Communication skills allow you to give and receive information. Indeed employers consistently rank communication skills as one of the most commonly requested skills in 2020 job postings. Using, improving and showcasing your communication skills can help you both advance in your career and be competitive when searching for new jobs. In this article, we discuss the importance of communication skills and ways you can improve them. We'll also share ways you can highlight your communication skills in your resume, cover letter and interview with examples.
If you aren't sure how to showcase your skills on a resume, get professional assistance with our resume feedback questionnaire.
Top 10 communication skills
Here are the top communication skills employers and recruiters want to see in your resume and cover letter, interviews and career development:
1. Active listening
Active listening means paying close attention to who you’re communicating with by engaging with them, asking questions and rephrasing. Practicing active listening can build respect with your coworkers and increase understanding in the workplace. As you actively listen, focus on the speaker, avoiding distractions like cell phones, laptops or other projects, and by preparing questions, comments or ideas to thoughtfully respond.
Improve your active listening abilities by paying attention to other people’s facial expressions, body language and tone. Instead of preparing what you will say, focus on what the other person is saying and how they are saying it. If you need to clarify something, ask followup questions or rephrase what they’ve said to confirm that you understood them correctly.
2. Communication method
Using the right way to communicate is an important skill. There are benefits and disadvantages to talking through emails, letters, phone calls, in-person meetings or instant messages. Communicating is better when you consider your audience, what information you want to share and the best way to share it.
For example, if you are communicating with a potential employer, it may be better to send a formal email or call them on the phone. In the workplace, you may find it’s easier to communicate complex information in person or via a video conference than by email. Building remote workplace friendships is easier when you can speak through instant messages.
Friendly traits like honesty and kindness can help foster trust and understanding when communicating at work. Try to communicate with a positive attitude, keep an open mind and ask questions to help you understand where they’re coming from. Small gestures such as asking someone how they’re doing, smiling as they speak or offering praise for work well done can help you foster productive relationships with colleagues and managers.
You can practice friendliness by remembering small, thoughtful details about your coworkers or past conversations. For example, if a coworker tells you their child’s birthday is soon and you connect with them again later, you might ask them how the birthday party went.
In the workplace, people are more likely to respond to ideas that are presented with confidence. There are many ways to appear confident, including by making eye contact when you’re addressing someone, sitting up straight with your shoulders open and preparing ahead of time so your thoughts are polished and you’re able to answer any questions. Confident communication is useful not just on the job but also during the job interview process.
5. Sharing feedback
Strong communicators can accept critical feedback and provide constructive input to others. Feedback should answer questions, provide solutions or help strengthen the project or topic at hand. Providing and accepting feedback is an essential workplace skill, as it can help both you and the people around you make meaningful improvements to their work and their professional development.
A great way to learn how to give feedback is to take notes from others on the feedback they offer you. When you come across a well-explained piece of feedback, take some time to observe and analyze why it was good, why it resonated with you and how you might apply those skills in the future.
6. Volume and clarity
When you’re speaking, it’s important to be clear and audible. Adjusting your speaking voice so you can be heard in a variety of settings is a skill, and it’s critical to communicating effectively. Speaking too loudly may be disrespectful or awkward in certain settings. If you’re unsure, read the room to see how others are communicating.
Another aspect of verbal communication is vocalics and tonality. This involves how your tone moves up and down, your pitch, your accent pattern and the spaces you place between phrases. Such details can be effective in communicating emotions and offer your audience insights into how your message should be interpreted (whether you realize it or not).
Having empathy means that you can not only understand, but also share in the emotions of others. This communication skill is important in both team and one-on-one settings. In both cases, you will need to understand other people’s emotions and select an appropriate response.
For example, if someone is expressing anger or frustration, empathy can help you acknowledge and diffuse their emotion. At the same time, being able to understand when someone is feeling positive and enthusiastic can help you get support for your ideas and projects.
A key aspect of respect is knowing when to initiate communication and respond. In a team or group setting, allowing others to speak without interruption is seen as a necessary communication skill tied to respectfulness. Respectfully communicating also means using your time with someone else wisely—staying on topic, asking clear questions and responding fully to any questions you’ve been asked.
9. Nonverbal cues
A great deal of communication happens through nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions and eye contact. When you’re listening to someone, you should be paying attention to what they’re saying as well as their nonverbal language. By the same measure, you should be conscious of your own body language when you’re communicating to ensure you’re sending appropriate cues to others.
Whether you’re returning a phone call or sending a reply to an email, fast communicators are viewed as more effective than those who are slow to respond. One method is to consider how long your response will take.Is this a request or question you can answer in the next five minutes? If so, it may be a good idea to address it as soon as you see it. If it’s a more complex request or question, you can still acknowledge that you’ve received the message and let the other person know you will respond in full later.
What are communication skills?
Communication skills are abilities you use when giving and receiving different kinds of information. While these skills may be a regular part of your day-to-day work life, communicating in a clear, effective and efficient way is an extremely special and useful skill. Learning from great communicators around you and actively practicing ways to improve your communications over time will certainly support your efforts to achieve various personal and professional goals.
Communication skills involve listening, speaking, observing and empathizing. It is also helpful to understand the differences in how to communicate through face-to-face interactions, phone conversations and digital communications, like email and social media.
Types of communication
There are four main types of communication you might use on a daily basis, including:
1. Verbal: Communicating by way of a spoken language.
2. Nonverbal: Communicating by way of body language, facial expressions and vocalics.
3. Written: Communicating by way of written language, symbols and numbers.
4. Visual: Communication by way of photography, art, drawings, sketches, charts and graphs.
Read more: 4 Types of Communication (With Examples)
Types of Communication
- Use a strong, confident speaking voice.
- Use active listening.
- Avoid filler words.
Avoid industry jargon when appropriate.
- Notice how your emotions feel physically.
- Be intentional about your nonverbal communications.
Mimic nonverbal communications you find effective.
- Ask others before including visuals.
- Consider your audience.
- Only use visuals if they add value.
Make them clear and easy to understand.
- Strive for simplicity.
- Don’t rely on tone.
- Take time to review your written communications.
- Keep a file of writing you find effective or enjoyable.
How to make communication skills stand out
Here are a few ways you can highlight your communication skills in your resume, cover letter and job interview:
Communication skills on your resume
A well-written resume is itself a demonstration of strong communication skills. Ensure that your resume is structured appropriately and free of spelling and grammatical errors. Additionally, you may also want to include some positive communication skills in your resume skills section, especially if the job post calls for specific communication skills in the description. You can add skills to your Indeed Resume for employers searching for candidates with your skillset.
Communication skills on your cover letter
Your cover letter is a great opportunity to elaborate on your communication skills. While you can talk more directly about how effectively you communicate here, at a high level, your cover letter is one of the employer’s first impressions of your skills. You will want to make your cover letter brief, well written, free from typos and spelling errors and tailored to the position you’re applying for.
Communication skills in your job interview
The first, most important way you can communicate in your interview is through how you present yourself. Show up for the interview 10–15 minutes early and dressed appropriately for the job you’re applying for. Pay attention to the nonverbal cues you’re displaying through body language.
Avoid actions such as slouching or looking at your phone during the interview. Looking your interviewer in the eye, employing active listening skills and displaying confidence are all positive ways to communicate in your interview. Almost everything you do—both on the job and in life—can be seen as a form of communication. By identifying your strengths and weaknesses and regularly practicing good habits, you can improve the way you connect and communicate with others.
How to improve your communication skills
With experience and practice, you can learn and improve your communication skills. Start by identifying your strengths and then practice and develop those areas.
Observe good communicators around you
Identify professionals, family and friends who consistently communicate ideas and information clearly with respect, empathy and confidence. Observe and take notes on the specific ways they communicate with others. Do they use a certain tone of voice in some cases? When? How do they explain complex information, ideas or instructions? What kinds of emotion do they use when communicating, if any? How do their communications affect others?
Ask a close friend or colleague for constructive criticism
It can be hard to know how you are perceived as a communicator. To get an objective opinion, ask a trusted friend for their honest feedback. Understanding your areas of improvement for communication can help you identify what to focus on.
Practice improving communication habits
Many communication skills are habits you have developed over time. You can improve those skills by practicing new habits that make you a better communicator. That might include being more responsive to communications when they are sent, reminding yourself to give eye contact, practicing giving positive feedback and asking questions in conversations.
Attend communication skills workshops or classes
There are several online and offline seminars, workshops and classes that can help you be a better communicator. These classes may include instruction, roleplay, written assignments and open discussions.
Seek opportunities to communicate
Seek out opportunities both on and off the job that require you to use communication skills. This will help you keep good skills fresh while also allowing you the opportunity to practice new skills.
Related: How to Improve Communication Skills
Communicating effectively in the workplace
While there are several communication skills you will use in different scenarios, there are a few ways you can be an effective communicator at work:
Be clear and concise
Making your message as easy to consume as possible reduces the chance of misunderstandings, speeds up projects and helps others quickly understand your goals. Instead of speaking in long, detailed sentences, practice reducing your message down to its core meaning. While providing context is helpful, it is best to give the most necessary information when trying to communicate your idea, instruction or message.
Understanding your colleague’s feelings, ideas and goals can help you when communicating with them. For example, you might need help from other departments to get a project started. If they are not willing to help or have concerns, practicing empathy can help you position your message in a way that addresses their apprehension.
At times, it is necessary to be assertive to reach your goals whether you are asking for a raise, seeking project opportunities or resisting an idea you don’t think will be beneficial. While presenting with confidence is an important part of the workplace, you should always be respectful in conversation. Keeping an even tone and providing sound reasons for your assertions will help others be receptive to your thoughts.
Be calm and consistent
When there is a disagreement or conflict, it can be easy to bring emotion into your communications. It is important to remain calm when communicating with others in the workplace. Be aware of your body language by not crossing your arms or rolling your eyes. Maintaining consistent body language and keeping an even tone of voice can help you reach a conclusion peacefully and productively.
Use and read body language
Body language is a key part of communication in the workplace. Pay close attention to the messages people are sending with their facial expressions and movements. You should also pay close attention to the way you might be communicating (intentionally or not) with your own body language.