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What are Interpersonal Skills and Why Are They Important

There’s a lot of buzz these days around the importance of interpersonal skills. Well, these were essential back in the day too; however, with soft skills now being viewed as vital as hard skills, the demand for strong interpersonal skills has risen like never before. 

So, what exactly are interpersonal skills and how highlighting them on your resume could ‘seal the deal’ in your next interview? 

Here’s all that you need to know.

An Insight into Interpersonal Skills

In a nutshell, interpersonal skills can be defined as those individual qualities or traits you use to effectively communicate with others. Whether in a job scenario or the larger world, people prefer to stay connected/ work with/ be associated with people who display a positive attitude, are empathetic and responsible, and collaborate well. Nobody likes people who are overly temperamental, let alone people with negative attitudes. So this, in itself, explains the value of interpersonal skills.

Some of the key aspects of interpersonal skills can be comprehended through the below list:

  • Empathy
  • Teamwork
  • Positive attitude
  • Negotiation skills
  • Active listening skills 
  • Decision-making capabilities 
  • Leadership and accountability
  • Willingness to give and receive feedback
  • Effective communication (verbal and non-verbal)

Did you know? As per a recent survey, about 81% recruiters consider interpersonal skills as important. [Source: Graduate Management Admission Council]

Call it interpersonal skills, soft skills, people skills, or whatever you may, the fact remains that no matter how experienced you are or how sound your hard skills (technical interview skills) are, without the right attitude and decent interpersonal communication skills, you risk losing out on opportunities to others. 

Imagine an interview scenario where each of the five candidates possesses the required technical qualification and work experience. How can the organization pick one over the others? You got that right; interpersonal skills can, more often than not, be that deciding factor and help the interviewer to view one as a better fit over others. 

With the appropriate display of interpersonal communication skills alongside your technical know-how, you can completely impress an interviewer.

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Importance of Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are essential not just because they can help you crack the next interview but also because they can make you a successful professional, and help you forge meaningful relationships – both with your superiors as well as your subordinates at work. Everyone likes ‘a people’s person’; by being approachable, empathetic, and accountable, you can go a long way and add positivity around you.

The below example can help you comprehend the importance of good interpersonal skills.

Mr. A works as a team lead in an IT company and has around 12 members reporting directly to him. He is responsible for curating project requirements, creating the workflow, explaining tasks to his team, and also managing the delivery. Mr. A lacks ‘good communication skills’. His non-verbal skills aren’t too impressive either. In addition, he is seldom open to giving feedback; rather, loses his cool at the slightest instance of an error occurrence.

His team is mostly clueless about the larger picture of the project, which is why their contribution doesn’t match their true potential. Also, because he is not empathetic, his team members rarely walk up to him for guidance. As a result, the project suffers, there’s no bonding between the members (and him), the client is dissatisfied, and Mr. A struggles to retain his position.  

Did you see how it all began? Obviously, with poor interpersonal skills.

Role of Interpersonal Skills in Job Hunts and Interviews

As is pretty clear from the above, communication skills – verbal and non-verbal – help you succeed in your career, right from the time you start. Here’re a few ways you can exhibit your skills to your interviewer/ hiring manager at the interview. This is your quick interview prep guide!

  • Highlight your soft skills on your resume. Make these highlights easy to spot and preferably add these to your cover letter also.
  • Detail them out when asked (during interview). Remember, the more you can talk about these traits, the better it will be for you.
  • Keep a few instances handy where your communication skills made a customer happy, played a pivotal role in your last promotion, added to the overall delivery of your team, or anything like that.

So, right from giving an edge to your CV to helping you crack the interview, there’s a lot that soft skills offer. Don’t underestimate its potential. 

Quick tips to highlight people skills on your CV

Mention instances where you:

  • Built and maintained relationships
  • Collaborated with cross-functional teams
  • Adapted to new situations without hampering productivity
  • Initiated workshops and training on time/ conflict management
  • Pooled resources to deliver projects and remained accountable even afterwards

Improving Interpersonal Skills 

Soft skills are qualities that one is born with – either you have these traits or you don’t. Nevertheless, you can improve your interpersonal effectiveness even if you lack it at the moment. Since you are looking for information to perfect your skills, chances are you’re already aware of the areas you need to focus on.

Here are a few ways in which you can brush up your skills.

Cultivate a positive attitude

You don’t need to be the most positive person in the room; however, by attempting to build rapport with your team members, you can surely set the tone. Offer help whenever required, and if someone seeks your guidance, be glad to offer it. Even the smallest steps you take will take you ahead.

Practice what you preach

If you lack empathy, try practicing it for some time. Yes, you can do it. Imagine yourself in the shoes of the person who you don’t feel empathetic towards. Try to understand the situation or consider the suggestions he/she is offering. Even if this appears tough, keep practicing. With time, you will start to naturally feel for others.

Show genuine interest

You can only begin to improve when you start doing things in a genuine way. You don’t need to be harsh on yourself; acknowledge the misses and take one step at a time. Just remember to take honest steps only.  

Be aware of your body language and control your emotions

Getting agitated easily, feeling impatient and maintaining negative demeanor has never helped anyone. You need to calm yourself down and observe patience. A composed person is better capable of making decisions. It's commonplace for opinions to differ; however, this shouldn't affect relationships. You need to ensure you follow this at all times.

Respect 

One of the improvement areas you can focus on is to start respecting others’ opinions, feelings, differences, and suggestions. Identify one professional trait in your co-workers, which is good, and respect him/her for that. Very soon you’ll be surprised to find many other qualities that are worth appreciation.

Much of this will stem from self motivation. Soft skills can be improved, but only when the urge comes from within.

Check out these Top Work Ethic Values to Develop in order to have a successful professional career

Interpersonal Skill Must-haves (Beyond Interviews)

  • Empathy: The foremost personality trait that helps professionals to get along with others is perhaps empathy. Irrespective of the position you are in or the one you are planning to move to, this is one quality that will drive your success. Being caring and compassionate, displaying kindness while getting work done, and showing your sensitive side when the situation demands are a few ways to show empathy. Respect your team members irrespective of their position, including their right to privacy (especially during non-working hours/ holidays, emergencies, etc.). 
  • Teamwork: You may be a great solo contributor – however, unless you are a good team player also, you know you’d miss out on many opportunities, especially the ones that require team-handling capabilities. Brush up your collaboration skills and there you are all set. 
  • Positive attitude: It’s not just tough to work with a person who’s cribbing all the time but clearly painful. Sure, one may fuss over stuff once in a while but a negative person is a strict no-no. A happy and bright manager not only inspires his team but also drives his team to excel, always.
  • Critical thinking and conflict management: Not every day at work will be rosy. So, while you are at it, hone your conflict management skills as well. This will come from your critical thinking abilities. The better you can interpret and analyze situations, and the better your problem solving and negotiation abilities, the better you will be able to manage conflict.
  • Willingness to learn:  To evolve as a professional, you need to be willing to learn. This will not only keep you motivated but inspire others around you as well. Learning also gives you the confidence to experiment and innovate – these are qualities that distinguish you from the rest.
  • Active listening skills: To be empathetic and manage conflicts, you need to be an ardent listener too. When you appear interested in a conversation, you encourage the speaker to open up to you. This trait will help to build trust and rapport, and you will be heard better too. 
  • Decision-making capabilities: Irrespective of whether you lead a team or not, your decision-making capabilities will always get noticed. From time management skills to leading projects to catering to clients – your decision making abilities will take you places.
  • Delegation and accountability: This is a key soft skill that always wins accolades. Delegating work to the right people means managing resources well and driving the best outcomes. Also, not everybody takes accountability, especially when something goes wrong. Only the true leaders stand by their teams even during crisis. 
  • Willingness to give and receive feedback: As mentioned already, openness to give and receive honest feedback is essential to maintaining high-quality performance at work. If you come across as someone who takes (actionable) feedback seriously, your team will start paying heed to your suggestions too. Practicing what you preach makes you an ‘idol’ whom everybody looks up to.

So, how would you rate your soft skills? Are you prepared to revisit your resume and include a section on interpersonal skills? 

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