“Work Well With Others” Means What?

More than a few job postings will at point indicate that the company is looking for people who work well with others. So here, I’d like to explore what that really means so that you, the applicant understand this and can position yourself to your best advantage both on paper, and at an interview.

Among the key attributes the employer is really looking for are well-developed interpersonal skills; the ability to communicate effectively in order to both transmit and receive information, provide and receive feedback. And why are interpersonal skills so highly coveted by an employer if this is included on a posting? Increased profitability is the bottom line; a result of efficient productivity, brought about by superior networking and both oral and written communication skills, with an emphasis on active listening.

So if you communicate at a superior level with others, you have the capacity to listen, internalize what is being said, reflect on it, consider implications and possible responses, choose the most appropriate reply which then provides the desired result; a favourable and desired action by the other party. This could mean a harmonious relationship with a co-worker you share an office with, perhaps someone in a key position in another company, a client who may invest, a Supervisor whose trying to squeeze every drop of energy out of his employees, and of
course those who report to you.

Companies desire to position themselves as a, ‘first choice’ in their field; when you need a service or product, they want to be first on your mind when you act. Their reputation may be largely built on productive relationships whether it is an investment firm, a non-profit organization, the local police department or a car dealership. And if they are the only provider in their field, it is critical that they still strive to achieve and maintain an image of working well with other people, or otherwise competition will emerge, challenging their position and threatening to take away some of their clientele, customers or network.

Many people assume that, ‘work well with others’, involves some kind of project. You know, everybody does their bit and contributes equally and the project succeeds and there’s high fives all around. Yes that is one situation but one only. Working well with others boils down to working productively with others. It could mean understanding your co-worker has a need for quiet in the first ten minutes of their arrival, and therefore giving them this time when they arrive each day prior to dumping news of the morning on them. It could mean correctly knowing who likes to bounce ideas back and forth, who works best with a focus on one thing at a time, and who alternatively works best when under the pressure of multiple tasks.

So on a resume, if you list as a bullet, “Work well with others”, because this was included in the job posting, you aren’t really demonstrating an understanding of what this means, and you are just regurgitating what the employer has put down in the ad. If you replaced your bullet with something like, “Well-developed networking skills, work harmoniously with others to maximize productively and profitability”; well, now you are saying that you get it. More importantly, you are positioning yourself as U.N.I.Q.U.E. from your competition, and your resume is a fresh read. (U.N.I.Q.U.E.? (You Know I’m Quite Unique from Everyone).

Now one of the troubling things you might run into is the large number of people you are competing with who have poor interpersonal skills but nonetheless on paper, say the same things you do. How do you stand out from these people? Well demonstrate your superior interpersonal skills and your ability to work well with others. The question then is how best to do this. Well this is best accomplished in one of three ways that people with poor interpersonal skills generally avoid; 1) pick up the phone and initiate contact with the employer, 2) drop round to the business and demonstrate your skills in person, 3) Flood your resume and the subsequent interview with concrete examples of working well with others where you’ve increased productivity and profitability.

I remember once sitting down with a woman who to be honest rubbed everyone the wrong way. She was curt, had a poor attitude, and her face consistently scowled making her someone to avoid. She insisted on putting down on her resume that she worked well with others because the job required that. She was a poor fit for the position, and rather than take the time to find a position that better suited her skills, she was adamant that her resume say she worked well with others even though she did her best to isolate herself socially every single time she came to our location to apply for jobs. Even if she were to get an interview, her lack of well-developed skills required to work well with others would eventually betray her; either in an interview, or if hired, within a short time on the job.

Working well with others means you empathize and make an effort to understand what’s important for others in a relationship. When you know what motivates another person, what it is that they desire most, you are in a position to then persuade, negotiate and ultimately shift the relationship to a win-win scenario where you both co-exist and meet your own needs.


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