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What are interpersonal skills?
Interpersonal skills are a set of techniques and behaviors that let you effectively interact with others. In business contexts, they refer to your ability to smoothly cooperate with coworkers. Interpersonal skills include listening, verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
Interpersonal skills permeate all areas of life and are equally important in both personal and professional interactions.
We’ll see why they’re in such high demand and why employers badly look for them in candidates.
In fact, collaboration—a vital interpersonal skill—has been cited as the most sought-after skill in fresh graduates and also one that drives employees performance.
Read on to find more.
This article will show you:
- What interpersonal skills are.
- A list of interpersonal skills examples.
- How to list interpersonal skills on a resume.
- How to improve interpersonal skills.
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Looking for information on other skills? Head straight to one of our guides:
- Communication Skills
- Critical Thinking Skills
- Marketing Skills
- Time Management Skills
- Creative Thinking Skills
- Decision Makings Skills
- Organizational Skills
Interpersonal Skills—Why They’re Important
Interpersonal skills synonyms encompass people skills, soft skills, emotional intelligence or even employability skills. The true meaning behind the term boils down to your ability to communicate with others and form relationships.
When speaking of interpersonal skills, people very often mean a person’s attitude or behavior.
Why are interpersonal skills important?
Strong interpersonal skills are an essential element of functioning within society.
Oftentimes, they are a decisive factor when an employer has to choose between two equally qualified candidates.
Those more likable and better able to function within a team get the upper hand. Hence the moniker employability skills.
This 2016 HBR study shows that managers and employees spend up to 50% more time collaborating than they used to.
More than that—
Several other studies have identified collaboration as the key factor that drives workplace performance.
Because of all this, many companies have recalibrated their recruitment policies and adopted the so-called hire-for-attitude approach.
Good interpersonal skills are crucial within communities and even families.
People with good interpersonal skills are much better at adjusting to situations, avoiding or resolving conflicts, gaining trust and respect.
This is why strong interpersonal social skills can contribute to reducing stress levels, increasing life satisfaction, and improving your overall health.
To sum up—
Interpersonal communication skills are an extremely important part of your personal and professional life.
You can say that interpersonal skills are not only another word for people skills but they also indicate emotional intelligence, attitude, and behavior.
It’s all about how good you get along with others.
Want to learn more about how to put your skills on a resume? Here’s our guide 99 Key Skills for a Resume (Best List of Examples for All Types of Jobs)
Let’s jump right in—
Here’s a list of interpersonal skills:
Interpersonal Skills List
- Conflict resolution
- Decision making
- Relationship building
As we mentioned in the previous section, people skills definition often encompasses your attitude and demeanor.
So, here’s a follow-up list of people skills that aren’t as much skills per se. They are character and personality traits vital to being considered a “people person.”
- Ability to work under pressure
- Emotional intelligence
Now that we’ve defined the meaning of interpersonal skills and listed examples, let’s take a closer look at some of the top interpersonal skills to see why employers value them so much.
Interpersonal Skills in the Workplace
Interpersonal communication skills
It’s no accident that communication skills top the list.
Arguably, communication could be the only people skills synonym that you’ll ever need.
Because there’s so much more to effective interpersonal communication skills than speaking coherently. It’s also about active listening, persuading, negotiating, influencing, and sending non-verbal cues.
The ability to communicate effectively is the single most important reason that allowed the entire humanity to become what it is today.
Some jobs (PR specialists, spokespersons, etc.) may require higher level communication skills, such as public speaking for example.
Being a leader has nothing to do with corporate seniority levels. It's an interpersonal skill that allows you to inspire and motivate others into action.
Leadership, just as any other skill, can be learned.
But, in contrast to other interpersonal skills, the degree to which you can learn it is highly correlated with your character traits, such as dependability, patience, responsibility, self-motivation, or emotional intelligence.
If you're surprised it's listed among interpersonal skills, try to look at it from a different perspective:
Your personal choices can affect people around you.
Do you empathize with others enough to see the implications of the decisions you make? Can you communicate an unpopular decision in a way that will make people see your point?
Or if a decision is to be made by a group, can you weigh in all the pros and cons? Can you present a balanced viewpoint?
And finally, are you mature enough to be held accountable for your decisions?
More often than not, conflicts result from miscommunication. Are you observant enough to nip them in the bud?
Or if they escalate, will you be able to mediate, find the root cause, and ultimately solve the problem? Do you have the patience necessary to talk to people whose emotions hijacked their sensibility?
Last but not least, teamwork.
Companies do their best to break out of the so-called silo mentality.
This is only possible when team members not only collaborate within their teams but also form cross-functional alliances, share knowledge, and help one another.
This is how interpersonal skills should work at their best.
As you see, the importance of interpersonal skills in the workplace cannot be underestimated.
Communication and interpersonal skills are important for successful project management, building team dynamics, as well as effective and efficient pan-departmental collaboration.
They are the cornerstone of any successful collaborative effort.
Want to learn how to make a job-winning resume that highlights all your assets? Here’s our guide: How to Make a Resume for a Job [from Application to Interview in 24h]
Here’s the thing:
The vast majority of job seekers aren’t only interested in finding a good answer to the question:
What does interpersonal skills mean?
They also like to know:
How to describe interpersonal skills on a resume?
To cut a long story short:
When writing a resume, relevance is the name of the game.
First off, if you’re looking for a job where people skills play first fiddle such as a teacher, administrative assistant, customer service specialist, or any health care, managerial, or communications-related position—
Chances are you can easily identify the interpersonal skills employers are looking for by examining the job ad itself.
The example below comes from a job listing for the position of a Public Relations Coordinator. The relevant interpersonal skills are in yellow highlights.
- Establish and maintain relationships with key local influencers, editors, stylists, and publicists.
- Liaise with each market to ensure strategy and product pushes are on track.
- Work on all team-wide PR initiatives (parties, launches, events, strategy sessions, etc.); collaborate on and contribute ideas for men’s PR initiatives.
- Organize, track and maintain product orders/returns from editors; coordinate seasonal product photo shoots.
- Coordinate daily/weekly editorial reports, working closely with Brand Communications team on weekly/monthly recaps.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- Ability to collaborate with and influence internal and external partners.
- Self-starter with strong initiative, ownership, and accountability for business.
- Ability to work efficiently in a high-pressure, fast-paced, deadline driven environment.
If this job offer seems like it’s almost entirely spun around strong interpersonal skills—
It’s because this is exactly the case.
PR jobs require candidates to have nothing short of outstanding people skills.
Let’s see how you can incorporate these skills into your resume job description.
Rule #1: Use the resume keywords from the job ad.
The thing is—
Your resume will likely be scanned by the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to initially determine if you’re a match.
According to our HR statistics report, ATSs screen 250+ resumes that a job posting usually attracts for keywords. The same ones as these used in the job ad.
If they find the keywords, you’re a match. The more keywords they find, the better match you must be. Simple as that.
So, your experience section could look something like this:
People Skills to Put on Resume—Example
- Built and maintained relationships with 20+ influencers, (incl. bloggers, editors, and stylists) that led to a 20% increase in media visibility.
- Collaborated with a cross-functional team comprising people from 5 different departments on company-wide PR initiatives to develop a new employee branding strategy.
- Collaborated with internal and external partners. Thanks to strong influencing skills secured 30+ editorial product placements in high-fashion magazines.
The rule of thumb is to describe your experience using the language from the job ad.
This way you can be sure that all the relevant keywords aren't missing from your resume, and all the interpersonal skills the employer is after are there.
Remember to describe your interpersonal skills in terms of achievements.
But you know what?
You can still give your people skills more prominence on your resume.
This is how you do it:
Take a long hard look at your experience section and extract its very essence. You’re likely to end up with a list that’ll look something like this:
Key Skills on Resume—People Skills
- Verbal communication
- Relationship building
Not bad right?
Here’s the best part:
They’re not just some random interpersonal skills. They’ve been fished out of your very own experience section.
It means you can prove them in an interview by making references to a specific bullet point in the experience section.
Make sure you ace your interview and head straight here:
- STAR Method for Acing Behavioral Interview Questions [25+ Examples]
- 20 Situational Interview Questions and Answers to Nail Your Interview
- "What Are You Passionate About?" [Interview Question & Best Answers]
There’s still room on your resume to put your great interpersonal skills in the limelight!
Here’s how the opening statement of your resume could read:
Resume Objective—Interpersonal Skills Examples
A collaborative public relations specialist with strong initiative and 2+ years of experience. Thrives in a high-pressure, fast-paced environment. In previous roles secured 30+ editorial product placements in high-fashion magazines among others.
What you see in yellow highlights are the skills and character traits strewn here and there in the job ad, and used in your opening statement.
If your resume shows the recruiter that you’ve got what they’re looking for right off the bat, you can be sure they’ll spend more than 7 seconds reading it.
As you see, there are at least a couple of ways in which you can showcase your interpersonal effectiveness skills on a resume.
Still hungry for more? Here’s a selection of our guides that will help you out:
- How to Tailor Your Resume to a Job Description
- How to Make a Resume for a Job [from Application to Interview in 24h]
- Work Experience on a Resume: Job Description Bullet Points Samples
How to Improve Interpersonal Skills
You already know that interpersonal skills is another word for people skills, you understand the importance of interpersonal skills, and you know how to show them on your resume.
What if you feel like your interpersonal skills aren’t up to par?
Not to worry.
Let’s take a look at some basic ways to improve interpersonal skills.
Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Yes, it is obvious. But in many cases, all it takes for a person to improve is to realize there exist areas for improvement in the first place. If you’re unable to identify your good and bad sides by yourself, you may want to check out some of these online resources:
- Interpersonal Skills Test
- Interpersonal Communication Skills Inventory
- Interpersonal Skills Self-Assesment
Watch these TED Talks and Practice Interpersonal Communication
Sometimes all you need to improve your communication and people skills is the right source of inspiration. We’ve selected a couple of TED Talks you might want to watch and get inspired by regardless of how good or bad your interpersonal skills are.
- Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are
- The Power of Vulnerability
- 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation
- The Secret Structure of Great Talks
- Remember to Say Thank You
Take Some Online Courses in Interpersonal Skills
If you’re really serious about improving interpersonal skills, you might want to enroll in an online course. There is a plethora to choose from. What’s more, you can find interpersonal skills courses profiled for particular jobs, such as engineering or software development. Browse through Udemy and Coursera libraries, and find the ones best-suited for your needs:
Read Books on Improving Interpersonal Communication Skills
Here’s a list of titles you might want to explore:
- Interpersonal Skills in Organizations
- Interpersonal Skills at Work
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills
- How to Win Friends & Influence People
- How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships
- Bring Your Human to Work: 10 Surefire Ways to Design a Workplace That Is Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World
You’re also welcome to give one of our guides a read:
- 10+ Ways to Introduce Yourself That Always Work [Guide + Examples]
- 30+ Great Conversation Starters to Hit It off with Anybody [+Examples]
- 20+ Best Icebreaker Games and Questions [Examples]
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building your resume here.
When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.
Here’s a quick summary of all you need to remember about interpersonal skills:
- Interpersonal skills are a “people skills” synonym. They refer to your ability to interact with other people.
- People skills are an important hiring factor. Sometimes, they’re dubbed employability skills.
- All employers value candidates and employees with excellent interpersonal skills.
- You can show off your interpersonal skills on a resume in at least a couple of ways.
- If you feel like your interpersonal skills need a boost, there are a lot of resources available online for you to test and improve them.
Do you have any questions about interpersonal skills? Maybe you’d like to share some tips on how to develop them? Give us a shout out in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!