Interpersonal skills are highly valued in the workplace, and essential to have when communicating with colleagues, customers and stakeholders alike.
From reading and writing to listening and mediation, interpersonal skills are vital interaction tools and will allow you to perform professionally and personally.
This guide will take a detailed look into interpersonal skills, discussing what they are, how they can be utilised, and how you can improve upon your own.
What are interpersonal skills?
Interpersonal skills sometimes referred to as people skills, are the soft skills that allow us to communicate and build relationships with others. They are a combination of our innate personality, as well as the skills we learn throughout life, that help us to handle various social situations.
These skills make up our ability to communicate and interact with people on a daily (even hourly) basis, be this talking, listening, writing, negotiating, resolving conflicts, and so much more.
As connecting and interacting with people in some way is important in pretty much every job role, good interpersonal skills are essential in the workplace. These skills are arguably even more important than hard skills as they are transferable across a vast range of industries and positions.
This is why employers value professionals with a strong set of interpersonal skills on their CV.
Interpersonal skills examples
Interpersonal skills are those skills we use when we want to interact or communicate effectively with others. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the most important interpersonal skills that will aid you throughout your professional and personal life, and those you should be highlighting on your CV:
Communication skills are so important in every industry; they help you to build relationships, collaborate on projects and make a notable impact in the workplace. These can be broken down into five different key communication skills, these include:
- Verbal communication – Being able to speak clearly and concisely is crucial for building positive relationships, sharing ideas and getting your points across.
- Non-verbal communication – Non-verbal communication refers to body language such as eye contact, facial expressions and posture. It also incorporates the hand gestures you make when communicating with others – a vital element of communicating with others.
- Writing – As well as communicating verbally, it’s also important to be able to give updates and information in writing. This might be through emails, task management tools presentations, etc. Strong writing skills also show critical thinking and attention to detail.
- Public speaking – Public speaking doesn’t just have to be in front of a large audience; it can be as simple as sharing and discussing ideas in front of your team during a meeting.
- Active listening – Listening is one thing, but active listening is an important skill that requires you to genuinely engage with people, take in what they are saying and understand their verbal and non-verbal queues.
Emotional intelligence is all about self-awareness and the ability to control your emotions in the workplace, and recognise the emotions of others around you. This is vital for dealing with stressful situations, as well as being able to read other people’s emotions and act accordingly.
Being confident in your abilities means you are more likely to share ideas and take on new responsibilities. It also allows you to speak to others with clarity and better handle challenging situations without second-guessing yourself.
Teamwork is crucial for effectively collaborating with colleagues on projects. It’s important to be able to listen to others, share ideas and feedback with one another to reach your larger goals.
Strong persuasion skills can help you to influence others in a number of ways. They can be used to be boost productivity, make sales or facilitate decision-making.
The ability to quickly and effectively solve problems is important in any role. It also highlights other important skills such as creativity, critical and lateral thinking, and determination.
Being able to make a decision is empowering, and helps to get results quickly in the workplace. It shows confidence, leadership and the ability to think critically in order to choose the best outcome, without over-thinking situations.
Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others and sympathise with them. This is important for building relationships, working as a team and showing respect and compassion to your co-workers. It is particularly important for leaders who have to balance the needs of the business with the wellbeing of their staff.
Conflict resolution requires active listening and the ability to carefully weigh up an argument, to defuse potentially damaging situations. It proves you can mediate and negotiate with other parties to reach an amicable and beneficial agreement, which is hugely beneficial when working in teams.
The ability to be patient and understanding can reduce stress, as well as the risk of a conflict. It also leads to stronger relationships and makes you more approachable.
Being flexible means adjusting to changes quickly and adapting to unexpected situations or demands. It requires resilience and versatility and helps you to better overcome stressful situations, whilst also helping employers to overcome issues.
Interpersonal skills VS hard skills
There are two types of skillsets we possess, hard and soft.
Interpersonal skills fall under the soft skills category, and the table below highlights the key difference between these two groups.
|Hard to measure
|Easy to measure
|Developed through interactions
|Developed through training
|Not industry specific
|Typically industry specific
|Easily transferable across industries
|Not always transferable across industries
Why are interpersonal skills important in the workplace?
We’ve briefly touched on why some of the specific interpersonal skills are so important in the workplace, but in order to boost your employability, it’s crucial to have a strong and varied set of soft skills like these.
There are several reasons why these are so important and why employers look out for them on your CV.
Some of the key reasons include:
Interpersonal skills give you the ability to build and maintain relationships in the workplace. This is crucial for working effectively as part of a team, dealing with customers or clients, and contributing to a positive company culture.
It is also important that workers have mutual respect and appreciation for one another, something which comes from patience, empathy and good communication.
From persuading your manager to invest in new technology to giving empowering feedback to a colleague, interpersonal skills can be a hugely important tool for increasing productivity.
They are also vital for strengthening leaderships skills, something which can help with boosting morale and working better as part of a team.
These skills also give employees the confidence to take on new challenges, work with different people and create better opportunities for themselves and others around them – leading to a much more agile and autonomous workplace.
Encouraging creativity and innovation
Employers want to hire professionals who can drive the company forward with their own ideas and drive. Being able to speak up, share ideas and give feedback is the key to encouraging creativity and innovation in the workplace.
Every workplace has busy stressful periods, and no job is predictable all the time. This requires a certain level of flexibility and adaptability.
In order to handle periods of change or deal with particularly stressful situations, professionals need to be able to think critically, solve problems and negotiate. They also need the confidence to make quick decisions when required and the emotional intelligence to identify and reduce stress.
Examples of jobs that require good interpersonal skills
Whilst all jobs require interpersonal skills on some level, there are certain jobs which heavily rely on the interpersonal skills of employees – perhaps even more than the hard skills within the roles.
- Sales – In order to succeed in sales, professionals need to be confident, good at communicating clearly and, of course, persuasive. Good negotiations skills also go a long way in this industry.
- Management – Managers are required to communicate with their direct reports on a daily basis. They must also be able to lead effectively, offer insightful feedback and listen carefully to their employees.
- Teaching – Teachers need to have a range of interpersonal skills so they can work closely with students and listen to their specific needs. They must be confident and clear when teaching lessons, and they must also be able to actively listen and show empathy towards their students.
- Social care – Social work requires carers to build strong relationships with those they are supporting. It’s also important that social carers can work with people from all walks of life and handle some challenging situations. Empathy and emotional intelligence are very important for this, as are verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
- Hospitality – Those working in hospitality are often in a public facing role and must be able to create a friendly atmosphere and one of trust and respect. They need to be good at communicating with customers, as well as listening to their needs and feedback.
- Human resources – HR professionals are an important link between management and employees; therefore, they must be able to communicate effectively across a range of mediums. They must also listen carefully to staff feedback, be empathetic and, on occasion, manage conflicts or disputes within the workforce.
How to highlight interpersonal skills on your CV
Including interpersonal skills on your CV is crucial if you want to impress recruiters. However, you need to make sure you highlight these as effectively as possible – and there are several ways you can do this.
Before you write your CV, it’s a good idea to go through the relevant job descriptions and make a note of the interpersonal skills the employer is asking for. Noting the ones you posses, and making a list of skills you can add to your CV.
That way, you’ll know which skills you need to prioritise and highlight on your CV. You can do this by:
Making the most of your personal profile
For example, if it’s a sales role and they need someone confident, persuasive and good at negotiating, why not come straight out and say it.
Where possible, use examples and achievements from past roles to showcase how you’ve used these skills and the results you achieved. Otherwise, write a brief introduction of yourself, listing these skills as some of your key attributes. It might look something like this:
Creating a core skills section
A dedicated skills section is possibly the best way to showcase your key skills. This can be put nearer the top of your CV to make it stand out and will be a mixture of your hard and soft skills. That said, you might wish to group your interpersonal skills together under this section.
Adding interpersonal skills to your work experience
Another way to show off your interpersonal skills is to include them within descriptions of your past experience. You should do this in bullet point form to help break up the information. This makes it easier for the recruiter to quickly scan through and digest.
For example, if you worked in a customer-facing role, you could include details of how you helped to increase customer satisfaction and support customers through strong communication and other interpersonal skills. It might look a little something like this:
2018 – 2022 | Customer Service Advisor – ABC company
Acting as the first point of contact for customers, I handled customer queries and problems through a variety of channels, including face-to-face, email and over the phone. Through great communication and problem solving, I was able to ensure all customers received the best possible service and that any issues were tackled quickly and efficiently.
Key responsibilities and achievements:
- Resolving on average 25+ customer queries per day
- Demonstrating manners and patience when dealing with customers, leading to an increase in positive feedback
- Clearly explaining the products and offering the best possible advice, whether over email, phone or in-person
- Resolving customer complaints by carefully listening to their problems and identifying the best solution. This led to a 13% increase in customer retention
Adding interpersonal skills to your cover letter
As well as adding interpersonal skills to your CV, it’s also a good idea to expand on these in your cover letter. This is particularly true if the employer has placed real value on certain soft skills. Here are some tips for including these skills in your cover letter:
Focus on required interpersonal skills only
Be careful to expand on just one or two of the most important interpersonal skills listed in the job description. Don’t try to cram all of them into your cover letter; otherwise, you won’t be able to go into enough detail. You should include these in the second or third paragraph as this makes up the body of your letter.
Tell a story
It’s a good idea to use examples to illustrate your skills. Remember, this is your chance to expand on your CV, so you need to go into even more detail about how you’ve put these skills to use in the past and the results you achieved as a result. For example:
How to improve your interpersonal skills
No matter what role or industry you’re in, a strong set of interpersonal skills will make you instantly more employable. However, we often take these skills for granted.
If you feel like you’re lacking some of the key skills we’ve outlined above, or perhaps they could use some fine-tuning, you need to be proactive. Here are some of the top ways you can go about improving your interpersonal skills:
Identify your weaknesses
The first step to improving your interpersonal skills is to identify your biggest weaknesses. This means looking back over the list of key skills to determine which of these you possess and which you might be missing from your repertoire.
For example, are you great at communicating verbally and in writing, but you need to work on your ability to actively listen? Or perhaps you’re OK with speaking to larger groups, but you aren’t very good at negotiating or being persuasive?
Whatever the case may be, in order to improve your skills, you need to decide which ones to focus on first.
If you’re feeling unsure about the areas in which you excel and those in which you struggle, you could always ask for feedback from someone that knows you well. This could be a close friend, a trusted colleague or a manager.
You can then create a list of the skills you need to prioritise on improving.
Start with basic communication skills
As you can see from this guide, communication skills mean far more than just our ability to speak. This also includes actively listening to people, which requires you to take in what they’re saying and show them that you’re giving them your full attention.
This is where non-verbal queues come in as well. Your body language has the ability to say more about you than your mouth ever could.
Therefore, if you’re trying to strengthen your interpersonal skills, it’s a good idea to start with your basic communication skills.
To do this, practise active listening and make sure that when people talk to you, you aren’t just thinking about what you’re going to say next. You should also consider your facial expressions and hand gestures and how you use these during interactions.
And when you’re speaking to people, even friends or family at home, think about your tone and how you address them.
Perfecting your basic communication skills is crucial if you hope to work on more complex skills later on.
Find a good course online
You may think that interpersonal skills are exclusively something we develop as we grow up and interact with people. However, you can actually learn and improve upon these skills in the same way you would any other.
One of the best ways to do this is with an online course, and there are thousands out there to choose from! From free video tutorials all the way up to paid-for training courses, there are plenty of online resources you can benefit from.
Here are some recommended interpersonal skill courses (a range of both free and paid courses):
- Udemy: Effective Interpersonal Skills
- FindCourses: People skills courses
- Future Learn: Communication and people skills
- City University of London: Effective Communication and Interpersonal Skills
- The Open University: The importance of interpersonal skills
- Reed: Interpersonal Skills – Online CPDUK Accredited Training Course
Once you’ve decided which skills you want to focus on, you can run an online search for training courses in that area. You’ll be amazed at what you can find on the internet and how much this can help you to strengthen your skills.
Just remember to step away from the screen and put your new skills into practice every now and then. After all, it’s interacting with people that is really going to test and strengthen your abilities.
Draw up a plan
Making a plan to improve your skills can be one of the most efficient ways to reach your goals. This means once again looking at your areas of strength and weakness.
If you know which areas you want to work on, you can begin setting SMART goals for yourself and putting a plan together to help you achieve these. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
For example, if you want to work on boosting your confidence when speaking to larger groups, some suggested goals might be:
- By the end of June, I will have contributed at least three ideas during larger team meetings and discussions
- By July, I will present my ideas via PowerPoint presentation in front of my whole department
Setting goals like this gives you direction. Now, you can plan the time to practise your presentation skills. You might also wish to take a course or use online resources to help prepare you for this.
Either way, you know what steps you need to take to be proactive and begin bolstering your skills.
Monitor your progress
The final step when developing your interpersonal skills is to keep monitoring your progress.
This is made much easier if you’ve got a plan and some SMART goals in place, as these are much easier to measure.
You should also practise self-reflection. This means regularly taking the time to think about your recent interactions and asking yourself questions like:
- Have I been actively listening to others this week?
- Have I recently had to manage a conflict?
- Did something happen at work that made me feel stressed and is there a way I could have handled it more confidently?
By reflecting on your recent interactions, whether verbally, non-verbally, written, in-person, etc., you can learn from your mistakes and highlight your successes.
This will keep you driving forward and help you to improve your interpersonal skillset.