What employers want

1. Working Well with Other People

The skills required to work well with other people are known as interpersonal skills.

Good interpersonal skills allow you to participate effectively as a member of a team, satisfy customers’ and clients’ expectations, negotiate, make decisions and solve problems with other people, and generally work effectively with other employees. Well-honed interpersonal skills allow us to empathise and build rapport with colleagues and clients, leading to a better and less stressful working environment.

There are a range of areas covered by interpersonal skills, including:

  • Communication skills – these are the skills required to transmit or receive messages accurately to and from other people by speaking or in writing, without misunderstandings. These skills include:
  • Verbal Communication – or the words that we use, whether face-to-face or in writing. The balance between face-to-face and in writing is likely to vary in different jobs, but few, if any, will not want at least some of each type of communication;
  • Non-Verbal Communication –  or what we communicate without words, for example through body language, tone of voice, or even emojis; and
  • Listening – how we take in and then interpret the verbal and non-verbal messages sent by others, including in writing.
  • Emotional intelligence – or the ability to recognise, understand and manage your own and others’ emotions, and use them positively to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • Team-working – the ability to work with others in groups and teams, both formal and informal. Not everyone is required to work in a close-knit team—despite the language used in many organisations—but the ability to function well in a group is a vital skill in most jobs.
  • Negotiation, persuasion and influencing skills – these skills all relate to finding mutually agreeable solutions to problems or situations, whether by persuading others that your solution is best, or finding a better alternative by sharing ideas.
  • Conflict resolution and mediation – or the skills required to resolve disagreements in a positive way, whether your own disagreements or those involving other people. These skills are often underrated until there is a problem.
  • Problem-solving and decision-making – or the skills needed to work effectively with others to identify, define and solve problems, including making decisions about the best course of action. Of course, it is also possible to make decisions and solve problems on your own, but being required to do so with others adds an extra dimension to the situation.

Not all of these areas will be required at all times in every job. However, you can be reasonably certain that you are likely to need them at some point in your career, and many of them will be needed every day.

If you are not sure whether you need to work on your interpersonal skills, or which particular areas to target, you may find it helpful to take our Interpersonal Skills Self-Assessment to discover your strengths and weaknesses in this area. This will allow you to focus on particular areas that need further development.

2. Being Reliable and Dependable

Being reliable and dependable means, basically, doing what you say that you will do. It also, however, means being able to look around and see what needs doing—and then do it.

This sounds simple, but it requires a wide range of skills, mostly personal rather than interpersonal.

First of all, doing what you say you will do means being organised, and managing your time effectively. You need to know how long things will take, and that you have the time to do them to the required standard. You also need to be able to identify what to do first, so that if anything is missed, it is less important.

Being reliable also means being trustworthy and conscientious. For example, this might mean not leaving work (too often) when things still need doing. Trustworthiness and conscientiousness are both parts of self-regulation or self-management, which in turn is an important part of emotional intelligence. Self-regulation means that you have the self-discipline to do things that you may not want to do, but which you know are necessary.

People who are self-regulated and reliable take responsibility for their own actions and ensure that they live up to their values. They keep track of deadlines and deliver to them without needing to be chased up.

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