Assessing credentials and work experience is a big part of recruiting, along with assessing interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are necessary for successful interactions in groups and one-on-one. Good interpersonal skills are often referred to as “being good with people,“ "being a people person,” or having soft skills.
Strong verbal and non-verbal communication, emotional maturity, patience, friendliness, and empathy are some of the important interpersonal skills employers need and want in candidates. Recruiters may find someone with the right skills and experience, but if that person can’t get along with others, take direction, or work collaboratively, they will not be as productive or successful in the role.
Experienced recruiters know that soft skills can differentiate the best candidates from those that have the necessary technical skills and experience. There are practical steps for assessing a candidate's interpersonal skills. Everyone who is hiring needs to understand how well their candidates work with others.
Ways to assess interpersonal skills include reviewing the cover letter and resume for communication skills, specific interview tactics, and observation of non-verbal behaviors. Looking at how a candidate presents their credentials and intentions in writing, asking for examples of teamwork and collaborative scenarios, and looking at how the candidate presents themselves in person can reveal soft skills or lack thereof.
Communication skills are important interpersonal skills, both verbal and written. Assess the candidate’s writing skills with the cover letter and resume. Are the documents easy to read, organized logically, and free from grammatical errors? A friendly, professional cover letter that introduces the candidate and explains their interest in the company and the position indicates strong writing skills.
Read through the resume looking for examples of teamwork, projects, and problem-solving. Look for explanations of major accomplishments and collaborative efforts. Leading teams, helping complete important projects, and contributing to business goals and objectives all demonstrate important interpersonal skills.
There should be more than just dry lists of skills. The resume should include examples of how the skills have been used in previous positions. Keywords to look for in cover letters and resumes include teamwork, collaboration, leadership, responsibility, flexibility, and patience.
When interviewing candidates, be sure you go beyond what’s on paper in the cover letter and resume to identify interpersonal skills. Ask about working on teams and projects, helping managers and co-workers, and handling conflicts on the job. Candidates with good interpersonal skills should be able to discuss these scenarios and how they conduct themselves in these situations.
The interview should include a substantial number of questions about how the candidate performed in different work situations. To find out about communication skills, problem-solving skills, and adaptability, ask problem-solving questions rather than yes or no questions. Ask for examples and details.
Ask questions like:
Candidate answers to behavioral questions like these should be open and not evasive or hesitant. Look for details and collaborative efforts by the candidate, not egotistical or hostile explanations.
How a candidate behaves in person will reveal a lot about interpersonal skills. Although there may be some nervousness involved, an interviewer will still be able to identify good interpersonal skills. Observing more than what the candidate says during the interview is important.
One of the first things to assess is how the candidate is dressed at the interview. Is it appropriate attire for the role? Or is it too casual for the culture, displaying a misunderstanding of the social and cultural aspects of the role and organization? Does the candidate seem open and friendly, or closed and unfriendly?
Another non-verbal cue to assess interpersonal skills is eye contact. Does the candidate display casual, friendly eye contact and appear to be actively listening? Or is there a lack of eye contact or odd staring? Making others comfortable is an important interpersonal skill displayed by actively engaging visually during conversations.
Gestures and body language are a big part of interpersonal skills. Does the candidate seem comfortable and relaxed, or still and closed off? Aside from some nervousness, a candidate who sits up straight, leans slightly forward when listening, and gestures slightly and appropriately with hands while talking is engaged and collaborative. Folded arms and puzzled or dismayed facial expressions aren’t signs of friendliness or openness.
A candidate with good interpersonal skills will do more than just answer questions during the interview. The candidate should also be asking questions of the interviewer and show an interest in the interviewer, hiring manager, and company employees. A candidate should show interest in the interviewer appropriately without dominating the conversation.
The candidate is there to learn about the position and the company as much as the interviewer needs to learn about the candidate. Engaged candidates with good interpersonal skills will ask questions during the interview while being open and friendly about the interviewer’s questions. Assessing interpersonal skills is just as important as verifying credentials, skills, and experience.