It is common to hear from Hiring Managers about how close the finalists were for an open position. Often, the feedback is that their job experience and related education were similar to each other. The differentiator was what is commonly referred to as a “soft skill”, such as their interpersonal skills. This is especially true in situations where the position requires a person to lead or work in a team or group setting.
Per Oxford Languages, the definition of interpersonal skills is the ability to interact and communicate well with other people. The great thing about interpersonal skills is that they are not only in high demand by employers, but they are also transferable. By transferable, I mean that regardless of industry or the specific duties of the position, these skills can be used.
Some people may have the misperception that because interpersonal skills are a “soft skill”, it can’t be broken down into specific examples or subsets for review. This is incorrect, as under the umbrella of interpersonal skills is a number of specific traits that collectively provide your competency in this area.
So, let’s now take a moment and highlight some of the interpersonal skills that you should focus on during your job search. You will want to weave these key items into areas such as your cover letter, resume, and during the interview, in order to reinforce to the recruiter or hiring manager your expertise.
• Engaged Listener: Let me start off with the one that many miss because it does not involve speaking. A key, however, to having strong interpersonal skills is your ability to listen, display interest, and retain what has been expressed to you. Engaged listening earns trust from the speaker and will elevate their perception of your interpersonal skills at a much higher level. Whether it is a direct report, your manager, or a co-worker on a project, listening intently and actively will help earn you the respect and admiration of others. How do you show that you are engaged as a listener? There are a number of ways to do so, such as making eye contact, checking for understanding, and being careful not to interrupt the speaker. You can help yourself to be a more engaged listener by placing yourself in a position where you will not be interrupted, such as a private office versus a hallway, or a loud and open cafeteria. The nice thing is that you can show off your listening skills right in the interview with how you interact with the Hiring Manager.
• Clear and Concise Oral and Written Communication: In this world of doing everything by text and chat, the interpersonal skill of delivered communication is becoming a lost art while still being highly coveted by employers. The area of communication can be such a broad category, with many important items making up the skill set. To start, it is critical to be clear and concise, especially in today’s busy work environment. Individuals who can make their point while their audience is still engaged in listening will be much more successful. People have limited time and have become conditioned to reading short segments of words, so it is critical that your writing reflect this need for brevity. Long e-mails will likely be either ignored or relegated to the back of the inbox until time can be found to read it, which often never comes. The recruiter will be able to see your written communication skills with your submitted documents, while the interview is a perfect forum to show off your oral skills.
• Empathy: People want to feel that the person they are communicating with can relate to what they are experiencing. You may not necessarily agree with what they are saying, but you are attempting to understand their point-of-view. This interpersonal skill has become increasingly important, as the work world has become more diverse and with the arrival of newer generations. Especially if you are a leader, be prepared to share an example of where you connected with an employee in this way.
• Self-Confidence: While no one wants to interact with a braggart or a runaway ego, there is value to having a healthy level of confidence. Typically, individuals with confidence in themselves and their interpersonal skills will communicate in a more engaging manner. You will also come across as more knowledgeable and persuasive when your confidence level increases.
• Be Positive: Negative people place their own ceiling on their interpersonal skills. Regardless of how confident you are and how clear your communication skills can be, if you are negative, then there will not be an atmosphere for you to get the most out of yourself. People naturally want to interact and team with someone who is positive by nature. This is the same with direct reports, as their relationship with their leader places a key role in whether they stay with a company. Who wants to work with someone who is negative all the time?
• Ability To Resolve People Issues: A person who can utilize their interpersonal skills to resolve issues between other people can be in high demand, especially as a leader. This skill typically calls heavily on other interpersonal skills, such as engaged listening and empathy to get to the root of the issue and any perceptions that are holding people back from resolving the issue themselves. During your job interview, share an example of where you successfully solved an employee conflict.
Your interpersonal skills is an area that is often of a lesser-focus than the “hard skills” of your specific work experience and your education. However, it is often the decider regarding whether you are selected for a particular position. Making sure to highlight your interpersonal skills can be a critical tactic to differentiate yourself from the competition.
As always, the best of luck in your job search.
The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.
Joe Stein WNY Human Resources Professional
Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at: Joe Stein