What are Interpersonal Skills?

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Definition:

Interpersonal skills, also known as soft skills, are the social skills that allow people to communicate effectively with others and thrive in and out of the workplace.

🤔 Understanding interpersonal skills

Many professions require certain technical skills (aka hard skills) that are specific to the job at hand. But most jobs also call for interpersonal skills, which are those that allow you to effectively interact with others and work in a collaborative environment. These competencies, sometimes called emotional intelligence skills, are important both for your career and daily life. In general, interpersonal skills make you more pleasant to work with and a better candidate for leadership roles. Some critical interpersonal skills include communication, conflict management, teamwork, and empathy. Many interpersonal skills are innate, but they can also be learned and developed over time. Including these skills on your resume or in your cover letter can help signal to employers that not only are you effective at the technical aspects of your role, but that you’re also good with people.

Example

Suppose you’re applying for a job at a local marketing firm. On your resume, you highlight your extensive communication and leadership skills. You also provide several examples demonstrating how well you’ve worked in a collaborative environment in the past. The marketing firm is a tight-knit team and they want to make sure that whoever gets the job will fit seamlessly into the group. Your resume stands out to the hiring manager because it pinpoints not only your technical marketing experience and education, but also the interpersonal skills that the corporation values.

Takeaway

Interpersonal skills are sort of like the artwork you hang in your new home…

When it comes to building a house, the foundation is the most important aspect. You need a sturdy, properly-built home so that it can stand up to the elements. But you also want one that’s pleasant to look at and makes for a cozy environment, so you hang some artwork on the walls. This artwork is kind of like interpersonal skills. You need technical skills to get the job done, much like you need the foundation of a home. But you also want to be inviting and someone other people want to be around every day.

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What are interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills are the soft skills that allow us to communicate and work effectively with other people. They are important both inside and outside the workplace – However, they’re especially critical for succeeding and advancing in your career.

One example of an interpersonal skill is conflict management. If you’re working in a team environment, there will almost certainly be times when you and a colleague don’t see eye to eye. In and of itself, these disagreements aren’t a problem. However, they can become an issue if you can’t find a way to resolve those conflicts peacefully and respectfully. Good conflict management skills allow you to do that.

Why are interpersonal skills important?

Interpersonal skills are important for a myriad of reasons but, at their core, they are critical because they can help you succeed and grow relationships both in and out of the workplace.

Interpersonal skills are critical to communicating at work – whether that be interacting with your boss, collaborating with other employees, or serving customers. These skills will help you be a more productive employee, as you’ll be able to reduce any potential misunderstandings and conflicts with others.

People in your workplace will have many different communication styles, and strong interpersonal skills can help you to overcome these differences. Ultimately, having these skills will help make you more employable, better at your job, and more likely to advance in your career.

Additionally, jobs that require many interpersonal skills have some of the best projected growth rates through 2028. Data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, while the growth rate across all jobs for the next decade is estimated to be about 5.2 percent, projected growth is far higher for some roles requiring several interpersonal skills.

For example, healthcare, personal care, and social service are three types of occupations that rely extensively on interpersonal skills – They are also expected to grow at more than double the rate of all occupations in the US through 2028.

Not only are the jobs that demand interpersonal skills growing rapidly, but data also suggests that they're some of the most recession-proof roles. Education, for example, is an occupation that mandates extensive interpersonal skills, and it’s also one of the positions most likely to last through a recession.

What are the types of interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills are some of the most important skills for succeeding in the workplace (and in life). Below are some interpersonal skills you’ll probably need for most jobs:

  • Communication: Unless you have a job where you never interact with other people, strong written and verbal communication skills are critical. Communication is one of the skills that employers point to as being imperative for success, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
  • Assertiveness: The ability to assert yourself means you can express your thoughts and feedback in a self-assured, respectful, and non-aggressive way.
  • Conflict management: Conflicts are going to arise at work — It’s pretty much inevitable. Being able to resolve those conflicts quickly and peacefully is critical to successfully working with others and maintaining healthy relationships.
  • Teamwork: Not every job requires working in a team environment, but many do. And, even if you aren’t working on a team all of the time, there will almost certainly be times when you have to brainstorm or work on projects involving others. Employers want employees who can both work effectively independently and with others.
  • Active listening: An important part of communicating with others is being able to listen to what they communicate to you. Active listening includes being a trustworthy person to talk to, asking questions in response to what others are saying, using non-verbal communication like body language that shows that you’re paying attention, and remembering the information that others tell you.
  • Leadership: Leadership is an important interpersonal skill to have even if you aren’t in (or planning to be in) a leadership role. Leadership also means encouraging others, showing empathy, and finding common ground.
  • Flexibility: When you’re working in a collaborative environment, there’s a good chance that things won’t always go your way. Employers want to work with people who can change direction and adapt to the suggestions and needs of others.

How do you improve interpersonal skills?

Bosses want their employees to have interpersonal skills because they can make the workplace a more pleasant place to be and improve the productivity of the workforce (aka human capital). A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers listed general communication as one of the most important competencies for employees to have. Another recent survey by Cengage, an education company, found that soft skills are currently more in demand by employers than technical skills.

While many interpersonal skills are somewhat innate, they can also be gained with practice over time. Given their importance, if you don’t already have the interpersonal skills that companies want, it’s time to develop them.

First, to improve your interpersonal skills, you need to be self aware enough to know which ones you’re lacking. You might already know that you have a bad habit of steamrolling over partners in group projects or zoning out when other people are talking. But you can also better determine what skills need some work by paying attention to your interactions with other people – or even by asking friends, family, and coworkers. Once you know which skills could use some work, you know where you should focus your attention.

Next, you can do some research on how you can improve that particular skill. There are likely workshops, books, videos, and other people available that you could learn from to improve these skills. You could even ask a colleague, friend, or mentor who is particularly adept at a skill to help you work on it.

Another way to start improving your interpersonal skills is by starting to listen more. If you’re the one who normally does most of the talking, you might not even realize what others do better than you (or that you’re always interrupting other people to do all the talking). By listening to the way that others communicate and collaborate, you can learn a lot.

Listening more will also allow you to be more thoughtful about your responses. Where you once may have responded to a coworker in a brash, condescending manner, by taking some extra time to listen and think over your response, you might respond in a more measured and respectful manner.

Finally, you should determine a way to evaluate your progress. You can ask for feedback from those who you interact with regularly to see if you’re improving. You can also pay attention to the way you feel you’re communicating with others – One way to do this is by keeping a written journal to assess any progress and barriers you may have. Be sure to hedge your expectations and be gentle on yourself, as well. If you’ve been communicating a certain way your whole life, you aren’t going to be able to change it overnight. Building interpersonal skills and changing old habits take time.

How do you demonstrate interpersonal skills?

If you have the interpersonal skills that you know hiring managers want, you’ll want to find a way to demonstrate those skills when vying for a role. First, make sure to include your interpersonal skills on your resume. Your resume likely has a section to highlight your relevant abilities, and your interpersonal skills can go here.

One way to figure out what interpersonal skills to include on your resume is by carefully reading through the job posting. Many postings include a list of skills that the ideal candidate will have. If the company has any specific interpersonal skills on that list, be sure to highlight them, assuming you have those skills — Don’t lie on your resume. The best way to do this is to show rather than tell. Instead of just listing the skills, demonstrate a time you’ve put those skills into action.

Next, you can highlight your interpersonal skills in your cover letter. The cover letter is a way to dive a bit deeper into the information from your resume. If there are interpersonal skills particularly critical for the job to which you’re applying, you might want to share even more information about how you’ve demonstrated those skills in past jobs.

Finally, you can show off your soft skills in your interview. The interview is the best place to show off those skills because, unlike your resume or cover letter, the interview is a way for the hiring manager to see your interpersonal skills firsthand. Verbal communication, active listening, empathy, and a positive attitude are just a few of the interpersonal skills you can demonstrate during your interview.

And, remember, getting the job doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. If someone hired you, it’s because he or she believes that you have both the interpersonal and technical skills that you listed on your resume. Make sure you continue to demonstrate these during your time with the company – Simultaneously, it will help you and the company to succeed.

Which interpersonal skills should you include on your resume?

When it comes to applying for jobs, you must show your potential employer that you have the interpersonal skills that he or she is seeking. You should feature these abilities in the skills section of your resume.

It’s also important that you don’t just include a list of your skills without any further explanation. On your resume and in your cover letter, you have the opportunity to give context for the skills you claim to have. For example, rather than just including leadership on a list, you could expand upon a time that you demonstrated it, whether that be at your job or in an extracurricular activity.

Some of the most important interpersonal skills to include on your resume are:

  • Communication (both written and verbal): Anytime you’re working with other people, communication is key.
  • Teamwork: If you’re going to be working with other people, just about every hiring manager will want to know that you’re a team player.
  • Leadership: Even if you aren’t supervising other people, leadership is a critical skill to have in a team environment.
  • Professionalism: Not only does professionalism mean showing up for work on time every day, but it also means acting with integrity and treating those around you with respect.
  • Humility: When you’re working with others, you want to be approachable and open to other people’s ideas and feedback.
  • Conflict management: In situations where you work with other people, there will almost certainly be times when you don’t see eye to eye. Good conflict resolution can help to diffuse these situations.
  • Self confidence: Being a stellar employee includes taking ownership of and pride in your work. Employers want workers who are proud of the work they do.
  • Positive attitude: Everyone can agree that a coworker with a bad attitude can really bring down the mood in the office. Both employees and customers will appreciate a good attitude.
  • Flexibility: Part of working in a team environment requires rolling with the punches and adapting to change. The more flexible you are, the easier you’ll be to work with.
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