Interpersonal skills are the traits you use to interact and work with other people. Here's why they matter and how to show them in your job search.
There are certain qualifications you know you need to land the job you want. From industry experience to proficiency with a certain type of software, there's a slew of technical skills that prove you check the boxes of that open role.
But then there are the traits that are harder to quantify, yet can make all the difference in your job search success: interpersonal skills.
Interpersonal skills are the behaviors and characteristics that you rely on to effectively interact and work with other people. Here's a quick breakdown of both parts of the word:
Those two pieces tell you everything you need to know. Interpersonal skills are the characteristics you use to work with people.
You might also hear these called "soft skills" because they are indeed skills, but they're not necessarily the technical kind that require formal training and certifications.
Use Teal's Skills Database to identify your current skills and potential skills that you want to acquire. Once you've identified those, enter them into Teal's Skills Identifier.
If you want to access this tool, click the "Copy Tool" button in Teal's Skills Workbook.
However, regardless of what job you work in, you're likely going to work closely with other people. Interpersonal skills make it easier for you to:
With that in mind, statistics show that your less technical and quantifiable characteristics actually carry a surprising amount of weight with employers:
See? Interpersonal skills are way more than jargon or resume fluff—they're important character traits and behaviors that set you up for success in both your job hunt and your entire career.
Soft skills matter. But, since they're different from the technical competencies that often have a huge variety of resources—courses, guides, seminars, and more—attached to them, is it possible to actually learn or improve interpersonal skills? And if so, how?
Yes, interpersonal skills can absolutely be practiced and refined. You can even learn other interpersonal skills in the process. One thing we recommend that you do before you go into the interview is to do a little bit of introspection and self-awareness work on your work style by taking Teal’s Work Style Assessment.
Other great ways to improve your interpersonal skills is by soliciting feedback, whether that's through:
That can clue you in on the soft skills you already possess, as well as the ones you need to work on. From there, you can pursue more structured knowledge and training. There are plenty of educational materials about how to become a better communicator, for example.
However, even simple awareness can help you vastly improve your soft skills. For example, if you realize that you struggle with interrupting and steamrolling conversations, that mindfulness can help you put smaller efforts into play, like pausing before you speak or asking more questions during interactions.
After taking the Work Style Assessment to help you better understand and identify your strong interpersonal skills, review your results using the tool. Go to it, read it, read the job searching section, and read about interviewing. Hopefully that will give you some tips to better understand your style and skills as you go into the interview.
You know that employers are keeping an eye out for soft skills, but which ones? Are there certain that are better or more desirable than others?
Not necessarily. The importance of different interpersonal skills will vary based on the company, role, and even industry. For example, a sales job at a startup might require that you're a top-notch communicator and multitasker. In contrast, a software developer role might prioritize problem solving and attention to detail.
Whatever role you are applying for, you want to make sure you're highlighting your most impressive skills on your resume. One trick for seeing which qualities and skills are most important to highlight for this role:
Use the matching mode feature in the Teal Resume Builder. You can compare your resume and the job description side by side to review the highlighted keywords and hard and soft skills, and from there, emphasize those keywords to show the hiring managers and team that you are the best candidate for the position.
Even so, there are a few common soft skills that will always pique employers interest. There are other interpersonal skills, but here are five that are helpful to emphasize—as well as how you can successfully showcase them throughout your job search.
Today's working world requires near-constant communication, whether it's with colleagues, vendors, or customers. The format changes too, with verbal communication happening in-person, on the phone, and through video calls, and nonverbal communication occurring digitally through emails and instant messages.
Regardless of the audience or method, employers want candidates who are able to express their viewpoint and share information in a way that's respectful, thoughtful, clear, and organized. All communications should be positive interactions for each person involved.
Part of being a good communicator and having strong interpersonal communication skills is the ability to display strong active listening skills, too. And active listening is not just being a good listener. In order to effectively communicate with the people around you, you need to make a point to listen, process, and digest the information before offering thoughtful response in return.
Whether job seekers are aware of it or not, most of your communication chops will be expressed through your interactions with an employer as you move through the hiring process. Make sure that you:
Communication templates for different situations throughout the entire hiring process are located within Teal's Job Tracker.
Teamwork or collaboration goes hand-in-hand with communication. Like we mentioned above, nobody works in a vacuum. Employers want to know that you'll be able to work together with other members of a team without endless conflicts, confusion, and problems.
Effective communication undoubtedly plays a major role in teamwork, but so do other soft skills like dependability and emotional intelligence.
The strong interpersonal skills of teamwork and collaboration tie directly into possessing leadership skills.
Figuring out how to prove that you're good at teamwork can feel challenging—especially since you're going through the hiring process independently, and not with a crew of coworkers by your side. However, there are still a few things you can do to prove you're a team player, such as:
Being asked to provide examples of teamwork in an interview is an example of a behavioral interview question. Employers are asking you to reflect on your strong interpersonal skills in past experiences in order to show how you might act in a new job. Another great strategy to use to prove you have great interpersonal skills like teamwork is to implement the STAR method when answering.
Outline the situation, task, action, and result and highlight how you displayed teamwork throughout, and maybe even helped improve interpersonal skills of your teammates. Discuss how you kept a positive attitude and fostered and encouraged collaboration and teamwork to ensure a successful outcome.
Just because you are going through the hiring process individually does not mean you can't advertise your exceptional teamwork. When you do accept that job offer, start off strong in your role and make those connections and form your own relationships right away. Reach out to coworkers, offer assistance, prove you’ve done your research, and show your excitement to help grow the company.
Particularly with more and more teams working in remote or hybrid environments, managers need to be able to trust that their employees are getting their work done—and that's a lot easier for them to do if they know that you have adequate time management skills.
As the name implies, time management involves planning and allocating both your hours and your energy to make sure that your assigned tasks are completed by (or even ahead of) the deadline.
Your job search is a project in and of itself, which means there are plenty of opportunities to call attention to your time management capabilities. Here are a few ideas:
When you think about it, problem-solving is at the root of any job. In any role, you're focused on finding and developing solutions to help your employer achieve a goal.
That's why problem-solving ranks high on any employer's list of desirable interpersonal skills. Plus, being a solid problem-solver means that you have the creativity, flexibility, and critical thinking abilities to respond to any unexpected challenges your job might throw your way.
Problem-solving skills can be a little bit harder to call attention to during your job search, particularly when you don't have the chance to actually do any on-the-job work. Even so, you can try the following to prove you're a critical thinker:
Emotional intelligence (which you might also hear referred to as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of other people.
While you might think that the working world is "strictly business" and you should check your feelings at the door, our emotions have a huge impact on the way we interact with others. Being able to read between the lines can help you be an even more effective communicator and teammate.
Psychologist and author Daniel Goleman presents five categories of emotional intelligence.
All of the tips above can help you show your most important interpersonal skills during the interview process. But, before you get there, you need your resume to stand out—and including relevant interpersonal skills can help.
How do you list them on your resume? You have a couple of different options:
For example, you could list "teamwork" in your skills section, but also include a bullet under your last job that describes how you successfully worked as part of a team to plan and host your company's largest event. It goes a step further than simply listing a key term on your resume and shows how you've actually put those skills to use.
Using a combination of both of those options will be the most helpful for making sure your interpersonal skills aren't missed.
It's tempting to write off interpersonal skills as nothing more than resume padding—doesn't everybody say they're a "team player" or a "problem solver?"
However, your interpersonal skills carry a surprising amount of weight with employers. To stand out from the competition, don't simply treat soft skills like keywords to jam into your resume wherever they fit.
Instead, incorporate them into your skills section, use the descriptions of your past roles to show those skills in action, and most importantly, demonstrate them through every step of your job search.
After all, the most successful candidates don't just talk the talk—they walk the walk.
Ready for your resume to land at the top of the pile? Get started with Teal's resume builder.