Some candidates with superb technical qualifications find it difficult to get through the interview stage of the recruitment process. It’s nearly always because they have failed to impress the recruiter with their team and people skills.
Businesses don’t want experts who can’t talk to anybody and must be kept away from clients. So interpersonal skills are extremely important, even in very technical roles. And don’t forget, your next manager may well be on the interviewing panel and they are looking for someone that they’re going to find easy to work with.
Why are Interpersonal Skills so important?
Good interpersonal skills tend to be the result of a certain level of insight into what makes other people tick. Some studies have in fact shown that emotional intelligence can be more significant than traditional intelligence, for achieving success at work.
Empathy is a key component of emotional intelligence because it allows us to make the imaginative leap into understanding what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. This can make all the difference to the way that we deal with them and in our understanding of what motivates them. So in a team, empathetic people will tend to be less judgemental and more understanding – a good basis for getting along with people.
So let’s take a look at some of the key interpersonal skills and how you can demonstrate them during your interview.
1. The Ability to Communicate
Communication is not all about talking fluently. It starts when you listen attentively to the question that you are being asked, meeting the questioner’s eyes. When you answer, you need to show that you are clearly able to adjust how you speak, to your audience.
For example very informal language is unlikely to be appropriate in an interview. But the fact that you have failed to notice what kind of communication is appropriate, and adjust accordingly, will also count against you.
2. Problem-solving allied to Creativity
Some highly qualified and professional candidates sometimes make the mistake of describing themselves purely in terms of being analytical and able to solve complex technical problems. But problem solving and creativity often go hand in hand.
The interviewing panel may be looking for some level of creativity that you can link to your analytical side, so that you are able to identify completely new kinds of solutions, not simply prescribe those that have been used before. To avoid this it is always important to create your personal development plan.
3. Leadership without Dominance
Many employers are looking for people who are able to lead through consensus building, negotiation and influencing. These are the soft leadership skills that are important for teams to function successfully.
4. Ability to Work Collaboratively
The whole point about work being distributed round a team, is that you must be able to share tasks, accept feedback and appreciate both the strengths and weaknesses of your fellow team members. You need to be someone who understands that it’s not necessarily about being the star of the show, it’s about helping the team to be the star of the show.
If you’re asked to describe a team that you have worked with, try to concentrate on the positive aspects because being negative about its weaknesses may say more about you than about the team.
5. Customer Skills
Whether or not your role involves directly dealing with external customers, you may find that you have a de facto customer within the organisation. For example, you may be delivering a project or service that another part of the business relies on. So the ability to understand the customer’s point of view and to go the extra mile when necessary to make sure they are happy, is extremely important.
There’s more information on this topic here.
Improving your interpersonal performance
If you feel that your communication skills are not as good as you’d like them to be, consider joining a course at your local college. This should greatly boost your confidence which is half the battle when you are trying to communicate in a somewhat artificial situation such as an interview.
Alternatively, look online for more tips and background.
Diplomacy and Conflict Avoidance
It’s not always possible to completely avoid conflict but you can learn skills that will help you to disagree with others without alienating them. Once you have learned to communicate better, it’s easier to pick an appropriate tone and register in which to address colleagues.
Really think about Teamwork
Are you the kind of person everybody would like to have on their team or are you just someone who sits silently through meetings and then goes back to your cubicle to work alone? Try and analyse your contribution to any team that you’re currently on and think of ways it could be strengthened.