You can almost hear a recruiter scream, "I'm fed up with all the résumés that just give me the same old boilerplate language! How is it that so many job seekers boast of having great communication skills, and then fail to demonstrate them?"
Virtually every professional position requires solid communication skills, and unlike a whole range of other abilities you might claim, how you present yourself in your résumé, cover letter and interview will surely reveal if you have what it takes to cut the muster in this area.
Of course, depending on the field you're in, your methods of communications will be different, as will be their content. Think about the role for which you are applying, and what is intrinsic to it, to determine the kinds of communication with which you need to demonstrate expertise.
Will you have to convince people? Sell to them? Convey facts and data, along with your interpretation? Provide empathetic caring and support? Some roles require precision of language that conveys whatever is necessary without a wasted word, paralleling a surgeon's scalpel in its sharpness. Others require you to think on your feet and respond to things with passion, while still others demand painstaking study and thoughtful analysis conveyed in well-documented reports or white papers.
Whatever the case might be, you shouldn't require your audience to assume that you've been successful in the kinds of communication typical for your position. You should, in both your résumé and in your interviews, relate the context in which you work, how you interact with people and how you moved your own agenda forward. The kinds of verbs you use, your sentence structure and cadence all should reflect the nature of your occupation and the job you seek.
Remember that communication goes well beyond words. It includes images, tone of voice and body language. What does the way you format your résumé say about you? Is your style simple and straightforward, or complex with lots of lines, text boxes, or graphics? When you are interviewing, do you seek or avoid eye contact? Do you slump in your chair, fiddle with a glass of water and offer only a weak handshake? All these are elements of your style and personality and say much about you without a single word being spoken.
Most of us think of ourselves as able communicators, but it is a mistake to simply assert "excellent communication" among your list of skills. Instead, take the time to be that excellent communicator by following these tips:
1. Be convincing. Don't say just, "Trust me, I've got this set of skills?" Rather, in each résumé bullet point demonstrate how you have used your various skills, and the results you obtained. A mini-story does far more to capture attention and convey your abilities than saying, "Yeah, I can do that." (Whatever "that" might be.)
2. Provide context. Do you communicate to others in person or online? Do you function in large or small group settings? Do you write reports, memos and abstracts to be read by others, or do you primarily communicate in two-way settings either in person or via social media? How have your communications helped to bring about your achievements in your current and former positions?
3. Define your medium. Do you achieve success by writing memos, position papers and constructing financial documentation with spreadsheets? Do you employ video or photography to get your message across? Use verbs like these at the beginning of résumé bullets: critique, declare, display, inform, interpret, issue, speak, testify, write, portray, evoke, etc. Then go on to tell the rest of the story.
4. Depict your style. Do you make your point through detailed analysis of facts and policies, or do you personalize the information at hand and become a storyteller? Whatever your context might be, find a way to show you are adept at both sharing your knowledge and insights as well as listening and learning from others.
Communication competencies are key to professional success. Take the time to think about your message, then carefully craft and convey it. When you do, surely you will be seen as a true professional, and you will be closer to landing your next job.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.
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