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We’re about to talk about effective communication skills for your resume and workplace, but first:
What kills a relationship?
Lack of trust, you say. Perhaps stagnation. Maybe problems on the ol’ marital futon.
However, most experts (and shareable Pinterest quotes) would agree that poor communication hurts the most.
Whether it’s with your siblings, significant other, or your fellow employees, effective communication is important to a healthy relationship.
But what are communication skills and how to communicate you possess them?
This communication skills guide will show you:
- The most common communication skills to put on a resume.
- How to know which communicating skills a company values most.
- Examples of the best verbal, non-verbal, and written communication resume skills.
- How to prove your skills on a resume and improve your skills on the job.
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What Are Communication Skills?
Before we dive in deeper and get to the importance of effective communication in the workplace, we need to understand the basics.
The Conference Board of Canada, an independent research organization, came up with their Employability Skills 2000+, a guide on the most important employability skills. In it, they list communication as the most fundamental skill needed as a basis for further development.
Communication skills include:
- Absorbing, sharing, and understanding information presented.
- Communicating (whether by pen, mouth, etc.) in a way that others grasp.
- Respecting others’ points of view through engagement and interest.
- Using relevant knowledge, know-how, and skills to explain and clarify thoughts and ideas.
- Listening to others when they communicate, asking questions to better understand.
Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
Hard skills for a resume are specific abilities and know-how (e.g., Photoshop, cash register).
Soft skills are self-developed, life-learned attributes (e.g., social skills, adaptability).
Combined, these make up a skill set, which is a job seeker's range of skills and abilities.
Communication skills fall under the soft skills.
For a more detailed explanation of soft vs. hard competencies, see our dedicated guide: Soft Skills and Hard Skills For Your Resume
Communication vs. Effective Communication
What is communication? In the workplace, communication is the transmission of an idea, instruction, opinion, or emotion from one person to another, usually with a response or other feedback in return. It goes way deeper than just people talking to each other.
But, communication doesn’t necessarily mean effective communication, and this is where people struggle, especially in the office.
See, often we think that we have communicated effectively simply because we said what we meant to say, but author Gypsy Teague said it best: “Nothing is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood.”
Pro Tip: Ever heard of the 7% Rule? It says that communication is 7% verbal and 93% nonverbal. However, this itself is a miscommunication, as this study clarifies.
Main Types of Communication Skills
Communication skills at the workplace can be broken down into three distinct categories: verbal, non-verbal, and written.
Verbal communication is communication that is spoken. However, it gets trickier, as effective verbal communication involves nuances such as the tone of your voice, enunciation, and inflection.
Non-verbal communication is communication that is transmitted and received via other mediums, such as touch and sight. The most common of these include eye contact, hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language.
Written communication is communication through the written word, including handwriting and typed text. Though it seems as if it should be included in non-verbal communication, HR managers like to differentiate here, as it is a major part of occupational dialogue.
Communication Tip: According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, communication skills top the list of skills employers seek when hiring a candidate!
Communication skills on a resume are important, but focusing on these don’t preclude you from mastering the others! Check out our complete guide: 30+ Best Examples of What Skills to Put on a Resume
Excellent Communication Skills
Here are some of the most important communication skills in today's workforce:
Good communication starts with listening. Listening skills are essential here.
You can launch a diatribe at your cat about who won the election, and the cat will hear you. That’s not listening. Listening is not just hearing something; it must be accurately received and interpreted for it to have been done effectively.
A bad listener makes for a bad manager or employee. They won’t be able to comprehend what’s being asked of them, much less get it done.
To paraphrase author Stephen R. Covey, “Don’t listen to reply, but rather listen to understand.”
Stop and consider incoming communication rather than merely comprehending it.
You can have a talk show playing in the car during your morning drive, but is it just background noise or are you actively paying attention.
When people communicate with you, they don’t want to talk to a wall (otherwise, they could just talk to a wall). They not only want you to hear what they’re saying, but understand it, chew on it, turn it over in your head.
Also, reflection doesn’t have to end when the conversation does. What separates reflection from mere listening is that you can continue to mull things over after the meeting is finished, back at your desk, or the following day.
Communication Tip: Various communication skills often work together in a symbiotic way to make for effective conversation - reflection strengthens your listening skills, and eye contact enhances verbal instructions, for example.
Foster communication with a friendly tone, an upbeat and polite attitude, and a general air of openness.
See, this open air creates rapport and makes people feel comfortable when thinking about approaching you.
Approachability does a lot for communication. Without it, a manager may only be consulted at the last minute, perhaps when it’s too late, because an employee didn’t feel comfortable reaching out sooner.
An approachable, open, and friendly attitude renders situations like these all but impossible.
Be confident in how you communicate. People shouldn’t just believe in what you’re saying, they should believe that you believe what you’re saying.
Let’s say you’re a manager. You’re trying to assure your team layoffs won’t happen. Employees will believe you if you back it up with a confident attitude, and if they can feel that you mean it (well, data and a renewed contract would help!). Morale will not get further diminished, and you can get great support from team members who will still have your back.
Portray a lack of confidence in your message, or fail to believe in it at all, and people will pick up on it. In the same scenario, morale will decline, workers will bail, and you’ll further struggle to right the ship.
Be clear and concise in a business environment.
Your meaning or instruction shouldn’t get lost in a sea of extraneous words and examples. Rambling is unprofessional, confusing, and the listener may just tune you out - a detrimental outcome when it comes to the workplace.
The best way to be both brief and clear with your message: think before speaking. If you have time, you can also jot down some notes to help you get your point across. Listeners will thank you!
Pro Tip: Clarity and concision are important in business communication, but you probably don’t want to text your boss phrases like “Hey, g2g, gettin hangry AF. TTYL.” Be brief and clear, but in a professional manner!
Listen and reflect on what you've heard while accepting feedback given to you in a professional manner.
It can be difficult hearing someone come up to you and dismiss a project you’ve worked weeks on - you may want to snap at them or go on a counterattack.
However, in the workplace, more often than not, this feedback should be accepted as constructive criticism rather than ridicule or mockery. Use the criticism to better yourself, your project, and your goals.
Giving Constructive Feedback.
Communication is a two-way street, so being able to give constructive feedback is just as important as accepting it gracefully.
As a member of a team, and especially if you’re in management, you want to give feedback that recognizes the work and contributions of others.
Too, you need to be honest and let them know if they screwed up, but you have to be diplomatic about it.
Don’t scream, make passive-aggressive comments, or sigh in frustration. This will only create ill will toward you and will not set things on the right track. Instead, be patient and kind in your feedback, and you’ll keep relationships intact and have the issue resolved in no time.
Pro Tip: Couple feedback with openness. What I mean here is that an ideal work environment for everyone is where people feel comfortable giving and receiving criticism and comments. Don’t just accept feedback from others - encourage it!
Good communicators enter conversations with an open mind while displaying empathy, emotional intelligence and respecting the person they speak with, as well as their message.
Don’t immediately dismiss someone, their opinions, their ideas, or their solutions simply because you don’t believe in them, their point of view, or their message.
Even when you disagree, understanding and respecting their point of view or message, and them as a person, is key to a happy, problem-free working environment.
Choosing the Right Medium.
A good communicator communicates effectively, but also through the right medium.
If your significant other immediately ended years of blissful relationship - by SMS - you’d be a little pissed, would you not?
Some things are meant to be said face-to-face and in person, but other things require documentation, such as a request for time off.
The specific person should also be taken into consideration: busy or not, good news or bad, etc. Consider which form of communication is best and appropriate and it’ll be much appreciated.
Body language is a key part of nonverbal communication. Use it to get your point across.
Consider someone who just came back from their holiday and is excited to tell you about their adventures. Rolling your eyes during their story will surely make them feel insignificant, while glancing at your watch tells them you have better things to do.
Hand gestures, eye contact, and body position all get parsed subconsciously (or even consciously, at times) by the person one speaks with. Making them feel comfortable with your body language goes a long way to bolstering that openness we talked about previously.
Pro Tip: Whether you’re an introvert or an orator crowds flock to listen to, there is always room to improve your communication skills.
Develop rapport with your fellow co-workers in order to build their trust.
If you want others to trust you, communicate matters in an honest way. Don't promise something you can't deliver.
To show interest in what the other person is saying, you have to ask the right questions.
Asking open-ended questions is a way to engage the other person and understand their way of thinking about a certain problem.
Use closed questions (i.e. questions that start with Did, Do, Should, Have, Could) when you need an answer to a specific problem.
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Examples of Communication Skills for Your Resume
Ready to tweak your resume?
Just say you possess Excellent communication skills on the resume and move on, right?
Here's the problem—
Everyone's resume says their communication skills are excellent. Yet they fail to really get the message across (oh the irony!).
We all know employers look for applicants with the best communication skills out there. We'll show you the list below, but you need to read on to learn how to use it.
List of Communication Skills for a Resume
- Active listening
- Cross-cultural communication
- Nonverbal communication
- Phone calls
- Problem sensitivity
- Public speaking
- Verbal communication
- Written communication
Hell, if they had a choice, they’d choose someone with every skill in existence (as long as it doesn’t look as if you’ll soon leapfrog their position).
But here’s the thing: you can’t just list all the communication skills on your resume.
You have to curate the few skills that are most relevant to them.
Share salient points which showcase your personability, empathy, openness, and other communication skills.
Find other communication skills important to them in the job offer or by talking to current employees.
But, there’s another thing to consider.
Now that you’ve narrowed down the laundry list of communication skills, you can’t just say that you have them, like this:
|I’m a great communicator, and I am adept at both giving and receiving feedback. I am confident, honest, and respect others’ opinions while keeping an open mind….|
See, everyone can write something like this, so why would they believe you?
No, you’ve got to show, not tell.
Prove to them that you have the skills you say by using past examples, numbers, and quantifiable achievements. Here are a few communication skills examples:
To show empathy - My last team increased productivity by more than 35%, and this wasn't from a specific policy, but rather from working together to understand and meet the goals of team members.
To show openness - Through increased one-on-ones with my team members and by sharing department metrics more transparently, our team boosted key performance and engagement by over 50%.
To show feedback - By changing our team’s policy to publicly recognize a team member once per week, morale and happiness metrics all skyrocketed by at least 40%.
Those examples above are great bullet points that would be perfect to add to a resume’s experience section - or even as a top highlight in your resume summary or objective statement.
Just remember this: Your first display of communication skills is when you hand in your cover letter and resume (and job application, perhaps).
Your grammar skills, writing, and storytelling are immediately tested, so if you want to make a great first impression regarding your communication skills, make sure you know how to write a good resume and a good cover letter.
Pro Tip: If you get past these first hurdles, your verbal communication and nonverbal communication will soon get tested at the interview!
To be sure you use the right body language, eye contact, hand gestures, and other communication signals in your upcoming interview, check out our complete guide on the Best Interview Tips & Advice.
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:
Communication skills are at the very top of skills employers look for in a candidate. Keep these points in mind:
- Be open - A good communicator fosters an open environment by being approachable and friendly, but they also listen to others with an open mind.
- Listen to understand - Don’t just hear when another person is talking; you have to listen to them and reflect on what they say if you want to understand.
- Choose the right format - There’s a time and a place for everything, including each communication medium, and especially in the more formal environments of the workplace.
- Show, don’t tell - You can’t just say that you have such-and-such communication skills, you have to prove it to them using examples and past experiences and wins.
- It starts with your resume - Showing you can communicate effectively begins with writing your resume and cover letter perfectly.
Do you have any questions on good communication skills and abilities? Not sure how to describe your effective communication skills? Get at us in the comments below and we will answer your question. Thanks for reading!