Broadly speaking, intercultural skills are those that describe your ability to effectively communicate with people from different cultural backgrounds.
On the one hand this pertains to language, i.e. whether or not you speak a second or maybe even a third language. More importantly though, it’s about understanding and accepting that customs, standards, and values differ between cultures, and being willing to learn and adapt to them.
Research undertaken by the British Council showed that employers value intercultural skills just as much as they do formal qualifications. The Council surveyed employers from nine different countries operating within the public, private and non-profit sectors. When asked about their reasons for valuing intercultural skills, they stated that employees who successfully display these skills were more likely to secure new projects, worked better within diverse teams and were more successful in representing the company brand and reputation.
In fact, a lack of intercultural skills was perceived as a risk to the company, possessing the potential to seriously damage client relations, team productivity and ultimately the company’s reputation.
While there might not be a straightforward way for employers to test your intercultural skills in an interview, they might ask you questions like: have you ever worked abroad? Do you have experience working in a diverse team? Do you speak any foreign languages?
They can also learn a great deal from how you communicate throughout the application process and during the interview: are you easy to talk to? Are you able to see things from someone else’s perspective? Are you willing to learn from them?
Ultimately, intercultural skills are something you show. Simply listing it on your CV won’t do; you’ll have to convince people you possess the eagerness to learn and the ability to adapt. So start doing: read, travel, learn a new language, talk to different people and, most importantly, be curious.