present information to them clearly and effectively, and maintain discipline while inspiring, motivating and encouraging them.
In this profession, working with patients and colleagues successfully mandates that you are a great listener and speaker. Good doctors are also compassionate and positive.
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How to highlight your interpersonal skills on a resume
How do you best present workplace interpersonal skills on a resume when applying for a job? Just follow these guidelines.
- Use the job description as your guide. Read over the job description and match the required skills to your skill set.
- Add your matched skills to your resume summary, work experience and skills sections.
Emphasizing relevant interpersonal skills in your resume summary is a great way to grab potential employers’ attention right away.
Examples of interpersonal skills in a resume summary:
- Sales assistant with two years of experience in direct sales. Works directly with customers and representatives on sales quotations, status calls, deliveries and service. Assists in various customer service projects as needed.
- Entry-level health care support specialist motivated to work in a team environment to collaborate on high-level customer care initiatives.
When adding workplace interpersonal skills to your job history section, feature examples that demonstrate that you have the right skills and know how to use them. Show your impact on the company by incorporating numbers into your accomplishment descriptions.
Examples of interpersonal skills in a work history section:
- Answered 50 calls per day while assisting an average of 100 customers per week.
- Collaborated with a team of 10 sales representatives on goal-setting.
- Won award for building sustainable relationships and trust with customers and representatives through active listening and direct communication.
Use bullet points to list your interpersonal skills along with your other relevant soft and hard skills. A good strategy to make skill sets stand out is to create two or three subcategories for each type of skill.
Examples of interpersonal skills in a resume skills section:
You might lay out your skills like this to help each one shine:
- Active listening
- Relationship building
- Data entry
- Microsoft Excel
- Project management software
- Internet research
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How to highlight interpersonal skills in a cover letter
Cover letters are an essential piece of a job application. They should always be paired with a resume to provide more details on important skills and experiences and to give insight into your personality.
When including workplace interpersonal skills in a cover letter, elaborate on a skill or two from your resume. Focus on specific interpersonal skills that are well-matched to the job requirements that you have used to achieve wins for the company. Detail how you used them and the outcome.
Here’s an example of interpersonal skills in a cover letter:
In my current position as marketing manager, I collaborate with multiple stakeholders across a 200-employee organization, rallying teams and motivating my direct reports to deliver on campaign targets. I’m comfortable wearing different hats to ensure successful product launches and sales. Customer satisfaction is my No. 1 goal.
Within this short paragraph are a variety of key interpersonal skills: leadership (managing products and campaigns; motivating and rallying others), collaboration (working with other stakeholders) and customer service (ensuring consumer satisfaction).
Check out our cover letter examples for more ways to use interpersonal skills in a cover letter.
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How to highlight interpersonal skills in a job interview
By the time you get to the interview process, you might think you’re in the clear, but that’s far from the truth. A job interview is an opportunity to display your interpersonal skills in action.
Here’s how to showcase examples of interpersonal skills in a job interview.
- Be prepared with the right examples. As with your cover letter, focus on one or two of your greatest accomplishments where you used workplace interpersonal skills to achieve your goal, and be prepared to talk about it.
- Get interpersonal. If you’re meeting face-to-face or over video, show your interpersonal skills in action. For example, maintain eye contact and have a positive demeanor; display your active listening skills when the interviewer speaks; speak clearly and articulately.
- Ask good questions. What types of interactions can I expect? Will you be in constant communication with clients or colleagues? Even just bringing these questions up with employers will demonstrate that you’re mindful of the job’s interpersonal skills.
3 Steps to improve your interpersonal skills
So now you know what interpersonal skills are all about, how do you go about improving them for your next job opportunity? Use these tips to hone your abilities.
- Assess your strengths and weaknesses. To improve, you have to know what you need to improve. Take an online interpersonal skills self-assessment to get insight into which skills need work. Often, the assessment questions themselves (e.g., “When you have something to contribute to a conversation, do you interrupt the speaker to make your point?”) will hint at how to improve.
- Focus on basic communication. The ability to speak and write clearly and effectively with others should be your primary goal, as all other interpersonal skills piggyback on these skills. Seek out opportunities to practice public speaking and active listening. Don’t forget about nonverbal communication: your posture, the way you carry yourself and your ability to maintain eye contact and carry on a conversation without coming off as uneasy. For more tips, see our article on communication skills.
- Look for opportunities to improve your skills in social and work situations. If there’s an opportunity to practice your communication abilities with friends or coworkers, take advantage of it. Need to plan a party with other people? Practice your collaborative skills. Reach out to others for feedback.
Interpersonal skills key takeaways
Now that you’re up to speed on interpersonal skills and how to use them, it’s time to use them to get the job. Review these important takeaways from this article as you prepare your job application.
- Workplace interpersonal skills are soft skills we use to interact and work with others. They show how well we communicate to get things done in the workplace.
- Always match your skills to the requirements listed in the job description.
- Top examples of people skills for most jobs include collaboration, conflict resolution, verbal and nonverbal communication, compassion and listening.
- Add examples of interpersonal skills to your summary, work history and skills sections in your resume.
- Use your cover letter to elaborate on the skills you list on your resume.
- Display your interpersonal skills when interacting with potential employers during job interviews.