2.3 Prerequisite 2: Communication Skills

Learning Objectives

  1. Define the different types of communication skills needed for a successful job search.
  2. Learn ways to enhance overall communication skills.

A Successful Job Search Is All About Successful Communication

A successful job search is a match between what an employer wants and what a candidate wants. That match is made based on what is communicated. While an interview is structured a specific way, at its core it is a communication between job seeker and employer. While networking has its standards and rules of etiquette, at its core it is about communicating via listening, speaking, writing, and so forth.

The six-step process will give you the tactics that are particular to interviewing, networking, and other job search–specific communications, but the successful job seeker needs to have solid overall communication skills in place in the following areas:

  • Written
  • Verbal
  • Presentation
  • Listening

Communication occurs at every stage of the job search.

Table 2.1 Communication Skills Needed for Each Step of the Job Search

Job Search Step Written Verbal Presentation Listening
1. Identify Your Target In the introspective work In articulating your interests To advice you are getting
2. Create A Powerful Marketing Campaign In the creation of your material In your networking pitch In the design of your material and sample portfolio To responses to your pitch and other marketing
3. Conduct In-Depth Research To keep track of your information To gather information To information shared
4. Network and Interview For scheduling, note-taking during meetings, and thank-yous Before, during, and after meetings and interviews During specialized interviews During meetings and interviews
5. Stay Motivated and Organized and Troubleshoot Your Search To keep track of your data During support group and mentor meetings To support and feedback
6. Negotiate and Close the Offer For offer letter revisions To advocate for what you want To close the deal with senior management To employers’ needs, wants, and constraints

Communication Skills Are a Proxy for Job Skills

You need communications skills for more than understanding and developing rapportCamaraderie, ease, familiarity. You have developed rapport with someone when they feel comfortable around you. with prospective employers. You will also need communication skills on the job, so the way you communicate in your search is a sign of the way you might communicate on the job.

Many employers also look at communication skills in general as a proxy for attention to detail. If you are sloppy with your job search communication—leaving rambling voice mails, sending e-mails with typos or grammatical mistakes—then you likely do this on the job. Why should employers assume you will be more careful after you get the job? If you don’t double-check your communication now, you probably won’t start once you are hired.

Finally, your communication skills underscore your logic and reasoning. If your interview responses are scattered or unrelated, that could be a sign your thought process isn’t logical or structured. If you can’t get to the point in regular conversation, maybe you bring this disorganized reasoning to your work.

Your Job Search Can Be Tailored to Showcase Your Communication Strengths and Support Your Weaknesses

Look at your history to see your current communication strengths and weaknesses, so you know where you need to focus as you prepare for a job search. If you know that you are better at written over verbal communication, you might choose e-mail over phone calls in situations that call for either approach (e.g., when you try to get a networking meeting). But you can’t avoid a method of communication entirely, so the verbally challenged should allot extra time to practice interviewing and perhaps take the time away from drafting cover letters, which play to their writing strength. For someone with more verbal than written strengths, they will structure their search differently—practicing different areas and budgeting more time in weak areas that may take longer to strengthen.

If you have already selected job targets, incorporate the communication requirements for your target as you plan your job search process. Some fields, such as education, law, sales, consulting, and public relations, heavily emphasize communication, so each and every correspondence has extra weight. Your job search communication becomes a proxy for your potential communication on the job.

The communication requirements may influence the structure of the process. For communication-focused fields, a presentation as part of the interview process may be required. For other fields that are not communication heavy, such as accounting or IT, you likely will not do a presentation (you may for senior roles, but not generally). Start brushing up on presentation skills now if your job search may specifically require this.

Improve Communication Skills with Deliberate Focus and Practice

Now you know the general ways communication skills enter the job search equation, as well as specific ways that different fields may use communication skills to evaluate potential job candidates. With the importance of communication skills in mind, you can deliberately focus and practice to improve your communication skills:

  • Start the habit of editing all of your written communication, including e-mails, for correct spelling and grammar. Learn to use the spell check, dictionary, and other helpful functions in your word-processing and e-mail programs.
  • Review proper business letter formats. We will review cover letters and thank-you letters later in this book, but general e-mails back and forth also need to be handled with proper care.
  • Do an audit of your verbal communication style. Do you talk too fast? Do you enunciate? Are you able to get to the point concisely, or do you ramble? Do you stutter or sound nervous? Tape yourself or have a friend give you an objective critique of your verbal skills now, so you know what needs work.
  • Practice delivering presentations. If you can take a class that has a presentation opportunity, that is a good option. You might also join a club or professional group where you have a chance to present.
  • Practice active listeningPaying attention and absorbing what the other person is saying.. In your daily conversations, become aware of how well you listen. Are you jumping to what you want to say? Could you paraphrase what the other person is saying?
  • Practice listening in different scenarios. Do you listen well over the phone? Can you focus in a group and one on one? The job search involves many different situations, so your listening skills will be tested in many different ways.

Key Takeaways

  • Communication skills, including written, verbal, presentation, and listening skills, are required throughout the job search.
  • All employers consider communication skills when they evaluate candidates.
  • Some fields are communication focused, so the general communication during the job search serves as a proxy for your job skills.
  • Some fields build different communication hurdles, such as presentations, directly into the job search process.
  • You can improve your communication skills by focusing on them now and practicing good communication habits.


  1. What are your communication strengths and weaknesses? Force yourself to rank your verbal, written, presentation, and listening skills from one to four, in order of proficiency.
  2. How will you modify your search to take advantage of your individual communication strengths? Do you have any job interests where communication skills play a particularly important role? Start saving writing samples and looking for opportunities to make presentations.
  3. Go back to the list of activities to try in the previous section on improving your communication skills. Schedule in your calendar at least three, if not all, activities suggested.
  4. What resources do you need to improve your problem communication areas?