Working the room: How to showcase your interpersonal skills during a job interview

By 4th November 2016

In today's hiring environment, employers are looking for people to join their business who not only have the technical capability, but also the soft-skills to work effectively with in the team. Strong social and interpersonal skills assure the hiring manager that you have what it takes to get along with colleagues, clients and everybody in between. 

When interviewing for a job, your technical qualifications may bowl people over, but don’t forget to also emphasise your solid interpersonal skills. In fact, it may not be a stretch to say that good people skills could be what set you apart from the competition.

Why interpersonal skills are important?

Interpersonal skills is the ability to understand what makes people (including yourself) tick and use that knowledge to get the best results -- it often correlates with a persons emotional-intelligence quotient (EQ). Since a lot of jobs involve collaboration and interacting with different types of people, good interpersonal skills are not just important, they’re often vital to strong performance. During the job interview stage many employers will try to assess a candidates social and interpersonal skills to tease out how that candidate will be able fit with the current team working environment.

Following are key interpersonal skills that will dazzle just about any potential employer and how you can demonstrate them during a job interview:

1. Effective communication skills

A particularly impressive skill is the ability to articulate and clearly convey information and ideas. Listen attentively to the questions the hiring manager asks and give succinct and fluent answers. Don’t underestimate the importance of nonverbal communication skills as well. Maintaining good eye content and paying attention to your body language and gestures will go a long way to ensure your communication is effective.

2. Leadership skills

A real plus to an employer is an individual who is able to oversee projects, resources and coworkers, while continuing to deliver optimum results. Even if you’ve never spearheaded a project, you’ve probably been in situations in which you’ve had to exhibit leadership capabilities. Review your previous work history and highlight times when you volunteered to train a new staff member or took the lead by pitching a more efficient plan or process.

3. Problem-solving skills

Looking at complicated business issues and bringing creative solutions to the table is a skill that employer value. Share any experiences where you have managed to overcome an obstacle that stood in the way of achieving a desired outcome. Use the STAR technique to outline the Situation you found yourself in, the Task you were trying to achieve, the Action you took to resolve the problem, and the Result you achieved. 

4. Customer service

Whether the role you are interviewing for is customer-facing or not, being able to deliver effective customer service with empathy will go a long way in building strong working relationships with your colleagues and internal stakeholders. Providing an explanation on how you have taking into account the concerns or considerations of your internal and external stakeholders is skills that will be highly valued by many employers.

5. Diplomacy and collaboration skills

Being able to collaborate with others even under tense circumstances is a strong selling point to a hiring manager. Present yourself as a positive individual who enjoys teamwork. Think about times when you may have had to mediate disputes to keep the team focused. Exercise caution when speaking about former colleagues or managers though; badmouthing others reflects poorly on you.

When preparing for a job interview, think about what your strengths are in terms of relating to people. Making these qualities a point of focus during your job interview is one way of edging out the competition and helping you land the job. 

How to improve your interpersonal skills

If you're still developing some of these skills, demonstrate how you're learning new techniques to deal with some of these every day workplace situations. 

Here are some tips on how you can build your interpersonal skills over time:

  • Hone your communication skills. It may seem like a given that you need to speak and write clearly. Avoid using jargon or technical concepts that are obvious to you, but might be unclear or unfamiliar to others.
    Related: How to develop effective communication skills (even if you’re shy)
  • Learn conflict resolution skills. Disagreements occur in every office. Learning how to calmly sort out issues and find acceptable compromises will aid you throughout your career.
  • Focus on teamwork. Is a colleague working on a major initiative and everything must be completed by next week? Offer to help out if you’re not overloaded yourself. The way to win support is by giving support when it’s needed.
  • Emphasise diplomacy. Always maintain a professional tone when communicating with others. This means never corresponding when you’re angry or frustrated. You could regret it later.

Regardless of your technical expertise, your interpersonal skills are the hallmark of your personal brand and, ultimately, what will set you apart from colleagues. Honing these skills are key to advancing your career.

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