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 and with your boss, your brand and how you come across as a professional. For examples, consider the following interpersonal skills 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 an 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 waiting for your turn to speak.

To understand the importance of interpersonal skills, keep in mind that this skill set is hard to teach, 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.

[READ: How to Tell Your Boss You Got Another Job Offer.]

Why Are Interpersonal Skills Important?

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the importance of interpersonal skills. Many professionals who are currently working remotely have seen how crucial it is to be able to communicate and interact with others well in different situations on the job. From managers to team members, companies are very interested in hiring professionals who have interpersonal skills, whether they are working remotely or in a hybrid position. Some of these skills, such as communication, listening and empathy have proven to be more necessary than ever as changes continue to unfold in the workforce.

Jobs That Require Interpersonal Skills

Many of the top jobs in U.S. News’ rankings of 100 Best Jobs in America require interpersonal skills. Here are a few examples.

IT Manager: Since an IT Manager helps to guide and navigate an organization through the world of technology, it’s important that they are able to communicate clearly and concisely when in meetings with executives. They also need to show good leadership skills to identify when decisive change is necessary and then manage those changes.

Operations Research Analyst: While it may seem that this position deals with data, interpersonal skills also come into play. A professional in this job also has to be able to take the data, interpret it and provide their organization with insight to make decisions. This requires good communication and presentation skills to make the data easy to understand. This also requires flexibility when dealing with different ways of presenting the information.

Software Developer: This job requires strong technical skills, but soft skills also come into play when dealing with clients and assessing the needs of the software user. For example, empathy will allow the developer to determine the user experience of the software. They also need to be able to work well with the client or organization to successfully create or edit the program according to their needs.

Physician: It’s easy to recognize that physicians need good interpersonal skills since they regularly work with patients from many different backgrounds and with diverse needs. Communication, empathy and good listening are all needed to be a successful physician.

Financial Manager: Financial managers compile complex reports for the organization they work for. To help others understand those reports, good communication skills are needed. It’s also important that they have good listening skills when executives express company financial goals or concerns.

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 this forces the hiring manager to read your entire resume to determine what type of position you would be qualified for, and they usually 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: Why Is It Taking So Long to Hear Back After an Interview?]

How to Include Interpersonal Skills on a Cover Letter

Your cover letter is a great opportunity to let your personality shine through on paper, especially highlighting your interpersonal skills. And really, your cover letter in itself can demonstrate your communication skills in written form, so pay attention to any specific instructions that the organization asks to be included. Identify the top interpersonal skills needed for the job you are applying for, and think about examples that show how you have demonstrated those effectively. Choose the most compelling example to highlight in your cover letter, making sure that the interpersonal skill you want to include is stated clearly.

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.

Every professional should create and update 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 such as 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.

How to Demonstrate Interpersonal Skills on the Job

No matter what your job position, there are always opportunities to demonstrate interpersonal skills. For example, you can demonstrate your communication skills by speaking with your co-workers in a conversational tone, listening to and acknowledging their different perspectives. If you are a manager, you have opportunities to show your interpersonal skills during meetings with your employees and also by providing them with constructive criticism and a listening ear when they are struggling with a project.

[See: The Best Jobs That Help People.]

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

Even when interpersonal skills come naturally to us, we can always build on them and improve. If you would like to improve your interpersonal skills, here are a few ideas to get you started:

— Practice listening to your co-workers for one week. Limit yourself to only reflecting and paraphrasing what they say.

— To communicate more assertively, prepare for certain conversations in advance. This could be anything from an interruption from a co-worker to giving constructive criticism. Write down what you want to say and practice out loud.

— To work on your leadership skills, review how you led your last meeting with your team. What could you do differently to be more decisive in your next meeting?

— Work with a mentor. A mentor can provide you with helpful advice and feedback about what specific interpersonal skills you can work on.

More from U.S. News

11 Qualities of Bad Managers

20 Careers With the Most Job Security Right Now

The Fastest-Growing Jobs in America

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

Update 08/13/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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