How to Highlight Interpersonal Skills in Interviews and Resumes

We all know potential employers rarely take the time to read resumes thoroughly, at least not on the first go-around. Statistics show that they spend a maximum of 10 to 15 seconds scanning a resume to determine the candidate’s fit before they decide to keep or toss the application. If you are a job seeker, you need to stand out from the crowd. But it can be difficult to know for sure what to highlight about yourself, especially when you have the same skill set as everyone else who applied for the position. The majority of hiring managers say they are always on the lookout for important soft skills, such as interpersonal skills. This one element can make the difference between choosing one job applicant over another. Here’s how you can highlight your interpersonal skills to a hiring manager.

What Are Interpersonal Skills?

First, what are interpersonal skills? Simply put, interpersonal skills are what give you the ability to communicate and interact well with others. Interpersonal skills are crucial to success professionally because your ability to communicate clearly impacts your efficiency, effectiveness, trust between co-workers, your brand and how you come across as a professional. For interpersonal skills examples, consider the following list:

Communication: Knowing how to express yourself in a clear, concise way, whether it be spoken or written. Communication is critical internally between team members as well as externally with clients, vendors, partners and customers.

Teamwork: Knowing how to work well with others and leverage their strengths. Just about every job posting across different industries lists teamwork as a required skill, and for good reason: Without teamwork, companies are disorganized, tasks aren’t completed efficiently and results ultimately suffer.

Empathy: Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their perspective on a task or project. Empathy fosters collaboration between individuals and teams, and helps a company operate at its optimal level.

Leadership: Knowing how to be decisive, encourage others, manage change and provide a good example. Good leaders know how to instruct struggling workers, when to let employees work problems out on their own and carry themselves in a way that demonstrates how others should act.

Response to conflict: The ability to diffuse a difficult situation. Conflict is often the best time to see how people react in tough situations. Being able to keep your cool, find the root of the problem and work quickly to a solution is a critical skill.

Positivity: A positive attitude about your work, your team and your organization. This can seem disingenuous if not done with the right tone and is an important interpersonal skill to keep morale high.

Negotiation: Being able to reach on agreement between two conflicting parties. This will often be useful in salary discussions but also when working with outside clients or customers.

Listening: Taking the time and effort to understand the needs of others. The example of hearing versus listening is often used to describe this skill. It’s important to pay attention to the other side’s needs rather than simply wait for your turn to speak.

[See: How to Change Careers Successfully.]

To understand the importance of interpersonal skills, keep in mind that this skill set is hard to teach someone, so employers seek out professionals who already possess these strengths. Not everyone is naturally good at communicating. While you can always work on cultivating your interpersonal skills, if you are naturally gifted with interpersonal skills, this gives you an upper hand during your job search.

How to Highlight Interpersonal Skills on Your Resume

Use your professional profile at the top of your resume to list your qualifications and include your interpersonal skills. Your profile outlines who you are and what you bring to the table, so listing the critical interpersonal skills along with your hard skills is a great way to grab the attention of a hiring manager. Some resumes do not include this section and instead jump right to “Education,” but we do not recommend that to our clients. Why? Because then the hiring manager is forced to read your entire resume to determine what type of position you would be qualified for, and they won’t take the time to do that.

When thinking about what to include in your profile summary, consider what skills you bring, your value and why the hiring manager should continue reading your resume. Your summary encapsulates your expertise, or value proposition, and sets the theme for your resume. Then the rest of the resume should be a validation of your summary. For example, consider the following phrases:

— Intellectually curious with strong leadership, communication and problem-solving skills.

— Motivated to work as part of a team or as an individual contributor.

— Building partnerships and fostering collaborative relationships across a global organization.

— Mentored, managed and drove team to realize strategies and objectives to grow national sales for key accounts.

These kinds of phrases in a summary statement highlight your interpersonal skills and how you perform as a professional beyond the standard qualifications. Then you can include measurable results for the interpersonal skills you choose to highlight, under your “Experience” section.

[Read: How to Find College Courses That Teach Soft Skills.]

How to Highlight Your Interpersonal Skills in an Interview

If you have secured an interview, you have obviously piqued the attention of the hiring manager and will want to continue to build on what you highlighted in your resume. During the interview, go into further detail regarding your interpersonal skills and results. For each interpersonal skill, write down a STAR story — situation, task, action, result — that is relevant to the position for which you are interviewing.

We recommend that our clients create what we call a “brag book.” This is a bound, professional-looking book that highlights your qualifications for the position. Included in this document can be testimonials, LinkedIn recommendations, references or other supporting materials like product launches you have worked on or marketing materials you created for previous positions. Make sure that the items you include highlight your interpersonal skills as well as accomplishments. Providing the “brag book” in itself is proof of your desire and ability to communicate in a clear and helpful way to the hiring manager.

Of course, you will want to demonstrate your interpersonal skills from the moment you walk in the door for your interview. While feeling nervous is normal, remember to reflect confident body language, make eye contact, take a deep breath and smile.

More from U.S. News

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How to Highlight Interpersonal Skills in Interviews and Resumes originally appeared on

Update 08/31/20: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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