Here's something résumé readers see all the time: "Excellent Communications Skills."
And here's something job seekers never see in a position description: "Mediocre Communications Skills Required."
It's hard to imagine any job that doesn't require you to communicate well! Yet, it is far better to utilize résumé space by demonstrating your communications capacities rather than simply claiming to have them.
Of course, communications take many different forms: oral or written, public presentations and confidential memos. Depending on the situation, it may require a simple text message or a nuanced argument. You might need to provide a status update with a dynamic spreadsheet or deal with an irate customer on the phone.
Bosses need to tell their subordinates what to do and how to do it. Moreover, they need to motivate them by conveying a sense of urgency, purpose, potential rewards or consequences, or a broader vision.
People on a team need to coordinate their efforts. They also need to keep their superiors updated on what's been completed, roadblocks or complications along the way, next steps and so on.
The list of what's communicated and how its done is virtually endless, which is why when you say "excellent communications skills" on a résumé, you don't further your cause by much.
The Muse offers a list of 185 Powerful Verbs That Will Make Your Résumé Awesome. This list can be helpful in prompting you to think about what you have actually done and how your communications skills have contributed to your success. Then you can demonstrate the excellence of our communications rather than simplistically claiming to possess these skills. Here are some examples based on words found in The Muse's list:
1. Writing. What have you written; who is your audience; and what is the impact of your composition? What happened because you wrote what you wrote? Here are two sample résumé points:
-- Composed talking points for regional sales people to address X issue our potential customers confront and how our product represents the ideal solution. Campaign improved sales of our product by $X in Y period of time.
-- Composed PowerPoint presentation for a nonprofit board of directors and walked them through alternative methods of developing donors and building relationships with them. Guided the discussion to focus on major donors rather than depend on expensive events-based fundraising that consumes greater staffing hours.
2. Mentoring. Perhaps you've employed your listening skills to understand how you can use your knowledge and experience to improve the performance of others on your team still trying to learn the ropes. You might be able to use a bullet point like this on your résumé:
-- Provided one-on-one coaching for X employees based on individual needs. Listened to their stories, determined aspirations and conveyed positive feedback to enrich productivity levels. Result: Mediocre performers were transformed into the department's star employees.
3. Standardizing. This refers to solid business performance uniformity in multiple departments, locations or functions. Things need to be measured, and processes must conform to a single standard in order to be understood by customers, employees and executives alike. Getting everyone to conform requires solid communications skills and can result in quantifiable, résumé-worthy results, such as:
-- Standardized locations of key products on store end-caps, resulting in X percent sales increase of seasonal, high-profit items. Conveyed information to all store managers and followed up to ascertain that directions were being followed to ensure store-to-store uniformity.
-- Standardized reporting of sales and costs from multiple departments to present a clearer financial analysis of business to CFO and the executive team.
4. Negotiating. Business is all about negotiating everything from how much one party will pay another, to delivery times and hundreds of other things. Clearly, excellent negotiating outcomes are dependent on one's ability to persuade -- a key communication skill. For example:
-- Leveraged ability to move quickly to gain a competitive advantage, thereby obtained a favorable price on X, resulting in an increased profit margin of $X for Y.
-- Gained a favorable employment contract with X union by providing nonmonetary benefits of value to employees rather than increasing payroll costs for Y period of time. Presented proposal to union leaders and demonstrated why this outcome was of superior value to other proposals that were on the table for discussion.
The list goes on and on. You can demonstrate your communications skills when you speak of facilitating meetings, problem solving, marketing and a host of other common workplace activities. The point is simple: Show your skills rather than simply claiming them. When you do, you will prove that indeed you are an excellent communicator.
Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
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