Interpersonal Skills: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 29 September 2022

Published 25 August 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Interpersonal skills, or soft skills, describe an individual's ability to communicate and interact with others. In order to impress your potential employer, you need to describe your interpersonal skills in your CV and ensure that they are relevant to the job you are applying for. In this article, we define interpersonal skills, explain why they are important, list examples of soft skills and explore how you can use them and improve them to further your career.

What are interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills are traits that a person uses to communicate and cooperate with others. Most careers require different levels of interaction with other people, so having strong interpersonal skills means that you can work well in a team and communicate effectively with your superiors, clients and colleagues.

You can use these skills in verbal and non-verbal communication. Qualities like attitude and body language can illustrate your interest in a subject or conversation without speaking, for example.

You have probably encountered a workmate who easily gets along with others, or you might be the kind of person who effortlessly gets along with everyone. Interpersonal skills may be intuitive for some individuals, but if they don't come naturally to you, you can learn them and hone them with practice.

Related: What Is Interpersonal Communication and Why Is It Important?

Why are interpersonal skills important?

Employers highly value interpersonal skills. As much as companies want professionally competent individuals, they are also interested in people who can communicate effectively and interact well with others.

Interpersonal skills help you build good working relationships. More and more companies are starting to use a collaborative working structure, which only delivers if the employees working together can function as a binding team.

Interpersonal skills are especially valued in businesses that deal with customers on a day-to-day basis. However, they are also crucial in industries like information technology. IT employees may spend much of their time perfecting codes, but they also need to work with other team members and pitch their creative ideas to potential investors.

Examples of good interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills, or people skills, improve the communication system within an organisation. Here are some of the soft skills you may possess that employers value:

  • Communication

  • Empathy

  • Active listening

  • Leadership

  • Problem-solving

  • Conflict management

Related: 25 People Skills for the Workplace Including Definition

Communication

Communication skills, both verbal and written, keep the flow of ideas and instructions moving within a company. If you're in a leadership role, having excellent communication skills can help you explain the roles of each team member to ensure that everyone can execute their work effectively.

Empathy

Empathy gives you insight into other people's viewpoints. It is important to weigh different ideas, suggestions and solutions at work in order to develop healthy working relationships. Accommodating for different opinions and adjusting your reactions accordingly will help you gain appreciation and respect from colleagues, superiors and juniors alike.

Active listening

Being patient and listening attentively is a soft skill you can develop with practice. Showing that you are listening during a discussion implies that you are engaged in the conversation. When dealing with suppliers, colleagues or clients, active listening skills will make the other party feel valued and respected.

Leadership

Companies are always on the lookout for people who can take command of a situation, a project or a company. Such individuals can mentor, instruct and encourage fellow team members in order to complete a project or a task. Leadership skills also involve effective decision-making and the ability to take ownership of those decisions.

Problem-solving

The ability to solve problems is a skill that is extremely important for any role in any industry. Analysing situations and coming up with innovative solutions to issues at work can help you advance your career.

Conflict management

Conflicts are bound to happen in any team, so it is crucial to be able to handle them effectively. Your ability to manage disputes and disagreements while maintaining productivity gives you a tremendous advantage over others.

How to improve interpersonal skills

You can improve your interpersonal skills with training and regular practice. Here are some steps you can take to begin this process:

  1. Have a positive view of the workplace. Start each workday by considering the aspects you like about your job and organisation in order to develop a positive attitude about work. You can also spread positivity by appreciating your coworkers' contributions.

  2. Be conscious of your body language. Maintaining an upright posture and purposeful walk help you display confidence, as does wearing the appropriate attire. Be well-groomed and greet people with a smile. Avoid showing signs of tension like fidgeting and frowning.

  3. Give due consideration to your colleagues' feelings. Be empathic toward your coworkers' situations and ideas. By extending a helping hand to workmates, you can build collaborative relationships with them.

  4. Improve your self-confidence. Lack of confidence can derail a career. Take up new challenges, get involved in innovative or creative activities and step out of your comfort zone to boost your self-esteem and become more confident at work.

  5. Work on your communication skills. Pay attention to both your oral and written communication abilities. Learn to ask relevant questions, engage meaningfully, use clear language and respect and appreciate your colleagues' abilities. You should also learn to use technical tools and platforms to communicate timely and effectively.

  6. Listen attentively. Listening carefully to others is both a skill and an art. During a conversation, don't interject unnecessarily, hear out the other person before expressing yourself and engage meaningfully.

  7. Rehearse your oratory skills. If you get nervous when speaking in front of others, get in front of a mirror to practise speaking confidently and clearly. You can also practise a speech or presentation in front of friends or family. This can help you overcome your fear of public speaking.

How to use interpersonal skills in the workplace

All jobs require interpersonal skills, and you will need them at all levels in your career. However, some industries need these skills more than others, including:

  • Construction: Construction managers need leadership skills to oversee projects because they have to manage architects, engineers and construction workers through collaboration. Communication skills are also needed to keep owners, financiers and end-users updated about the progress of the projects.

  • Human resources: Conflict management skills are essential for a career in the human resources department. These individuals must resolve disagreements between employees, express empathy toward the opposing party and negotiate to reach a consensus.

  • Customer support: Problem-solving abilities are critical in customer support services. You have to think quickly to calm down irritated customers by finding solutions to their problems.

  • Education: Teachers, principals, tutors and instructors all use many interpersonal skills in their line of work, but being able to communicate effectively is one of the most important abilities.

  • Finance: Financial advisers need strong active listening skills to understand clients' goals and assist them accordingly.

How to highlight interpersonal skills

When you apply for a job, it is essential to highlight your interpersonal skills in your CV, cover letter and interview to impress your potential employer.

Interpersonal skills for CV

It is not enough to list your interpersonal skills on your CV. You also need to illustrate them by using evidence. Instead of stating that you have 'strong teamwork skills', you can say something like, 'I oversaw a team of 10 individuals and boosted sales by 20%.'

Using data to show proof of your soft skills will impress your potential employer. For example, you can illustrate how your negotiation and conflict resolution skills resolved a disagreement in your previous position.

Include your interpersonal skills in the professional experience and skills section on your CV. It is better to be specific about a few skills rather than list a lot of skills without detail, as some of them are interconnected. Having strong communication abilities implies that you are also good at negotiation, teamwork and collaboration, for example.

Interpersonal skills for cover letter

You can use examples and stories to demonstrate your interpersonal skills in your cover letter. Employers look for candidates who have many different competencies and skills that bring value to their organisations, so you should use your cover letter to exhibit how your interpersonal skills can benefit the company.

For example, you could describe an accomplishment that shows your leadership and public speaking abilities. You might say, 'I gave a presentation before 50 stakeholders.' The tone used in the cover letter also showcases the level of confidence you have in your abilities. Pay special attention to the grammar, spelling and language you use.

Interpersonal skills for the job interview

During an interview, the employer might ask you questions about the interpersonal skills you mentioned in your CV and cover letter. For example, if you stated that you are a good team leader, they might ask you to describe the methods you use to motivate team members.

Identify the most important interpersonal skills for the specific job you've applied for and discuss them when it's appropriate, such as when the interviewer asks about your strengths. The hiring manager wants to know that your skills will bring value to their organisation. For instance, most employers seek candidates who can work in teams and communicate effectively within the company's structure, so it is important to discuss skills like these.

Overall, your technical skills are essential for handling your specific job duties, but your interpersonal skills demonstrate your employability and your ability to get along with others. Your body language, attitude and tone will also help you during an interview.

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