Interpersonal skills make you who you are. With so much competition, successful people are the ones who can demonstrate that they have more than technical skills alone. The world of work is collaborative and this means having strong interpersonal skills is highly valued, regardless of what industry you’re in. This is why you need to be ready for interpersonal skills interview questions so that you can show you have strong interpersonal skills right from the start. 

Here are some of the most common interpersonal skills interviewers might assess.

Diplomacy

Imagine the situation: A colleague asks you for your thoughts on how they’ve handled a difficult situation. You don’t think they handled it well, in fact, you’re shocked at just how badly they’ve handled it. Your colleague seems oblivious, in fact, they seem convinced they did the right thing. What do you tell them?

Sometimes things need to be said. While I’ve always been one for telling it like it is, there are times when even I can see that my approach might need to be tailored somewhat to suit my audience or the situation.  Diplomacy is about dealing with people tactfully. At the office, this skill is vital!

Verbal communication

Whether you’re speaking to people on the phone, face to face, or giving a presentation, you need to be able to articulate yourself effectively in a way that the other person can clearly understand. After all the message is only as good as how it’s understood. 

Non-verbal communication

A major part of communication is non-verbal. It involves being able to recognize the non-verbal queues of others while being aware of the non-verbal queues you may be giving, which could affect the message being received. 

Listening skills

From sales to customer service to healthcare, your listening skills will be tested. Even if your role doesn’t fall into one of these categories, on a daily basis you need to show that you listen. Poor listening skills can lead to conflict, confusion, and lots of other issues that could have been avoided.

Negotiation 

Negotiation skills often get overlooked, until you want to negotiate a higher salary. But negotiation skills aren’t just important for salespeople or salary negotiation.  There are lots of situations in the workplace that draw on your negotiation skills. Like negotiating with your boss for more training and development opportunities, negotiating for more support staff, or negotiating for a new job title. These are just a few examples of opportunities where good negotiation skills could have a major impact on the outcome and ultimately on your long-term career success. 

Decision-making

Remember the last time someone asked you where you wanted to go for dinner? Or what film you wanted to watch? Making decisions can be hard! Whether it’s a decision about which vendor to work with, a decision about who you should hire, or a decision about who should be responsible for what aspects of a project. On any given working day decisions big and small need to be made.

Sometimes you might need to make decisions in ambiguous situations and without all the relevant information to hand. This is why being able to make decisions effectively is such a valued skill. It gives your manager confidence and frees them up to deal with other critical activities since you won’t have to keep running every single thing past them. 

Problem-solving

Next to decision making, problem-solving can be a real challenge at work, since there’s often more than one way to go about solving the problem and to add to that, there will likely be differing views on the best approach to take. Being able to understand the interests of the different parties involves, evaluate the options, and select the best one takes a skilled problem solver. 

Empathy

According to the Oxford Dictionary empathy is the “ability to understand and share the feelings of another. We all have more than just our jobs to contend with and things can get tough. ”No one wants to hire someone who simply can’t empathize with other people’s views or situations.

Adaptability

Companies are always looking for better ways of doing things. Ways to be more efficient, provide better customer experiences, or reduce cost or waste. All this brings about change, and change can be uncomfortable.

The change puts you in a situation where you’re outside of your comfort zone, dealing with the unknown or unfamiliar. The most successful people are the ones who can adapt, or even see it as an opportunity. 

Conflict resolution

Many people are averse to conflict and will try and avoid it at all costs. But this approach isn’t always the best one. Since this means avoiding difficult conversations and any situation where a conflict might arise. In the workplace, these come up all the time.

Potential employers are looking for people who effectively manage conflict. They want people who can handle difficult situations without things escalating things out of control, but also without running for the hills. 

Assertiveness

Which people in your life do you respect the most? Regardless of how different they might be in personality or as people, they will be assertive. Communicating assertively means confidently putting your views across and standing up for them in a way that’s neither aggressive nor passive while still respecting the views of others. When members of a team are assertive, they will positively challenge one another. This promotes good open discussion which can lead to new ideas and better ways of working. 

There are other interpersonal skills besides the ones listed above, including leadership and even self-awareness. As you can see from these examples, unlike technical skills which can be demonstrated quantitatively, by using numbers and data, interpersonal skills are qualitative. 

So, how do you answer interpersonal skills interview questions in a way that shows you’re strong in these areas? 

To be able to answer interpersonal skills interview questions well, you first have to recognize when you’re being asked an interpersonal skills question in the first place. 

Here are 5 common interpersonal skills interview questions that could be used to assess your soft skills and the best way to answer them. 

Question #1

Tell us about a time when you have dealt with a conflict at work

Interpersonal skills assessed: conflict resolution, listening, empathy, resilience, problem-solving  

How to answer it:

Clearly explain what the reason for the conflict was and what your thought process and rationale were at the time. Make sure you don’t go on the defensive or start to place blame on the colleague or colleagues that were involved. Instead, focus on showing what steps you took to resolve the conflict. Make it clear that you understand that in a workplace, people will not always agree, but that you recognize the importance of listening to other people’s viewpoints and that you’re able to set aside your personal differences and remain professional under all circumstances. 

Question #2

Describe a situation when you disagreed with a colleague.

Interpersonal skills assessed: communication, conflict resolution, persuasion, empathy, listening

How to answer it: 

Potential employers want to see that you’ll be able to work with different people, including people whose ways of working and views may be different from yours. Again, in this situation, clearly explain what the disagreement was, the reason for the disagreement, and what your thought process and rationale were. Describe what proactive steps you took to resolve the issue and make sure you don’t place any blame. Show that you were able to work through any issues and give examples that demonstrate how you were able to continue working together successfully, putting aside any differences and disagreements behind you.  

Question #3

When have you worked with a difficult customer?

Interpersonal skills assessed: relationship building, problem-solving, verbal communication, listening, customer service

How to answer it:

A customer could be anyone who you deliver a service to including a member of another team, someone outside the organization, or a stakeholder. Make sure you describe a specific situation where the customer was unhappy. Explain what you did to turn the situation around. Talk about what you did to better understand the customer and their concerns and show that you listened to their point of view. Explain how you ensured the customer’s satisfaction going forwards and what the ultimate outcomes were for the business.  

Question #4

Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?

Interpersonal skills assessed: Teamwork and collaboration, self-direction

How to answer it:

When asked this question, it’s important to make it clear that you can work successfully under both circumstances. The likelihood is that you’ll need to do both. Explain to the interviewer that while you’re comfortable working alone, you see the value in teamwork and like learning from others. Let them know that you value different perspectives and being able to utilize a variety of different strengths within the team and talk about how you have adapted to working in teams and on your own in the past. 

And finally, Interpersonal skills interview question #5

Describe a situation when things haven’t gone according to plan?

Interpersonal skills assessed: Communication, resilience, adaptability problem-solving

How to answer it:

When you’re talking about times when things have gone wrong, describe what the exact situation was. Explain what actions you took to try and resolve the issue. In particular, talk about how you communicated the situation to all the parties involved. Clients, your manager, stakeholders, and anyone else who would be impacted. Talk about what skills you think were important in managing the situation effectively and make sure you discuss what lessons you learned.

As you can see, with each question, there are a variety of different interpersonal skills that could be assessed. This is why it’s important to come prepared with specific examples for every question. Be structured in your answers and use the STAR method.

Finally, make sure you think about what specific interpersonal skills you want to highlight in the interview based on the job requirements.

Now that you know just how important interpersonal skills are for every role, it’s time to start improving them so they don’t hold you back. Find out the 5 simple tips for improving your communication at work. 

And if you want to prepare for even more interpersonal skills interview questions then read this post.