As seen in:
What kills a relationship?
Lack of trust? Perhaps stagnation? Most experts (and shareable Pinterest quotes) agree that poor communication hurts the most. Whether it’s with your siblings, significant other, or your fellow employees, effective communication skills are crucial for building healthy connections.
But what are good communication skills exactly? How do you measure communication skills to list them on your resume, and how do you improve them if you feel that something’s missing?
This guide will show you:
- What effective communication skills are, plus the main types of communication skills.
- How to improve communication skills in the workplace and become a better colleague.
- The most common communication skills and communication examples for resume.
- How to pick good communication skills for your resume and prove them to the employer.
Want to save time and have your resume ready in 5 minutes? Try our resume builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 20+ resume templates and create your resume here.
Sample resume made with our builder—See more resume examples here.
1. What Are Communication Skills?
Communication skills are abilities that allow one to effectively transmit ideas, instructions, opinions, or emotions to others, usually with a response or feedback in return. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, communication skills top the list of skills employers seek when hiring a candidate.
Good communication skills usually involve:
- Absorbing, sharing, and understanding the 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 understand them better.
The Conference Board of Canada, an independent research organization, came up with their Employability Skills 2000+. In it, they list communication as the most fundamental skill needed as a basis for further development.
Main Types of Communication Skills
Communication skills in the workplace can be broken down into three distinct categories:
Verbal communication is spoken. Effective verbal communication involves nuances such as the tone of your voice, enunciation, and inflection.
Non-verbal communication 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 comes through the written word, including handwriting and typed text. Though it seems like it should be included in non-verbal communication, HR managers like to differentiate here, as it is a major part of the occupational dialogue.
There’s an opinion that our communication is 7% verbal and 93% nonverbal. While studies debate the accuracy of this ratio, we can still agree that effective communication skills involve something way beyond just words.
In case you’re wondering, communication skills fall under soft skills. As a simple reminder:
- Hard skills are specific abilities and know-how (e.g., Photoshop, cash register, tech skills).
- Soft skills are self-developed, life-learned attributes (e.g., social skills, adaptability).
- Combined, these make up a skill set, which is a jobseeker's range of skills and abilities.
For a more detailed explanation of soft vs. hard competencies, see our dedicated guide: Soft Skills and Hard Skills For Your Resume
2. How to Improve Communication Skills (Or Develop Effective Communication Skills)
As author Gypsy Teague said, “Nothing is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood.”
Some think they have communicated effectively simply because they said what they meant to say, but in reality, effective communication means that the interaction goes successfully for both sides of it. Developing good people skills will bring you countless benefits, no matter the position.
Below, you’ll find tips on how to improve some of the most important interpersonal communication skills in today's workforce:
- Reflection (or self-reflection)
- Accepting feedback
- Giving constructive feedback
- Choosing the right medium
- Nonverbal communication
- Building trust
- Asking questions
Now, read more about each and every of the above communication examples for a resume:
Good communication starts with listening. 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’s accurately receiving and interpreting 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.” Put listening amongst your resume communication skills if you feel like it.
When people communicate with you, they don’t want to talk to a wall (otherwise, they… could literally just talk to a wall). They not only want you to hear what they’re saying, but understand it, chew on it, and 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.
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?
Pro 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 effective communication with a friendly tone, an upbeat and polite attitude, and a general air of openness. This 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. Confidence is one of the key resume communication skills.
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 (of course, 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 and confusing, and the listener may just tune you out—a detrimental outcome in the workplace.
The best way to be both brief and clear with your message is this: 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! This will also be a valuable asset to your presentation skills.
Pro Tip: Clarity and concision are important in business communication, but you probably don’t want to text your boss phrases like “Hey, brb, gettin hangry. TTYL.” Be brief and clear, but in a professional manner!
Listen and reflect on what you've heard while accepting feedback given to you professionally. It can be difficult hearing someone come up to you and dismiss a project you’ve worked on for weeks—you might 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. Being able to take it calmly and consider it without emotion is one of the most essential management skills, too. 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 team member, and especially if you’re in management, you want to give feedback that recognizes the work and contributions of others. You need to be honest: let them know if they screwed up, but 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; you’ll keep relationships intact and resolve the issues in no time.
Pro Tip: Couple feedback with openness. 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, too!
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, ideas, or solutions simply because you don’t believe in them, their point of view, or their message.
Even when you disagree, understanding and respecting them as a person and their perspective 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 upset, would you not?
Some things are meant to be said face-to-face and in person, but others require documentation, such as a request for time off. The specific person should also be considered: busy or not, good news or bad, etc. Consider which form of communication is best and appropriate, and it’ll be much appreciated by your peers.
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 that 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 and be regarded as a colleague with amazing personal skills.
If you want others to trust you, communicate matters honestly. 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 issue.
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: Best Interview Tips & Advice
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building a professional resume template here for free.
3. Examples of Communication Skills for Your Resume
Ready to tweak your resume? Just say you possess Effective Communication skills and move on, right?
Wrong! Everyone's resume says they have strong communication skills. Yet they fail to really get the message across (oh, the irony!). Employers look for tailored resumes and want applicants with job-specific skills.
You have to curate the few skills that are most relevant:
- Find communication skills important to them in the job offer or by talking to current employees.
- Create a list of your strong resume communication skills that showcase your approachability, empathy, and openness.
- Make sure the rest of your resume “supports” the skills you picked out, i.e., provides proof.
Then, compare the lists and add the matches in the Skills section of your resume. Here are some communication examples for a resume if you need inspiration:
Communication Skills Examples for Your Resume
- Active listening
- Cross-cultural communication
- Phone calls
- Public speaking
- Language skills
- Nonverbal communication
- Verbal communication
- Written communication
Once you’ve selected the communication skills to add, you have to saturate your job descriptions with evidence, too. However, 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….|
You’ve got to show, not tell. Prove to the employer that you have the skills you claim to have by using past examples, numbers, and quantifiable achievements. Here are a few good 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 recognize a team member once per week publicly, 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 work experience section—or even as a top highlight in your resume summary or objective statement. You can also add such examples to your cover letter.
Just remember this: your first display of communication skills is when you hand in your cover letter and resume (or your job application email). Your grammar skills, writing, and storytelling are immediately tested, so if you want to make a great first impression regarding your strong communication skills, make sure you know how to write a good resume and a good cover letter.
Communication skills on a resume are crucial, but focusing on these doesn’t preclude you from mastering the others! Check out our complete guide: 30+ Best Examples of What Skills to Put on a Resume
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:
Good communication skills are at the very top of skills employers look for in a candidate. Keep these points in mind to create a solid resume that underscores communication:
- 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, especially in the more formal workplace environments.
- 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 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 about 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!
About Zety’s Editorial Process
This article has been reviewed by our editorial team to make sure it follows Zety's editorial guidelines. We’re committed to sharing our expertise and giving you trustworthy career advice tailored to your needs. High-quality content is what brings over 40 million readers to our site every year. But we don't stop there. Our team conducts original research to understand the job market better, and we pride ourselves on being quoted by top universities and prime media outlets from around the world.