‘Must have good interpersonal skills’ is a requirement you’ll commonly see on job descriptions, but what exactly does it mean? As a candidate, you might assume that if you don’t communicate in inaudible grunts or bellow at people across the office, you’ll pass the interpersonal skills test, but is there more to it than that?
What are interpersonal skills?
Interpersonal skills, also called people skills, are the behaviours and traits you exhibit when you interact with others. When employers are hiring, they don’t just want someone who has the knowledge and experience to perform the technical aspects of a role to a high standard. They’re also looking for someone who can fit in with the team and represent the company. Regardless of your profession, the ability to get along with co-workers, supervisors, customers and clients is crucial. That’s why possessing good interpersonal skills is a prerequisite for so many roles.
What jobs require good interpersonal skills?
There are very few professions where it’s not a benefit to possess good interpersonal skills. There are certain jobs that favour people who prefer to work independently, such as statisticians, writers, software developers, data analysts and lorry drivers, but it’s still important to be able to communicate and collaborate with your team and wider network effectively.
There are some roles where good interpersonal skills are essential. They include:
- Medical professionals
- Occupational therapists
- Marketing professionals
- Customer service representatives
- Event planners
- And many more
Examples of good interpersonal skills
If you come across a job advertisement that asks for someone with good interpersonal skills, what exactly are they looking for? Here are a few examples of the interpersonal skills that employers commonly look for:
A positive attitude
Positivity is one of the most sought after interpersonal skills in the modern workplace. Employers want employees who are happy to be there and make the office a brighter place. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are looking for extroverts who will become the social hub of the office, but they do want someone who will be a friendly, welcoming and positive presence.
The ability to collaborate with colleagues and clients and work as part of a team is an essential requirement for many roles. Good team workers can communicate effectively, listen intently, take responsibility and value other people’s opinions and views.
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Being able to communicate clearly and effectively verbally and in writing is a key interpersonal skill. Empathy, respect, friendliness, confidence and the ability to adapt your communication style to your audience are all important attributes.
Leadership is an important interpersonal skill for managerial positions, but even if you’re not directly responsible for others, the ability to motivate and lead a project can make you a good candidate for promotion.
Being a good listener is one of the most undervalued skills in the workplace and in life. Expressing your own ideas is important, but being able to listen intently to the opinions and ideas of others is something surprisingly few people can do.
How to improve your interpersonal skills
Your interpersonal skills are not set in stone. Just like the technical or ‘hard’ skills you possess, your ‘soft’ skills can be improved.
The first step is to identify areas of weakness. You may already have a good idea of the skills you need to develop, but if not, it’s time to learn a little bit more about yourself. Asking family, friends and colleagues for constructive criticism can be very helpful, but only if you don’t take the feedback personally. Searching for ‘interpersonal skills assessments’ online and completing some of the free questionnaires and tests you’ll find is another way to identify the skills you can improve on.
Once you know which areas you want to work on, there are online and offline courses you can take to brush up on your skills. Consciously putting yourself in positions where particular interpersonal skills are required, such as group working or volunteering to lead projects, and reflecting on your outcomes is another simple way to help you improve.
Paving the way for positive career growth
Regardless of the profession you’re in, if you have a friendly demeanour and a positive attitude, you’ll stand a better chance of getting to where you want to be. In this case, actions speak louder than words, so make the most of every interaction and work hard to make improvements where necessary.
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