Communication is the process of transferring information from one place to another – normally information that originates in yours or someone else’s brain! We do this naturally in our day to day lives and it’s almost impossible to go a day without communicating with someone or exchanging some form of information.
Despite the fact that communication is something we learn how to do from birth, it’s one of the top skills that employers are looking for. The reason for this is because communication skills are critical for virtually any task you undertake in any workplace. Unless you work in a role where you are totally isolated from the rest of world, you’ll have to communicate to get by.
What do employers mean by "communication skills"?
In fact, the expression “excellent communication skills” is used so frequently on job descriptions that, ironically, it’s hard to know what it really means. We’re all natural communicators so what is it exactly that employers are looking for? Surely we’re all brilliant at communicating.
However, just because employers don’t really specify what they’re looking for doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for some very particular skills and talents.
The broad category of communication can be broken down into five components
Just because you are good at one or two of these things doesn’t mean you are necessarily good at all of them, and this is where many people fall down on their job applications. Just writing “excellent communication skills” doesn’t explain which particular area you are competent in, or which of your communication skills is most developed.
Employers will be expecting that you can use these skills in combination to understand messages and instructions, get along well with people and transmit ideas and information. They want you to be able to write plainly and clearly without making obvious mistakes, treat others respectfully by listening to what they have to say and work as part of a team.
Having good communication skills enables you to understand written and spoken instructions, express ideas and transmit messages. It also means that you can share information, fit in with a company’s working culture, and manage difficult situations.
All of this can sound like a bit of a tall order but communication is like the oil that keeps a machine going; without it it’s hard to get anything done smoothly and easily. Given this, it’s not surprising that communication skills are one of the first things employers look for in potential candidates.
Are you aware of what your application communicates?
The job application process is one of the biggest opportunities you have for evidencing that you have fantastic communication skills. Studying job descriptions and including relevant information in your application shows that you can analyse written information. Sending in a clear and error-free CV and cover letter demonstrates your writing skills by showing that you can check your own work and convey written information clearly.
When you first go into the interview room your body language instantly tells the interviewers if you can act confidently and friendly. During the interview process, you can demonstrate your listening and speaking skills by listening carefully to questions and responding in a thoughtful way that gives employers the information they need to know.
When you see a job description that specifies that you need good communication skills read through the description carefully to understand exactly which of the communication skills they are looking for. Although they might want you to have all five, certain jobs will use the different skills in different ways. For example, a job working in consultancy might require you to do a lot of reading in order to understand the company’s strategy and business plan. A customer service job will involve more listening skills, and a marketing job is likely to involve writing skills as well as speaking skills when you communicate the company’s brand image.
Be as specific as possible when describing your skills
When you write your CV try to focus on which skills you are particularly good at and focus your descriptions on particular skills. Instead of just writing "excellent communication skills" show employers that you understand what they are looking for and write how you excel in particular areas. You could, for example, write: “ I'm an attentive listener”, “I find it easy to stay calm in conflictual situations”, “I know how to change the tone and style of my writing to suit my audience” or “I can analyse and interpret written information”.
If you feel that you’re lacking in a certain area; don’t worry because there are loads of ways you can work on developing your communication skills. It’s normal to be better in some areas than others, and employers will be impressed if you can show that you are keen to improve yourself and keep learning.