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What Are Interpersonal Skills and How Do We Test Them?
Does a candidate have good people skills? What positions and job roles need high levels of interpersonal skills? Do we hire somebody to be good with people? What do employers value? As recruiters, we have to answer all these questions to make the best decisions when hiring talent. But what are interpersonal skills, and why are they crucial? How can we test them objectively? And what are we looking for, exactly, in the pre-employment stage? Today, we will learn more about such skills and their importance in any working environment. Moreover, we will touch on necessary psychology and recruiting aspects, such as interpersonal skills testing and more!
What Are Interpersonal Skills and How Do People Display Them?
Interpersonal skills is another word for people skills. In a business environment, we describe such skills as a set of aptitudes, behaviors, and personal traits that help people interact, communicate, and work well with others. Being good with people is a valued skill in all aspects of life – personally and professionally. As we already know, empathy, teamwork, and collaboration are some of the most-sought employability skills that organizations hire for and value in their new and existing employees. Interpersonal skills are job performance predictors and organizational success.
For this reason, many companies rethought their recruitment processes and approaches, adopting approaches focused on hiring for aptitudes, people skills, behaviors, personality, and more.
In organizational psychology, we talk about interpersonal skills as “soft” qualities and tools people use while interacting with others. Moreover, these employees show high success rates when they need to adapt to new situations, work with different people, resolve conflicts, gain respect, trust, etc.
What Are The Top Interpersonal Skills Employers Hire For In Our Present Times?
People demonstrate interpersonal skills in every verbal or non-verbal communication exchange. Basic body language and attitudes towards others are crucial for professional success. So, let’s see some of the most important ones that we need to keep an eye on during the pre-employment assessment stage!
When it comes to communication, we understand that it encompasses much more than just speaking coherently. Under this umbrella, we need to assess skills such as:
- Active listening: the practice of listening to others while providing them with feedback indicating to listeners that we hear, understand, and process what they are saying;
- Verbal communication: here, it matters what we say just as it matters how we say things. Interpersonal communication skills from this point of view mean transmitting a clear, accurate, understandable message in a respectful, assertive, intelligible manner;
- Non-verbal communication: body language, effective eye contact, tone of voice, micro-gestures, are all crucial in the management of healthy interpersonal relationships with others;
- Negotiation: we know negotiation skills are not a given, and people learn them in special schools and training programs. However, some people have a way of persuading, influencing, and negotiating with others so that everybody benefits from these interactions. Excellent negotiation skills are central to some jobs and positions, as well as they are vital for successful leaders, and we cannot neglect them in our hiring evaluations.
- Assertiveness: People can train this social skill throughout their entire life. To be assertive at work means effectively communicating their feelings, wants, needs, values, boundaries, and positions while respecting others’ thoughts and feelings. It is the skill of speaking up for yourself and saying “No” in some situations without fearing consequences or feeling guilty.
Of course, optimal communication skills in an organization also include verbal reasoning, logic, public speaking, reading comprehension, and more. You see that many such interpersonal skills overlap cognitive skills, but, in essence, they should. They are what makes some employees champions of customer support and others who lack them – nightmarish managers.
2. Emotional Intelligence
What are interpersonal skills, you ask? Well, it is emotional intelligence! This conversation is popular in many companies and organizations that hire people for their peoples’ skills. However, the topic of emotional intelligence is incredibly vast. Is it a skill? Is it something we are born with, or do we learn in life? Does it contain several dimensions, as cognitive intelligence does?
We will take some time on a different occasion to discuss in-length emotional intelligence. However, as interpersonal skills go, we will offer a quick definition and explanation:
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is
the ability to recognize and understand emotions in oneself and others. This ability also involves using this emotional understanding to make decisions, solve problems, and communicate with others. Psychologists agree that there are four different levels of emotional intelligence:
Reasoning with emotions
Studies have shown that employees with higher scores on measures of EQ also tend to be rated higher on measures of interpersonal functioning, leadership abilities, and stress management.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books
EQ Manifestations in the Workplace
In current practice, we look for employees who can master some or more of the following abilities:
- Identify their own emotions and others’ emotions accurately;
- Accurately and assertively express their own emotions;
- Show empathy towards others;
- Manage their emotions (frustration, anger, anxiety, dissonance, etc.) and help others cheer up, calm down, overcome anxiety or panic at the workplace, manage frustrations, etc. They are the ones we go to when we need somebody to de-tension a situation, manage conflicts, put things into a newer, less stressful perspective, etc.
- Use these emotional skills in all their tasks and interactions with customers, colleagues, managers, etc.;
- Solve problems better while making rational, sound fast decisions;
- Keep their cool under pressure and help others do so as well;
- Manage conflicts better;
- Listen, process, and respond to constructive criticism assertively;
- Work great in teams and make desirable managers.
Emotional intelligence does not oppose cognitive intelligence, but people demonstrate them in different quotients. Organizations emphasize EQ now more than ever and for all the right reasons. Such a complex dimension needs extremely well-fine-tuned assessments. Luckily, in recruiting, psychology, and educational environments, we have the tools necessary to evaluate EQ.
We will not insist much on teamwork, as we have discussed this ability many times before. Among all the skills to put on a resume, teamwork is probably the most popular. Young candidates list this ability almost automatically, not giving it a second thought. If they prepared a college project with some classmates or worked in a company with more than one employee, they are good at teamwork. It may be so, but it is our duty as recruiters to assess this skill.
Hiring talented team players for an organization means more than asking candidates about their experience as team members. We highly recommend behavioral interview questions, simulations, even internship programs as parts of your talent acquisition strategies.
If you want to learn more about testing for teamwork and finding genuine team players for an organization, we recommend reading this guide. You will find here plenty of resources on how to identify and assess true team players.
4. Conflict Mediation and Resolution
Considered by many a subset of communication, emotional intelligence, assertiveness, leadership, etc., conflict mediation and resolution are crucial interpersonal skills that employers hire for, and we have to assess. Working with others to achieve a positive outcome to a conflict or disagreement is not an easy feat. To do that, people need to master negotiation and persuasion skills, high levels of empathy, piercing logic, outstanding emotional control, the ability to soothe others, and more.
It comes with no surprise that conflict mediation is a job in itself, and we have dedicated organizations training individuals to perform it. Regarding workplaces and hiring employees, one of the best ways to assess this personal ability and interpersonal skill is with behavioral interviews, personality and behavioral tests, EQ tests, and more.
5. Decision Making and Problem Solving
Problems come in many shapes and sizes in the workplace. We all have to make decisions (smaller or bigger, with different impact levels) every hour during our everyday jobs. However, in the context of interpersonal skills, these abilities describe how an employee works with others to prevent, identify, define, and solve different problems. In turn, it includes the ability to make decisions and set the best course of action.
How Do We Test People Skills in the Pre-Assessment Stage of Employment?
Some might say it is hard to impossible to assess interpersonal skills in depth when a recruiter has to evaluate tens of candidates for a position. Do we have the time to discuss in-depth with each of them? Probably not. For this reason, you can combine several HR assessment tools and interpret their results to understand a candidate’s interpersonal skills better.
Alternatively, you can use a standardized assessment tool dedicated exclusively to measuring candidates’ interpersonal skills. The Aptitudes and People Skills Test focuses on evaluating a candidate’s cognitive intelligence and emotional intelligence. The two dimensions it evaluates consists of:
- A Cognitive Ability & Logic Test. It helps recruiters discover how quickly candidates learn, their ability to solve simple & complex logical problems, and their decision-making skills.
- A People Skills Test aiming to allow HR experts and executives to get an accurate picture of candidates and employees’ abilities to understand and work with others.
The test takes about half an hour. In short, here is how it works:
- The aptitude questions attribute points based on the correct candidates’ answers to logic problems.
- Each of the People Skills questions attributes positive or negative points towards specific candidates’ traits depending on their answers.
As you probably guess from your experience with other standardized tests, this assessment tool measures consistency in responses closely to prevent deceitfulness.
When and Why Should You Use the Aptitudes and People Skills Test?
We recommend recruiters using this test for any role in a company that wants to hire team players and individuals demonstrating superior emotional intelligence.
Of course, some jobs require people skills more than others. For this reason, make sure you use the Aptitudes and People Skills Test when you hire for:
- Leadership and managerial positions;
- Customer support and client relations;
- Teaching, education, and academia;
- Human resources, PR, marketing, etc.;
- Healthcare provision;
- Public services;
- Financial advice and brokering;
- IT and communication services.
People skills are necessary for any job and position, so our suggestion is to use them for any pre-employment assessment. After all, organizations will fare better with great communicators, are assertive, empathic, adaptable, and have overall positive attitudes towards their jobs, coworkers, the company, etc.
When you recruit for highly sensitive positions where people skills are in the job description, you can use many other evaluation instruments, from complex personality tests to well-crafted interviews.
What Are Interpersonal Skills That Matter In Your Opinion?
Before we conclude this guide, we want to learn more from you and your daily practices. What are the most important interpersonal skills in your professional opinion? What do employers want, what do you recruit for, and what tests do you use?
We would love to hear more from you! What are the interpersonal skills you assess for the most, and which ones do you think are the most indicative of job performance and organizational success?
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