Being able to distinguish between sociability and social skills is essential if you want to assess social skills during the hiring process. How would you define a “people person”? We often hear people describe others as a “real people person.” However, when you press people to tell you what that means, their descriptions vary. That is because they are often confusing sociability with social skills. Moreover, these are two very different qualities that are typically thought to be similar but are, in truth, quite distinct.
Sociability is a personality trait and is generally hard-wired into people. It is a measure of whether an individual needs a lot of interaction with others or whether he prefers to work on his own most of the time. Employees who are high in sociability love to collaborate and work in groups while those who are low would rather spend their time independently completing tasks or projects.
Social skills, on the other hand, can be learned and even improved over time. People with good social skills can make conversation easily, know how to develop rapport and relationships, are good listeners, and have pleasant manners. Social skills are especially important in customer-facing jobs and jobs that continuously require someone to interact with and get along with others.
Social skills and sociability are not mutually exclusive.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. It is entirely possible to have one of these traits but not have the other. Someone who’s high in sociability but lacks social skills may be driven to interact with others but not necessarily do it effectively. Think of the woman at the party who moves from person to person but spends the bulk of the time dominating the conversation by talking about herself. Alternatively, the obnoxious guy sitting next to you on the airplane who keeps droning on about his health problems despite your repeated attempts to cut off the conversation so you can read your book.
On the flip side, someone who’s low in sociability may not necessarily look for opportunities to connect with others, but if he or she has strong people skills, you will never know it. These individuals have often cultivated the ability to make small talk, be friendly, and listen well, so exchanges with them are usually pretty pleasant. It is easy to think they love being around people when, in fact, they may prefer to be left alone.
Of course, some folks have neither of these traits, while others have both. The important thing is to remember that having one does not necessarily guarantee you have the other.
Keep in mind.
If you think you need a “real people person,” consider what traits and skills you are really seeking. Most assessments can measure sociability, but to assess social skills requires observation during the interview process. While one is internal and the other external, together they have everything to do with how a person interacts with others.