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Are you the communicator you think you are?

4 May 2022 at 6:25 pm
Jonathan Alley
Everyone knows communication skills at work are vital: but why are they so important, and how should we think differently about them?

Jonathan Alley | 4 May 2022 at 6:25 pm


Are you the communicator you think you are?
4 May 2022 at 6:25 pm

Everyone knows communication skills at work are vital: but why are they so important, and how should we think differently about them?

Bang! There it is: in the first paragraph of a cover letter, or at the top of a skills summary; the line leaps out from every resume – “I bring great communication skills to the position.”

Every candidate states – and often sincerely believes – that they’re “a top-shelf communicator”. It’s such a valued workplace skill that a prospective employee can’t afford to omit it: the subject is almost guaranteed to come up in a job interview.

But, what does “great communicator” really mean day-to-day, and what are some common misconceptions?

You might think you express ideas well, but are you listening to responses too? And, are you judicious? Sometimes a colleague will acknowledge understanding information you’ve just communicated – and that’s required and valued – but they may not need the next few minutes of information. Demonstrating an understanding of those nuances to an employer – through both succinct explanation and action – will only help in an interview room.

In the interview room  

A good strategy in an interview setting is to demonstrate you understand the ramifications of poor communication in the workplace. If you can speak to its effect on morale, productivity, or even potential cross-cultural issues (that may often crop up in non-verbal settings), you’ll be demonstrating not only that you place value in communication, but in all the out-flowing effects it creates; stronger morale, a team ethic, mutual employee respect and better tangible results.

Also, remember that not all communication is verbal: are you meeting your interviewer’s eye? Or are you sitting with your arms folded, looking down? Are you using expressive gestures to work with your verbal responses? Ask yourself: which approach works better? Does your body language express the confidence required to make a good impression? If it does, your communication skills might be better than you assume.

But I thought you said….?

One enemy of good communication lies in assumption: that a colleague (or interviewer) knows what or whom you’re referring to, be it a project, role, organisation or other relevant topic. If you’re asked in an interview how you might overcome this at work, keep things simple. You might repeat a request back and ensure you and the colleague are on the same page, or, you might ask a simple question to get clarification. 

It’s good to ask simple questions: it shows you’ve been listening, and reflects that you want to get the task right – it demonstrates that you are indeed, a good communicator.

Remember its a two-way street 

Job interviews can be tough – it’s always good to prepare via research and through preparing for some anticipated questions. But, remember to prepare some questions of your own too; not as a gesture, but as genuine enquiry.

Why? Because any job is a two-way street: while a prospective employer will assess how effectively and clearly you express yourself in an interview setting, it’s perfectly fair to assess the employer’s own ability to communicate – they are the ones driving initiatives, and setting work, should you be appointed. 

Do they deliver big-noting platitudes to the room? Or, do they address you as a person? Is their use of language inclusive to those around them? Do they jumble answers to your questions that come laced with jargon, assuming you know certain acronyms, or internal company terms? Is there a sense that they’re giving rehearsed, well-trodden answers, or are they genuinely conversing with you, sharing ideas, and getting to know you? Managers need to be available, and consistent; they need to be a known quantity, reliable in their feedback and standpoints. Look for those qualities as you screen a prospective employer.

A manager sitting alone in an office all day, communicating via short emails or off-siders, requesting work at the last minute or without explanation is not a healthy sign. If you’ve previously worked in a role where that’s been the case, you’d likely want to avoid it in a new job. So, there’s nothing wrong with getting a prospective employer to describe the health of communication within the organisation, or which strategies they’ve employed to ensure it stays healthy. 

Jonathan Alley  |  @ProBonoNews

Jonathan Alley is opinion editor at Pro Bono Australia.

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