We all use interpersonal skills every day. Strongly associated with emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills (in a professional context) are attributes that are used to understand what motivates employees and how they use their knowledge to achieve the best results.
As you make the transition into the world of work, interpersonal skills become increasingly important.
There are hundreds of skills that could be defined as interpersonal, all used to varying degrees in the workplace depending on where you work and your level of responsibility.
Employers often seek out those candidates who have strong interpersonal skills. They actively look for applicants who have the ability to work collaboratively, communicate effectively and display the commitment and work ethic that they require.
Self-confidence, collaboration and positivity are all interpersonal skills much in demand.
Without interpersonal skills everyday business would be very difficult, since almost all aspects of work involve communication.
Many jobs also involve collaboration and interaction with different types of people, and interpersonal skills are vital to make this happen.
During a job interview, recruiters will look to see how the candidate’s interpersonal skills fit in with those required in the current working environment.
They will often base their decision to recruit on whether the candidate possesses the right interpersonal skills to succeed within the business.
The right level of self-confidence in the workplace can open doors and help you to gain recognition. It can also demonstrate how you approach various situations and deal with them both positively and effectively.
To be successful, it is important to demonstrate self-confidence at every stage of your career, whether you are a graduate looking for an entry position or a more experienced member of the team hoping to secure promotion.
Self-confidence at work will improve the way people see you and your views, ideas and opinions will be taken more seriously.
Confidence also enables you to deal with challenging situations more effectively and allows you to set and reach new goals.
Having a strong work ethic is viewed favourably by many recruiters. But what exactly does work ethic relate to?
Well, it can be split into three distinct strands, the first of which is professionalism. This incorporates everything from how you present yourself through to your appearance and the way in which you treat others.
The next strand is respectfulness. All workplaces require you to work under pressure at some time or another, and exercising grace under stress will earn you more recognition.
No matter how short the deadline or how heated things may get, always retain your diplomacy and poise.
Whether you are communicating with a difficult customer or trying to collaborate on a complex project fraught with difficulty, do your best to respect everyone’s opinion and understand the value that they bring to the project.
The final strand of a strong work ethic is dependability.
Employers need to know they have employees they can count on. If you are always on time, well prepared and deliver work when you say you will, this demonstrates your strong work ethic and commitment to the business.
In an uncertain business environment, colleagues, customers and management will certainly appreciate the stability that you can bring.
Building effective relationships is one thing but managing them is something entirely different. This is an important skill in many roles, from junior posts through to management.
At every level in a business you will be expected to manage relationships with colleagues, partners and clients to some extent.
The ability to manage relationships based on respect for each other and mutual trust is very important within any business environment.
Being open to feedback can help you develop both personally and professionally. In order to take on board feedback, you must first listen to it.
Don’t think about your response; just listen to what is being said. Also take note of the non-verbal communication and body language being used, which will provide subtle clues as to what your colleague or manager is not saying as much as what they are.
Take on board what you have been told and use this in a positive way to further enhance your performance and productivity.
Non-verbal communication is often overlooked, but when you are at work, think about how your body language and gestures could be interpreted.
Facial expressions can determine how you are feeling and eye contact, posture, tone of voice and gestures all reveal your attitude and approach to the situation.
Even the best communicators must listen carefully. Failure to listen properly can have disastrous consequences, from failing to follow through on a manager’s instructions to not completing a customer’s request.
If you fail to listen, you cannot interpret what has been said and respond appropriately.
Working collaboratively allows teams to work productively and deliver positive outcomes for clients and the business. Successful collaboration requires the ability to cooperate and respect each other.
Employers often seek applicants who have a proven track record working successfully within a team and candidates who are willing to compromise and cooperate to deliver exceptional work.
Being able to collaborate – particularly in challenging situations – is a great selling point when applying for a job. Present yourself in a positive manner and communicate your enthusiasm for team working.
In the workplace, employers always look for employees who show their appreciation.
This could be something as simple as a thank you when someone has helped with a project, a difficult customer or a tricky situation.
Showing appreciation is about letting colleagues, clients, partners and managers know that you value them, their expertise and their assistance.
Showing positivity, even in difficult situations, is important. Be positive from the moment you fill out the application form or write a covering letter through to the interview, your first day at work and beyond.
Never say anything negative about your current or past employer, even if you feel strongly about it.
Employees with a positive attitude are more likely to treat others positively, which creates a more harmonious working environment.
The way in which you come across to others can speak volumes.
People often form an impression of you within the first few seconds of meeting, so it’s important that you present yourself as a professional.
Learning workplace etiquette is a great way to leave a lasting impression on those you meet.
Check your posture, ensure that you stand straight and make eye contact, turn towards people when they are speaking and smile at them in a genuine way.
Follow the dress code of the company and make sure that your accessories such as ties, bags and jewellery are suitable for the workplace.
Also ensure that you demonstrate kindness and courtesy, and arrive in good time.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list of interpersonal skills. If you have strong relationship-building capabilities combined with effective collaborative skills, there are certain roles that you will be well suited to.
Any careers that require client management would be an ideal choice.
That said, being able to remember the finer details, having self-confidence to market yourself properly and respecting workplace etiquette are skills that are valued in many roles, including:
When working in property you must be able to build relationships with clients and partners, and be receptive to the requirements of both buyers and sellers.
As buying and selling property is a major financial decision, an estate agent or consultant will need strong negotiation skills and communicative abilities to close sales and negotiate the best price for the seller.
A broker helps their clients to secure the best deal on a range of products from mortgages to insurance. Financial product knowledge is key, but communication skills are also high on the list of priorities.
As well as working with clients, brokers also need to develop strong relationships with partners such as banks, lenders and estate agents.
Although education and the level of skill required to become a qualified medical professional are the most important to practice, interpersonal skills feature strongly in any skill set of a doctor, nurse or consultant.
They must be able to communicate and use non-verbal communication to offer reassurance and put patients at ease.
Medical professionals must also be able to discuss sensitive issues with their patients, and bedside manner is very important.
As with a broker, financial planning requires knowledge and exceptional communication and interpersonal skills.
Financial planners will assist their clients in areas such as investments, insurance and planning for retirement to name a few, so they must be able to establish a certain degree of trust.
Listening is crucial, so that they can understand clients’ requirements and then recommend suitable products and services.
Relationship management is a key element of many sales roles – done well, it can lead to new and repeat business from recommendations or referred customers.
Sales professionals must also be confident making cold calls and deploying strong negotiation and listening skills to find out the requirements of the client, before offering suitable products and/or services.
Now that you understand what interpersonal skills are and the industries in which they are most useful, you should be able to identify a few of them that you possess.
Once you have, be sure to emphasise them in your application documents and then, if successful, at interview.
When drafting your CV, look carefully at the job description and person specification to see if any specific interpersonal skills are mentioned.
Start your CV with a clear and concise profile section that describes your main attributes. This should be followed by a strong career history section, again incorporating your interpersonal skills via your professional experience, academic studies and voluntary work.
In your cover letter, you can expand this further by explaining how you used these skills and the impact that had on the business. Perhaps your strong communication skills secured a sale, or your successful relationship management resulted in excellent customer feedback.
If you are invited to an interview, emphasise your interpersonal skills and show the recruiter how you use them. Elements such as workplace etiquette, professionalism and self-confidence all come into play here.
Any others, such as listening and collaboration, can also be explained using relevant examples from your work or academic studies.