The Most Important Communication Skills (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Sep. 25, 2020
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So you’ve reached the soft skills section of your resume and you’re not sure what to include. Well, when it comes to soft skills, there are none employers want more than effective communication. Conveying accurate information through verbal, nonverbal, and written communication is a skill sought after in just about every industry.

Whether you’re meeting with clients or distributors face-to-face or you’re part of a virtual team spread out across the globe, a lack of communication is detrimental to the success of a business. Showing that you know how to communicate with all the elements of your network will help you stand out from other applicants, and make you a better employee once you’ve landed your dream job.

Types of Communication

Communication skills fall into one of three categories: verbal, nonverbal, and written.

  1. Verbal communication involves the spoken word. Things like tone, diction, and pacing are all important when you’re a speaker. It’s also about reading your audience and adjusting these things in real-time to make yourself better understood.

    Being an effective verbal communicator is also about being a good listener. It doesn’t matter if you give the most eloquent speech in the world if you haven’t responded to the right elements of your interlocutor’s end of the conversation.

    Skills in verbal communication are especially vital for anyone who regularly performs tasks over the phone because you don’t get the same nonverbal cues that folks who meet face-to-face have. Still, almost every job involves talking to people at some point, whether it’s supervisors, employees, colleagues, distributors, or clients.

  2. Nonverbal communication involves body language. Things like posture, eye contact, gestures, handshakes, and facial expression are all part of nonverbal communication.

    Listeners take all this into account when they’re in the process of parsing out the information you’re delivering. A confident stance, direct eye contact, and a relaxed face will exhibit confidence and make listeners more prone to accept the spoken information.

    Nonverbal communication skills are difficult to show off on a resume or cover letter, so you’ll have to wait for the interview stage to show off your poker face!

  3. Written communication involves the written word. Being able to write clearly and concisely is valuable in just about every position. Much of the communication within and between businesses is done through email, so knowing how to write in a way that strikes a good tone while being professional and delivering information in an easy-to-understand way is a true skill.

    While you may think written communication falls under the nonverbal category, most HR managers differentiate between the two, seeing as written communication plays such a large role in day-to-day operations at most companies.

    Excellent talent in written communication is easy to show off on a resume and cover letter. If you can persuade hiring managers that you’re a top candidate based on nothing but these documents, you’ve proved you have a knack for written communication.

Examples of Communication Skills

  1. Active Listening. Practicing active listening is the first step in being a great communicator. It’s all too common for people to listen with the intent to reply rather than to understand. A great communicator hears the concerns, questions, and directives of their co-workers and superiors, and can make decisions based on an accurate understanding of the situation.

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    It’s pretty simple: if you don’t understand what others are saying, you’re not going to be able to give them what they want. An active listener asks questions when clarification is needed and adjusts their way of speaking based on whom they’re speaking to and the situation at hand.

  2. Presenting. Having friendly conversations with your colleagues is one thing, delivering presentations that wow audiences is quite another. Good presentation skills involve elements of nonverbal communication (good posture, eye contact with audience members, etc.) to demonstrate confidence. The ability to hold people’s attention by making a presentation interesting or humorous while also being informative is very valuable. Showing that you have mastery over presentation software looks good on a resume, but your real chance to show off your presentation skills comes in the interview.

  3. Training. Being a leader in training sessions requires many different communication skills. You must be comfortable with public speaking, know how to keep your audience engaged, and be able to convey information accurately and clearly. If you’ve led training sessions in the past, then that’s a great thing to include on a resume or cover letter to highlight your communication skills.

  4. Team Building. Being able to share ideas and work collaboratively with a team are essential traits for anyone who has to work closely with their co-workers. While managing a team shows leadership skills, being an effective team member who thinks first of what’s best for the company is an equally important skill.

  5. Negotiation. While negotiation skills are obviously important in things like law and sales, good negotiating tactics are also important in any situation that requires compromise. If you can accurately read a situation and address the needs of everyone, you’re more likely to come up with an equitable and well-received policy. Both stating demands clearly and listening for points on which you have to compromise are parts of effective negotiation.

  6. Leadership. Being a good leader means communicating in a way that projects confidence and motivates others. Good leaders take into account the skillsets, needs, and work styles of their team members. No matter what job you’re applying for, businesses are always looking for potential leaders in their ranks, so definitely include any leadership roles you’ve had on your resume.

  7. Nonverbal Communication. Nonverbal communication is about both being heard and making others feel heard. If you’re not making eye contact with your conversational partner or, worse, you’re rolling your eyes, then they’re going to feel disrespected. What you do with your posture and your hand gestures will change how people interpret your spoken communication.

    Think of verbal communication as the lyrics to a song and nonverbal communication as the rhythm: it doesn’t matter if the words are good because if the rhythm is out of whack, people still won’t like what they’re hearing.

  8. Phone Calls. I know it’s 2020, but being able to hold an effective phone conversation is still a vital skill in business. While some roles, like sales and customer service representatives, will require greater acuity on the phone than others, it’s still nice to have an employee who doesn’t get tongue-tied every time they have to take a phone call.

  9. Internet Communication. The pandemic has really shined a light on who has top-notch internet communication skills and who doesn’t. Being a good internet communicator isn’t just about being fluent in web-based communication platforms (although that certainly is an important part of it). It’s also about being agile in responses, clear and concise in written queries or answers, and knowing when not to speak on group calls.

  10. Writing. I know we’ve already touched on written communication, but it’s important enough to include it again. If you’re part of a team, it doesn’t really matter if you have the best ideas and grasp on the project’s goals if you can’t convey that information to your teammates. Poor writing creates gaps in understanding and limits the efficiency of any project by creating confusion and misaligned goals.

    As you improve your writing skills, you’ll have an easier time organizing your thoughts and speaking more accurately. Here’s a quote from George Orwell that sums it up better than I can: “If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.”

  11. Choosing the Appropriate Medium. The importance of this skill cannot be underestimated. We all know you shouldn’t break up with a partner by text, and you should practice the same empathy in your professional communications. Determining what information is best shared through email, phone call, text, or face-to-face meeting is an important part of being a good communicator. It’s also important to consider the recipient’s preferences.

  12. Clarity and Concision. There are two big traps among people trying to sound smart: using big words and using too many words. One shouldn’t let trying to sound smart get in the way of being understood. If you ramble on with a bunch of extraneous information, the important meaning you’re trying to convey will get lost in a sea of BS. Or, worse, people will start tuning you out entirely. Often, the shortest, simplest message conveys the greatest amount of undiluted information.

  13. Giving/Accepting Feedback. Feedback is a two-way street, and both parties have a job to fulfill. A person giving feedback should aim to keep it constructive and diplomatic — no rants or passive-aggressive jabs. It’s important to be honest and call people out, but it’s equally important to maintain your relationships.

    When you’re on the receiving end of feedback, it’s important to practice that active listening we touched on earlier. It can be tough hearing negative feedback about yourself, but taking the time to reflect on what others say about you is a crucial part of improving, not just as an employee, but as a human being.

  14. Empathy. This might be a tough one to fit into your resume, but practicing empathy will make you an all-around more likable individual. Listening is the first step, but being truly empathetic involves seeing things from someone else’s perspective. If you start from a place of empathy, all of your other communicative abilities will instantly improve. You’ll be able to predict how others will feel about some information you need to communicate, and therefore adjust the form of that communication to make others feel positive about it.

  15. Open-Mindedness. Being open-minded is about showing respect to everyone with whom you communicate and being patient when their way of thinking doesn’t align with yours. Never dismiss someone’s opinions on the spot and you’ll have healthier relationships with everyone at work. Empathy and open-mindedness together make up emotional intelligence, which is every bit as important as regular intelligence in your professional life.

How Can you Build Your Communication Skills

Putting in the effort to strengthen your communication skills will enhance your resume and benefit your career (and your personal life to boot!) Like any soft skill, there’s always room to improve your communicative abilities.

Start by taking stock of what you’re naturally good at. Ask friends, family, or colleagues – you might be surprised to hear where they believe your strengths lie. Then consider some difficult moments at work and think of how poor communication (yours or your colleagues) led to disastrous results. Contemplate which communicative skills could have resolved that situation in a better way.

Here are some actionable tips to start improving your communication skills right away:

  • Consider your audience. It doesn’t matter if you’re the most brilliant orator in the world; if you don’t pay attention to your audience’s interests and abilities, your words are going to fall flat.

  • Study nonverbal cues. If you’re trying to have a conversation with someone who keeps looking at their phone/watch/anywhere but you, take the hint and try changing up your tactics.

  • Ask questions. Most people’s favorite topic is themselves. Get them talking about their favorite subject and they’re apt to like you more. Don’t just ask though. Actually listen to their answers and respond in a way that shows interest.

How to Showcase Your Communication Skills

Knowing you should put down some communication skills is fine and dandy, but how do you demonstrate to employers that you really are a great communicator? Well, the job-hunt itself is a test of your communicative abilities, so keeping your resume and cover letter clear and concise is your first goal.

Some soft skills, like being an expert reader of body language, are tough to convey on a job application. But others, like written communication, being a force for constructive criticism, and the ability to persuade others, are not only easy to show off on your resume or cover letter, but can be backed up with quantifiable examples.

For example, something like “developed training materials for new hires, reducing onboarding time by 20%.” Take stock of your achievements and reflect on how your communicative abilities played a part, then accentuate those characteristics throughout the job application process.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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