Seeking Strong Communication Skills

Consistently, employers cite communication skills as an essential quality interns and entry-level hires need to bring to the workplace. I often encounter job seekers who include on a resume their “excellent communication skills”  because they know it’s important, yet lack a real understanding of what that means in a workplace setting.

Before you throw “strong communication skills” on your resume or talk it up in an interview, consider how you have actually demonstrated this skill in real life. Effective communication encompasses a lot.

The ability to convey information

Obviously, communicating involves sharing information with other people. In the work world, this may mean:

  • Giving a presentation in front of peers and superiors
  • Writing concise emails, using actual grammar rules
  • Articulating your ideas effectively so that others can easily understand, both in meetings or in one-on-one conversations
  • Speaking in a way that is professional, polished, confident and free of “ums”, “likes” and other slang or fillers
  • Explaining proposals, ideas, policies and plans to customers or clients

Communication skills go beyond what you say and how you say it, though.

The intricacies of communication

Effective communication also entails thinking about how and when to communicate, with whom, and listening skills. In the workplace this means:

  • Accommodating others’ communication preferences to increase the likelihood of your message being heard. If your boss is an email person, present your next great idea or request that way. If there are co-workers who prefer to hash things out in person or via phone, take note for the next time you need their support on something.  Step outside your communication comfort zone and it will be appreciated by others.
  • Knowing which type of communication is necessary for a particular situation, regardless of people’s personal styles.
  • Practicing empathic listening. Listen for true understanding of what others are thinking, feeling and experiencing. Forget about formulating your response and instead listen to what is being said AND the emotions behind it. Learn to observe non-verbal communication and tone of voice. Ask clarifying questions and reflect back what is being communicated.
  • Determining when to communicate – some colleagues, classmates or supervisors want or need more explanation or updates than others. In the workplace, it is also knowing when to include particular people on an email or conversation and when it’s unnecessary or better not to do so.

Strong communication skills are some of the best skills to develop while in college, but thinking broadly about what that means will make you a more desirable candidate and a better colleague. What other ways do strong communication skills manifest in the workplace that I missed above?


Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.

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  3. Personal Branding Basics: It’s All About Communication

5 Responses to “Seeking Strong Communication Skills”

  1. avatar Shane Arman says:

    Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for the post. I think you are right that almost all companies throw out “Excellent Communication” skills in job postings and most candidates think they undoubtedly have them.

    I would add to this list, inquisitiveness and asking questions. If I get a writing project from my boss, I’m always asking questions to clarify what he is expecting. Then there are no surprises and I can add my own creativity to the story.

    To effectively communicate in the workplace I think there needs to be lots of question asking. That’s not to say you need to ask tons of questions on every project, but I find it makes my job easier if I ask for clarification before I complete a project rather than having to redo it.

  2. avatar Kelly Cuene says:

    Shane – Thanks for your comment! I completely agree. Asking questions is something most people are encouraged to do and feel comfortable doing when we are new to a position, but then as we get more settled we may feel like we shouldn’t be asking or forget to maintain an inquisitive mind. Knowing what to ask, when to ask and who to ask is important, too. Getting clarification will often, like you mentioned, save time down the road.

    On the flip side, I think it’s important to be resourceful – to do some research and thinking before approaching someone with lots of questions or a problem, That way, that person’s time isn’t wasted by questions that could easily be answered elsewhere and they’ll know that when you do come to them with a question, it is one that truly requires their attention.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. [...] Click here to continue reading Seeking Strong Communication Skills by Kelly Cuene [...]

  4. [...] interview, or responding in a workplace meeting, being able to speak “off the cuff” is critical to their success. Since one becomes a better speaker by speaking, students must find positive and supportive [...]

  5. avatar omer faruk says:

    thank you for everythings. i am doing assignment about communication skills

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