What Is Effective Communication?


Ever had someone misunderstand something you’ve said either verbally or in writing, and you end up saying something like, “Sorry, that’s not what I meant at all!” You’ve just experienced miscommunication. And depending on how the message was misinterpreted, it could be something easily remedied with an explanation or clarification, or it could be so damaging no amount of explaining can repair the damage done.

Effective communication is when the message you send is received by the right person, and the content is fully understood in the manner you intended. So what does this have to do in a blog dispensing job advice? Plenty. Applying for work is all about communicating effectively; right from understanding the job posting and conducting research on an employer, through to the resume you craft and the interview(s) you have to secure the job. The entire process is essentially about communicating.

Yesterday I sat with a woman who asked for help with her resume. “It’s horrible” she said when we first sat down, and she was right. Lucky for me she felt that way, because it saved time having to tell her that and do so in a way that respected the fact she had done it herself. What it communicated in its original form were things she did not want to communicate but was nonetheless. It communicated poor attention to detail in its inconsistent use of punctuation, suggested literacy issues with its poor spelling, a lack of website research in the choice of font and overall design which flew in the face of what the employer requested.

Now the argument many people make for omitting the step of researching the employer to learn about how to submit a resume is that it takes too much time and they can’t be bothered. I’d argue the reverse – and strongly. All the time you spend firing off your resume is entirely a waste of precious time and will result in guaranteed failure if you send it in a style or method that is not in keeping with how the employer has specifically said they want to receive applications.

Case in point: If a retail employer says to apply online only and you show up with your resume and ask for the Manager, the Manager is going to tell you to apply online and send you away. Why? One good reason is that it’s not only you who would come into the store and take up their time dealing with job applicants instead of customers. And they may be using Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to scan all resumes received. It doesn’t matter what your opinion is on this matter (or mine), as what does matter is showing the employer you can follow instructions when they are communicated to you right from the start. So go home and apply online.

Now suppose you’re given some instructions on what to do which when you begin, you don’t fully understand. What should you do? Some people will try to figure it out on their own, some will ask for clarification immediately, and others might even toss out the written instructions and do what they themselves think should be done. When instructions are not clearly communicated, it is usually sound advice to immediately ask for clarification. You can make sure you understand things as they were intended by paraphrasing; repeating the instructions back to the person delivering the message to make sure you fully grasp what it is they want done.

A good employer or Manager will appreciate it when you seek clarification if you are in doubt. It could save them money and time undoing what you’ve done later and missing targets and deadlines because of delays.

As many organizations now use computer software to evaluate applications received, many will put specific instructions on their websites under some heading like, “How to apply”. Right down to the size and choice of font, headings on your resume itself, length of pages allowed, they are communicating the format they will accept. You could be the perfect candidate for a job and never get a peep out of an employer if you can’t follow instructions given and submit your application as requested. And the cost of your unwillingness to take the time to research the application process? Multiply the yearly salary of the job itself times the number of years you’d like to have ideally worked for that company. So a $50,000.00 a year job times 5 years is a $250,000.00 error you’ve made because you couldn’t be bothered to communicate with them in the manner they want to receive your application.

And miscommunication can also happen by omission. Take the person who is out of work and feels embarrassed because of it. So they keep their unemployment status hidden from their friends and extended family as long as possible. Because they fail to communicate that they are looking for work, who knows how many opportunities are lost? It is much better to get your unemployment out in the open quickly, deal with the, “oh you poor thing” comments at once and move on to the stage where people are keeping their eyes and ears open for jobs you might be interested in.

When you communicate, be clear in your words. Check with people to make sure the message you intend is the message they received. Things will get done correctly the first time, and then you can add, “effective communication skills” to your resume!

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