Do You Have the Necessary Communication Skills?

By Joe Stein

I would like to let the Job Seekers of Western New York in on a little secret among local Recruiters and Hiring Managers. The one area that probably causes us the most frustration is the overall lack of communication skills in candidates.  This is even with this area’s reputation of having better communicators than other parts of the country.

A Job Seeker with strong overall communication skills will provide themselves with a decided competitive advantage over those lacking in one or more areas.

There is generally considered to be 3 core communication skills:
 -  Verbal – Probably the most obvious one to people and the one that is practiced the most by Job Seekers via mock interviews.  During the job search process, it is not only important what you say, but also how you say it.  This is especially true in positions which interact directly with customers, such as in retail or a call center. The list of key verbal communication attributes is long, but among them:
-- Correct Grammar – In today’s everyday conversations, poor grammar has almost become expected.  In an interview, you will want to put your bad habits aside and communicate correctly.
  -- Slang – In most situations, the person interviewing you will not be familiar with your slang terms.  Leave the words and phrases that are specific to your generation, neighborhood, etc. in that spot until you are done with the interview.
  -- Speak Clearly – When communicating with the Recruiter, please be sure to speak in a volume and tone that will be conversational and easy to understand.  The practice of making eye contact will help in this regard, since it will allow you to avoid speaking to the floor or wall, which may cause issues in hearing or understanding you.
 -  Listening – Perhaps the most underrated of all the communication skills.  Treat the interview like a conversation, and actually listen for understanding and an appreciation of what is being said to you.  So often, a candidate merely is in pause mode while the Hiring Manager is speaking, biding time until it is time to speak again.
 -  Writing Skills – With the advent of e-mail, texting, tweeting, etc., the art of writing is becoming a lost skill.  This is ironic because in today’s work world where so much is done remotely with people in many different parts of the country or world, the written word is more important than ever.  Well written Cover Letter, Resume, and Thank You Notes are your opportunities to display your strong skills in this area.

There are also a number of other communication aspects to consider beyond these 3 core items; these areas work in conjunction with the areas above.  Examples include:
 -  Body Language – Your facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture will speak volumes, often telling the Interviewer much more than your spoken words.  Always be aware of how you are visually presenting yourself.  Try doing your mock interview in front of a mirror or by video camera to give yourself a perspective of what the Interviewer will see.  Your words should be aligned with your body. For example, if you are happy to hear something, not only respond with those words, but also with a smile on your face.
 -  Professional Maturity – You will certainly communicate a message by how comfortable you are and how you act with others.  A person should feel at ease with the Recruiter and Hiring Manager, and “act the part” of the role being sought.  For example, someone seeking a position with an accounting firm should display behaviors very measured and conservative.
 -  Personal Appearance – As much as many Job Seekers may feel this area should not be a factor, it does in most circumstances.  Your dress, jewelry, hair, etc. communicates a message to people about yourself and how you would be a fit with the culture of the organization.  Acceptable appearance, therefore, may be much different seeking a fitness instructor position compared to a finance supervisor. 

Finally, there is a new topic to consider - the use of technology tools to communicate.  This refers to your ability to navigate the many different kinds of new forms of communication, primarily around social media.  This is an area that the millennial generation typically excels and the baby boomers feel a disadvantage.  If you are in that age demographic category, secure a general knowledge of what some of the social media terms mean so that you can at least converse on the subject.

There is very little that occurs in our world without some degree of communication.  Your ability to communicate is an evaluation point in virtually all interviews.  Sharpen your skills in this area and you will find yourself with a competitive advantage.

As always, best of luck in your job search!