Job interviews: that dreaded word that can flummox even the most competent of candidates! And yet, top candidates have one good foot firmly in their future employer’s door even before the first interview question is fired. Their secret is a well-drafted resume.
A personal resume is our first attempt at showcasing our awesome skills to potential employers. And if there’s one skill that’s considered an absolute must-have in this e-age of global companies, cross-cultural workforces and disparate personalities, it’s communication. You may be interviewing for a corporate job, a store manager or even as a lowly intern in a factory; employers universally expect their employees to have above-average communication skills.
You get this. In fact, almost everybody gets this as they realize the importance of good communication; this is why any sincere job seeker unfailingly captures this skill in their resume.
- Great communication skills…
- Effective communicator…
- Can communicate comfortably in multiple languages…
But that’s not a very articulate illustration of “engaging communication,” is it!
In this post, we cover 5 mighty effective ways to highlight this all-important skill right, so your resume moves from good, to almost great, to awe-inspiringly magnificent!
In the corporate world, they say that talk is cheap and time is money. How then can you come out with the best of both resources? The key lies in listening!
This is perhaps the most significant and yet subtle communication skill to have (which is also why it is highly prized). You see, whether you’re dealing with a tricky negotiation, a make-or-break presentation, an irate customer, an uninspired junior colleague or even a finicky boss, you almost always need to dip into your listening skills to turn things in your favor.
Don’t underestimate the listening skills you bring to the table. Perhaps you served as a (in your opinion) “lowly” waiter, or customer service rep, or student counselor. And you think that this old experience, where all you had to do was simply listen to another, is irrelevant to the high-profile, managerial position you’re currently shooting for. You couldn’t be more wrong!
Top employers consistently find innovative and subtle ways to assess candidates on this skill (either through the resume, or in oral interviews). They understand the power of listening, coz when you really, really listen, a few things happen:
- You give them your undivided attention, and understand what the other party really, really wants.
- You also understand what they really, really don’t want.
- From this, you understand what they want to hear and receive, and find a way to package this with what you want to say and give.
It’s the only way to make everybody happy!
Look for innovative ways to showcase this precious skill in your resume. Highlight roles where your job thrived, when you listened to others. Show your employer that you’re such an effective communicator that you’re not afraid to just shut up, and listen!
You could even illustrate this skill, very effectively, right there in your resume. The trick is to listen to what your potential employer really, really wants, and highlight this in your resume/ cover letter.
- “Need strong Java coder” could actually translate to a search for that special someone with a “powerful passion for expansion and programming”.
- “Looking for creative writers” could also mean that they’re looking for “supremely articulate wordsmiths with a penchant for the fancy”.
- “Hiring managers” may in reality mean that need “Inspired strategists with fantastic interpersonal skills”.
Do you see the subtle difference?
Listening empowers you to seek their real needs, and show them that YOU are their answer!
Here, we mean for you to highlight situations/ positions where you acted as the trainer (and not the trainee).
Some people wonder why training (even technical or niche training) is considered a weighty communication skill. The answer is simple: with training, you have no choice but to develop sharp communication skills to engage your audience!
Picture this: You walk into a meeting/ presentation at work and settle into your seat with a hot cup of coffee. As the session progresses, you find that the only form of engagement (and entertainment) you have is winking at other colleagues who share your frustration. An excruciating hour later, you’re super glad to escape from this boredom-inducing, mind-numbing, exhausting session, cold cup of coffee in hand, even as the speaker continues to drone on about his pet topic.
(Its non-effective communication at its worst, but this is what you see in a lot of meetings!)
Now imagine that you are THE trainer running this highly unpopular session.
If you have to do this more than once, you’re not going to sit back and rest as the evil trainer. You’re surely going to dig deeper and ask questions that will push you to become a good – no, magnificent communicator!
- What should I do to make people listen to what I have to say in my training sessions (without boredom, frustration or exhaustion).
- Why should they listen? How can I engage my audience and get them to care, and (gasp) even enjoy the session?
- How can I get them to volunteer to come back for more?
With practice, you’ll discover ways to keep your audience engaged through your sessions.
Let’s not panic yet that you’ve had no experience with training. Speaking to a junior about your project, helping a colleague step into a new role, or even delivering a well-planned presentation are all potential stints at training. The trick is to pitch them right in your resume so they showcase your fabulous communication skills.
Here, we must share that training skills also come in handy while drafting a resume. For instance, if your resume (and your communication) is all about “me”, and more “Me” and yet some more “ME,” you’ll turn off your audience (and your potential employers) in less than 30 seconds. But with effective training skills, you’ll have discovered the secret to hook your audience (and your future employers) with engaging communication.
For example, let us run through this inconsequential line in a personal resume:
- Gave a presentation on using Interactive Dashboards in Microsoft Excel.
OR, you could say:
- Ran a training presentation for senior and junior colleagues on complex Microsoft Excel
- practices, thereby contributing to superior quality management reports.
Which do you think illustrates more effective communication?
Training helps you present yourself right and communicate better. That’s more power to you!
Coaching or Mentoring can be considered the next step in training. These include instances where you exclusively (and voluntarily) worked with and trained another person, to help them step up their skills. (These skills could be communication-related or otherwise.)
Also, top employers recognize that mentoring is not just about superior communication skills, but also requires (highly prized) social skills.
With mentoring instances in your resume, you advertise that you are:
- Mighty good at what you do (so you feel confident not just to passively train a group of people, but also actively coach/ mentor another until they get it right).
- Well-respected and perhaps even popular among your peers (which is why they voluntarily seek out your mentorship).
Unless you expect to be sent out to war all by yourself, nobody, and we mean no-company-ever likes to back a lone soldier. Companies want people who communicate well not just with their bosses or their customers (coz it serves them to do so), but also with their team members, and juniors, and seniors, and other peers! So showcase your fantastic interpersonal communications skills by citing instances of coaching and mentoring.
- Mentored new recruit into Quality team and coached him to work with multiple teams for Dashboard process standardization.
Or even better,
- Mentored a new recruit into quality team and coached him to successfully champion standardization of management reports across teams.
Mentoring examples also shows that you’re not picky about being the star of the game to get results. You were able to use your awe-inspiring communication skills during a team crisis to watch and listen, and take note of the junior consultant’s solution that everybody else had overlooked. And, you were able to convince everybody that the junior consultant is a champion. And that perhaps is the most deadly communication skill of all!
Did you think that “negotiations” are reserved for the top boss as he/she works to close a make-or break-deal? Think again!
Life is all about successful negotiations; more so in the professional world. Through the year, our boss negotiates with us to take on more responsibility. We subtly negotiate with our boss to recognize our work and gain a better appraisal. Customers negotiate with companies to deliver better quality, and companies negotiate for higher pricing.
And the beauty of it is that it’s all mutually enriching, as it’s all about give-and-take!
Here are 2 examples of successful negotiations that you can use to spruce up your resume.
- Cross-team leadership:
Nothing hones your communication skills quite like leading a project across multiple teams, each with their own (often conflicting) goals. These opportunities challenge you to listen to all parties, train others on the benefits of the common goal, subtly negotiate with them for their agreement and support and mentor them until successful completion. So capture examples where you successfully led cross-team negotiations. This could be something as simple as choosing the caterer for your company, or as complex as assessing the wins and losses of the past quarter.
- Actively participating in a standardization process:
If you’ve ever been a part of a standardization process (like quality certifications, drafting of mission statements, etc.), then you’re sure to have realized the sheer volume of communication challenges these situations can bring up. Standardization processes often deliver (intangible) benefits that not everyone cares about. This means that you will face a lot of resistance upfront from others. But if you’ve been an active participant of a successful standardization process, then you’ve learnt the trick to go beyond people’s resistance, and effectively draw them in to a common point of view. It’s fantastically effective communication!
With companies expanding across the globe, employees no longer have the luxury of constant face-to-face communication with peers, clients, or even within teams. We have to use alternative means of communication like e-mails, technical proposals, blogging or even social media posts. Finally, it all comes down to writing.
Great communication is no longer just a verbal skill; it also requires you to articulate your thoughts on paper in engaging ways. So don’t forget to showcase examples of solid written communication in your resume.
- Perhaps you wrote a technical paper for your company outlining the strengths and opportunities of the current system, and highlighted the key advantages the new system would bring in. And, this went a long way in gaining shareholder approval.
- Or, you took charge of publishing online updated status reports during a crisis situation, so all stakeholders were kept appraised of the latest developments. This in turn empowered quicker decision making.
- Or, you’ve been appreciated by a client or senior for your top email skills, and you’re considering mentoring others to step up the quality of their written communication.
Effective written communication takes many forms. So tap into your creativity to capture and showcase this right in your resume.
We’ll leave you with one master tip to illustrate superior communication skills through your resume. Keep it simple, stupid!
Yes, we know that you’re a great communicator, and you easily have a hundred – no, thousand examples to showcase your skills. And you’re eager to showcase them all.
But let’s not get complicated!
A few well-thought out samples of great communication is enough to power your resume to great heights. (In this case, too little is indeed too much.) If your interviewer sees too many instances of listening, or training, or any other ting-ting, they’ll think that you’re a mediocre candidate interviewing for a different role, or worse, lying!
Also, do remember to capture your communication skills in a separate section. Don’t dilute the great work you’ve done by sprinkling communication examples all over your resume; it loses impact.
Finally, Keep. The. Jargon. Out. Of. This. Section! They belong in the Technical/Design/PR/Hospitality/Any-other-skill section. Use the communication section to highlight just that: effective communication.