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, which means having strong interpersonal skills is highly valued, regardless of your industry. For this reason, you need to be ready for interpersonal skills interview questions to demonstrate that you have strong interpersonal skills right from the start.

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

Diplomacy

Imagine this scenario: A colleague asks you for your thoughts on how they’ve handled a difficult situation. You don’t think they took it well; in fact, you’re shocked at just how badly they handled it. Your colleague seems oblivious; 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 speaking to people on the phone, face to face, or giving a presentation, you must articulate yourself effectively so the other person can clearly understand. After all, the message is only as good as how it’s understood.

Non-verbal communication

A significant part of effective communication is nonverbal. It involves recognizing the nonverbal cues of others while being aware of the nonverbal signals you may be giving, which could affect the message being received.

Listening skills

Your listening skills will be tested, from sales to customer service to healthcare. 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 other issues that could otherwise have been avoided.

Negotiation 

Negotiation skills often get overlooked, that’s until you want to negotiate a higher salary. However, negotiation skills aren’t just crucial for salespeople or salary negotiation. Many work situations 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 where good negotiation skills could significantly impact the outcome and your long-term career success.

Decision-making

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

Sometimes, you need to make decisions in ambiguous situations without all the relevant information. This is why the ability 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 everything 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 solve the problem and differing views on the best approach. Understanding the interests of the parties involved, evaluating the options, and selecting 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. No one wants to hire someone who simply can’t empathize with other people’s views or situations. We all have more than our jobs to contend with, and things can get tough.”

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 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 to avoid it at all costs. Conflicts come up all the time in the workplace. However, this approach means avoiding difficult conversations and any situation where a conflict might arise.

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. Assertive communication means confidently putting your views across and standing up for them in a way that’s neither aggressive nor passive while still respecting the opinions of others. When team members are assertive, they will positively challenge one another, which promotes good open discussion, leading to new ideas and better ways of working.

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

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 the reason for the conflict and your thought process and rationale at the time. Make sure you don’t go on the defensive or start to blame the colleague or colleagues 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 can set aside your 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, and listening.

How to answer it: 

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

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 to whom you deliver a service, including another team member, 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 understand the customer and their concerns better, and show that you listened to their point of view. Explain how you ensured the customer’s satisfaction going forward and the ultimate outcomes 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 crucial 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 can utilize various strengths within the team, and talk about how you have adapted to working in groups 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 to resolve the issue. In particular, share how you communicated the problem to all the parties involved: clients, your manager, stakeholders, and anyone else who would be impacted. Talk about what skills you think were essential 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 can be demonstrated and assessed. So it’s crucial to come prepared with specific examples for every question. Be structured in your answers and use the STAR method.

Finally, consider what specific interpersonal skills you want to highlight in the interview based on the job requirements.

Now that you know just how necessary 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, read this post.