9 Essential Interpersonal Skills To Add To Your CV

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
As you assess yourself and your work as we head into the new year (either through formal evaluations or more general musings on your career), you’ll likely need to articulate your strong suits and weaknesses.
The importance of learning how to describe yourself starts at the very beginning of any job application process. First, you talk yourself up in private — that’s what gives you the confidence to apply for a job in the first place. Next, you figure out how to describe this in writing, in a cover letter or a CV. Then, if you’re lucky, you get to explain everything in full during an interview.
“Since recruiters tend to look at CVs for less than 10 seconds, I believe most focus should rest on the candidate’s accomplishments and their top three to five most complex skills that relate to the job,” says Shannon Breuer, the president at Wiley Group. “Those who load their resume mostly with interpersonal skills tend to lose the attention of the reader because it’s hard to assess the level of skills without accomplishments and results to validate them. Also, many new hires are expected to increasingly have a base of technical or specific industry skills, so not having them becomes a red flag.”
Instead of randomly picking adjectives that sound impressive, think about the specific job, industry, requirements and what skills might be important to perform well. Then be honest about where your talents are and jot down examples of times you lived up to this professional ideal; that will make it easier to explain it concisely later in interviews.
Here are nine great attributes to start with:

Empathetic or compassionate

Breuer tells Refinery29 that this is a big one for people in service roles. Contrary to the saying, the customer is not always right — but they do always want to feel heard.
Being able to keep your cool at work when someone irritates or has a different view to you is vital, and this comes back to empathy. If you’re looking to manage a team in your next role too, showing that you possess these interpersonal skills will make it clear that you’re ready to support stuff as well as move up the job ladder.

Collaborative team member

Vicki Choi, the director of HR at Course Hero, says this is a very important one for candidates. “Including interpersonal skills on your résumé is a great way to stand out and demonstrate that you align with our core values,” she notes. If a position you are interested in involves a lot of teamwork, showcase your ability to go from working independently to brainstorming or implementing group projects.
Job site Indeed says common team questions to prepare for include: How do you feel about working in a team? Tell us about a time you showed strong teamwork skills. Have you ever worked with managers or teammates you didn’t get along with? How did you manage this?

Organised and detail oriented

Going for an accounting or project management role? Play this up, Breuer says. But remember: You don’t want to lie (especially if the truth can be figured out very easily). If organisation isn’t your strong suit, talk about another skill; don’t play up your love of colour-coding if you’ll have too steep a learning curve later.
If this isn’t your thing, perhaps you’re more of an “ideas person”. Consider how you thrive and pull off projects from that perspective, and note how you’re working towards improving your organisational skills.

Creative problem solver

Add this one if you’re good at getting unstuck, Choi says. Generating solutions to problems can be just as important as doing a job well in the first place.
In every job, a problem is bound to arise sooner or later. If you can learn to tackle problems without it causing tons of stress and involving lots of other members of staff, your managers will likely look highly upon this. Showing you can be productive in solving issues will be in asset to employers in multiple industries.

Tough negotiator

Point this out if you are looking for a job in sales or want to manage accounts and a budget, Breuer says. You may assume it is a foregone conclusion but there are plenty of people who are too embarrassed to ask for what they want or need. That’s a no-go in jobs like these.
Don’t forget to prepare to negotiate yourself once you get to the stage of receiving an offer — your salary depends on it.

Communicates honestly

Being honest doesn’t mean telling people where they can go if they make you angry, or blurting out every thought that comes to mind. It does mean being willing to talk through any hurdles, even when they’re uncomfortable. Work isn’t always a cakewalk; many managers want to hire someone who doesn’t shrivel up at the first sign of a difficult conversation.
In a survey of over 1,000 employees, work platform Atlassian found that employees are 80% more likely to have high emotional wellbeing in the workplace when the environment encourages honest feedback, personal openness and mutual respect. So, if you’re going for a managerial position, demonstrating that you can foster this kind of environment will pay off.

Inspires others

Choi is a fan of this skill. You may not consider yourself to be an optimist or know how to get people to shine when they’re feeling down, but being good at building others up is an excellent skill for people who work in teams or are seeking managerial positions. So that means, it’s ideal for almost anyone.
Come to your interview armed with examples of how you’ve supported teams you’ve worked in previously, whether it’s boosting morale, finding a solution to a problem or collaborating.

Be transparent

Choi says she specifically looks for candidates who are “willing to be transparent about their successes, failures and progress.” That can come up at the very beginning of an interview — think of the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question, for example. If your answer is “I’m too much of a perfectionist,” it might come off as though you’re hiding away from your real weaknesses. It’s best to give an answer that’s honest, framed in a way that shows you’re actively working on this weakness you’re aware of.
In the same vein, if you are proud of certain accomplishments, share them. Explain why these are your strengths and how they will benefit you in the role you’re applying for. If you are still working toward a few goals, explain what you are doing to get there.

Dynamic speaker

Breuer says job seekers applying to lead large sales teams or looking for a public relations role should include this on their résumé. Or, anything that involves presenting ideas, like being a teacher or lecturer.
If you are great at giving presentations, point that out (and make sure to document your history of doing so in case the topic comes up in an interview). Public speaking is difficult for many people. If you love doing it and are good at it, you can make yourself look like an even better hire.
The interview process is also a great place to demonstrate your ability to speak clearly. Try not to let imposter syndrome stop you from shining your light, and you can do this by rehearsing some of the possible answers you might expect to give, just as you would a presentation.
This article was originally published in January 2017 and has been updated.