28+ Top Interpersonal Skills [That Employers Love in 2021]

22 July
8 min read

You may be the most skilled professional in your field…

You may have won dozens of awards and titles…

But without this one type of skill, you're never going to reach your full potential.

Yes, you guessed it: we’re talking about interpersonal skills.

Interpersonal skills, in a nutshell, dictate how well you get along with other people. 

But what else is there to know about interpersonal skills, and how can you develop them? Well, we’ll cover both these topics in this article!

Read on to learn more about:

  • What Are Interpersonal Skills?
  • 7 Types of Interpersonal Skills
  • How to Show Off Your Interpersonal Skills
  • 10 Most In-Demand Interpersonal Skills for Jobs in 2021
  • How to Develop Interpersonal Skills

So, let’s get started!

What Are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills are skills that dictate your ability to get along with and understand other people. 

Interpersonal skills are not just a single skill - rather, they consist of several soft skills. These include:

  • Teamwork
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Communication (both verbal and nonverbal)
  • Leadership

...And several others (we’ll cover the full list a bit down the line).

And yep, they ARE in demand for any type of job.

For people-related roles, good interpersonal skills are, obviously, essential. After all, jobs that involve people require communication, teamwork, and emotional intelligence, among others.

Interpersonal skills also come in handy for very individual-focused roles.

Say you’re a writer. You may think that as long as you can just sit down and write, you don’t have to deal with those pesky people skills, right?

Not exactly.

To be a really good writer, you need to be able to communicate well with other people:

  • You need to communicate with your readers and understand why they like/don’t like your books.
  • You need to communicate with your publishers and make sure that there are clear expectations and responsibilities set both ways.
  • You need to have a good understanding of what people are like so that you write accurate characters in your book.

And that’s where interpersonal skills come into play!

Interpersonal Skills Examples

As we mentioned before, interpersonal skills are more of a mixture of different types of people skills.

Some examples of interpersonal skills are:

  • Networking
  • Collaboration
  • Mentoring
  • Motivation

7 Types of Interpersonal Skills

Now that we went over the theory, let’s see what interpersonal skills are in practice. 

#1. Communication 

Communication is a very large chunk of interpersonal skills.

After all, no matter how good you are with other types of interpersonal skills (teamwork, conflict management, leadership, etc.), it doesn’t really matter if you can’t effectively communicate with other people.

Here are some examples of skills associated with communication: 

  • Verbal communication
  • Active listening
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Inquiry    

#2. Teamwork 

Teamwork is when a group of people works together to efficiently achieve a common goal or complete a task.  

Teamwork is an interpersonal skill required for, well, almost any job ever.

Whether you’re a football player or a computer scientist, you need to (effectively) work with a team to achieve your goals.

Examples of teamwork skills include (but are not limited to):

  • Team facilitation 
  • Collaboration
  • Problem-solving  
  • Diversity

#3. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to being able to understand and manage emotions - both yours and other people’s. 

It takes emotional intelligence to work in positions that require one-on-one interaction and a lot of emotional labor. 

Nurses make a good example of this. On top of physically taking care of patients, they also need to be empathetic towards their emotional needs and look after their mental state.

However, emotional intelligence also comes in handy in the workplace - being able to “read” colleagues’ emotions and act accordingly can go a long way in building good relations.  

Emotional intelligence is associated with: 

  • Empathy
  • Sensitivity 
  • Sympathy
  • Compassion 

#4. Leadership 

Leadership is the ability to motivate, encourage and inspire others and lead a team towards achieving a common goal. 

Leadership is required to succeed in all sorts of roles, including:

  • Management positions like CEO, director, team lead, etc.
  • Positions where you need to inspire other people. This includes teachers, brand managers, and other creative roles.

Think of the difference between an average and a truly great teacher. The latter has the ability to motivate students to learn, encourage them to go after their dreams and inspire them to become whatever they wish. If those aren’t the qualities of a leader, then we don’t know what is.  

Examples of leadership skills are: 

  • Mentoring
  • Motivation
  • Encouraging
  • Inspiring 

#5. Conflict Management 

Conflict management is the ability to resolve disagreements or disputes in such a way that minimizes negative results and maximizes positive ones. 

As a professional skill, conflict management has a wide range of uses that are not limited to specific industries. At one point or another, you will most likely need to manage a disagreement in your work environment - even if it’s between you and a colleague, supervisor, or client. 

Conflict management involves: 

  • Mediation
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Counseling 
  • Openness 

#6. Influencing skills 

Influencing skills encompass the ability to convince people of the way you think on a certain matter without using force or coercion, and while taking their opinion into consideration. 

Influencing skills are required if you want people - be it your supervisor, colleagues, or clients - to see things from your point of view and act a certain way that benefits you, the team, or your career path. 

Influencing skills consist of: 

  • Negotiation
  • Persuasion
  • Research
  • Networking 

#7. Positive Thinking

Positivity is a skill, attitude, and mindset. 

How is it a skill? Because it involves practicing to see the best in every situation and not allowing yourself to get demotivated by life’s drawbacks. 

And since drawbacks, difficulties, and challenges will be a part of life no matter what your profession is, positive thinking is nothing short of vital. 

If you’re wondering how a mindset can be an interpersonal skill, consider this - when you have a positive attitude, you are happy and optimistic. Hence, you are more likely to build constructive relationships with your colleagues and be a beneficial member of the work environment. 

Here are some examples of positive thinking: 

  • Friendliness
  • Humour
  • Sociability 
  • Kindness 

How to Show Off Your Interpersonal Skills

Even if you have amazing interpersonal skills, you need to somehow show it to prospective employers.

Here’s our advice on how you can best showcase your interpersonal skills for your job search:

Step #1. Scan the Job Ad

Scan the job ad and find the right interpersonal skills for the job. Not ALL interpersonal skills are relevant for all jobs.

If you’re a software engineer, for example, clear communication and teamwork is what’s required of you.

If you’re a software engineer team lead, though, the job will need you to have (again) communication skills, leadership skills like mentoring and perseverance, and organizational skills.

So, scan the job ad you’re applying for, and make a list of the relevant interpersonal skills.

Step #2. Add These Skills to Your Resume

Mention the relevant interpersonal skills in the following resume sections (whichever is relevant):

Keep in mind, though, that you don’t want to just slap these skills on your resume and call it a day - you want to back them up, too.

Here’s what we mean by that:

If you mention Communication Skills in your skills section, the recruiter reading it doesn't really get much value. Sure, you’re saying that you have communication skills, but how can they know for sure?

If, on the other hand, you add a bit in your work experience section to talk about how you used these communication skills to excel at your last job, THEN your skills will shine a whole lot brighter!

Correct Example

  • Communicated with 3 different departments - marketing, finance, and HR - to bring Project Z to conclusion successfully.

Incorrect Example

  • Strong Communication Skills

Step #3. Add (Relevant) Skills to Your Cover Letter

In addition to your resume, you can also mention your interpersonal skills in your cover letter!

In your resume, you’re a bit limited by space on how many details you can mention - all you’ve got are bullet points, after all.

Well, in your cover letter, you can expand on whatever you already mentioned in your resume, but in more detail.

Let’s expand on the previous example. In your cover letter, you could say:

Correct Example

“During my last role as Senior Product Manager, I had to implement a workflow management software that would be used by 3 departments - marketing, finance, and HR. I understood the needs of each department and used it to source a software solution that worked for everyone.”

Step #4. Talk About Your Interpersonal Skills During the Interview

During the job interview, you’re bound to get asked a lot of questions about your soft skills. And rightfully so!

97% of employers think that soft skills are as important (if not more important) than hard skills. Meaning, you might be the perfect candidate in terms of hard skills, but if you lack the interpersonal skills to get along with your team, your chances of getting the job go down significantly

When answering such interview questions, though, don’t just say something like, “Oh, I’m a great leader” and stare at the interviewer, waiting for them to move on.

Instead, give a concrete example of a situation where you’ve used this interpersonal skill before, and how it helped you excel.

Correct Example

“I believe that I’m great at managing people. We were always both ahead of schedule and under budget in every client account, I’ve managed. This one time, due to a mix-up with HR, several of my team members took time off at the same time, and it was too late to change this.

Regardless of the mistake, I borrowed team members from different departments, got them up to speed with the tasks, and still managed to complete the pressing project on time.”

Incorrect Example

I’m an amazing manager.

Step #5. Show Your Skills During the Interview

Talking about your skills is one thing. Unless you actually demonstrate them during the interview, though, the recruiter will remain unconvinced.

For example, if you’re saying you’re a charismatic leader, and you’re bumbling through every interview question, that’s not too convincing, right?

Want to make sure that you’ll ace that upcoming interview? Preparation is key! Check out some of these most common job interview questions (and learn how to answer them):

10 Most In-Demand Interpersonal Skills for Jobs in 2021

Some of the most sought-after interpersonal skills in the job market today include:

  • Active listening
  • Problem-solving
  • Empathy
  • Conflict resolution
  • Positivity
  • Openness
  • Diversity
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Tolerance
  • Networking

How to Develop Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills CAN be developed, although at first glance they seem like traits people are born with (e.g. being empathetic, friendly, or inspirational). 

Given, acquiring interpersonal skills is not as easy as learning hard skills - you can’t just register for a class in kindness, learn how to be kind in a semester and get a certificate in the end. Instead, interpersonal skills require commitment and daily practice to develop. 

That being said, here are some ways to develop your interpersonal skills: 

  • Preserve your relationships: Don’t remove college friends or past colleagues from your life - you never know where life will take you, so burning bridges is never a good idea. Grab a coffee, call them, or, at the least, send them an email from time to time. It’s called networking. 
  • Put yourself in other people’s shoes: Seeing things from other people’s perspectives will help develop your empathy and compassion, and give you new eyes to look at old problems. 
  • Look for the positives in others: Practice finding something good - like a positive trait - in the people you work with. It might not be easy, we know, but it will definitely help you be kinder, more tolerable and more open. 
  • Control your emotions: Letting your emotions get the best of you can seriously influence your ability to solve problems, listen to others, and resolve conflict.  
  • Pay attention to body language: A big part of communication is understanding what was not said - verbally, that is. Body language, on the other hand, always has something to say, so the more attention you pay, the better you’ll get at reading nonverbal cues.
  • Own up to your mistakes: Look, humans are fallible beings - they make mistakes. You probably appreciate people who have the courage to admit they were wrong and the desire to do better. Then, make sure to practice what you preach next time you make a mistake. Do keep in mind, however, that owing to your mistakes without the desire to do better will just make you unbearable.
  • Don’t stop practicing when you get off work: To really develop your interpersonal skills, do it all the time. Pay attention to your mindset by not letting things you can’t control irritate you (e.g. morning traffic), or by practicing friendliness with strangers. By making this a part of your routine, interpersonal skills will become a part of you in no time - and you’ll notice their benefits outside of the office, too.

Key Takeaways

And that sums up all you need to know about interpersonal skills!

Now, let’s recap some of the most important points we’ve covered in this article:

  • Interpersonal skills dictate your ability to get along with and understand other people.
  • Interpersonal skills are not just a single skill - rather, they consist of numerous soft skills
  • You can use your resume, cover letter and job interview to show off your interpersonal skills.
  • There are ways to improve your interpersonal skills. Those include putting yourself in other people’s shoes, controlling your emotions and paying attention to body language (among others).