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Written by Paul DruryPaul Drury

Communication skills: how to demonstrate them on your resume

18 min read
Communication skills: How to demonstrate them on your resume
Artwork by:Nelly Borisova
Outlining your communication skills on your resume will show your future employer how you achieve your goals with the help of those around you. These examples will help you get your message across.

How effectively we communicate with those around us determines our impact.

In a world where our senses are being bombarded from every angle, getting the message through to others in the way that we intend is far from easy. Efficient communication skills therefore lie at the heart of every great resume story, but there is a certain subtlety to the art of communication.

Different situations demand varying approaches. When you are looking to hire someone, scanning their resume for the sorts of communication skills that will work best in your company (and industry) is a key consideration.

So, how do you best demonstrate your blend of communications skills for a resume? We will explore:

  • What are communication skills?
  • The four main types of communication skills
  • Nine communication skills for your resume
  • Where to share these qualities on your resume

When people understand what you want to say, achieving your goals becomes that little bit more possible. If they do not, you will struggle.

What are communication skills?

Ideas are what move our world forward; but conveying those ideas in the best way possible is one of the most valuable skills that we can develop (and continually improve). 

Communication skills help us to explain concepts, settle arguments, negotiate deals, translate technical details, offer feedback, listen intently and present ideas (amongst a myriad of other benefits). 

Ideas are transmitted between two people or within a group, back and forth until a desired outcome has been achieved. Communication comes alive when participants are skilled at moving it towards the best possible conclusion.

Employers expect to read a resume that hints at such heights, but as communication is such a broad topic, it is critical to ascertain which skills will be particularly required for the job in question.

Firstly, we need to distinguish between the four main types of effective communications skills.

The four main types of communication skills

Here is a communication skills resume list broken into four categories:

  • Verbal
  • Non-verbal
  • Written
  • Visual

1. Verbal communication skills are the spoken word, but this does not always entail a simple conversation. Video calls, conference presentations, and meetings also require ideas to be articulated concisely and confidently. 

If we slow down and take a moment before we share an important message, our verbal communications skills can be incredibly powerful. Some of the great orators of history know the power of carefully chosen (and timed) words. When have your verbal missives ever made a difference?

There are different aspects of verbal communication skill:

Articulation: The ability to express yourself clearly and succinctly.

Tone and pitch: How the variation in your voice can change the meaning of a sentence.

Pacing: The speed at which you speak can impact how your message is received.

Vocabulary: The words you use can either enhance or diminish your message.

Active listening: The ability to fully concentrate, understand, respond, and remember what is being said.

Adding another level of complexity, the tone and inflection of your words will always influence how they are received. Your resume should contain this subtle level of detail.

2. Non-verbal communication skills are arguably more important than what you say, as your body language and facial expressions modify your words to an incredible degree. 

If there is a mismatch between your verbal and non-verbal cues in an interview, hiring managers will feel a certain dissonance. People feel comfortable listening to someone when their non-verbal signals are in tune with what is coming out of their mouth. When emotions are running high, this can take some practice.

There are different aspects of non-verbal communication skill:

Body language: Posture, gestures, and facial expressions.

Eye contact: Shows that you are engaged and attentive.

Proximity: The physical distance between people can impact the message.

Touch: Physical contact can convey comfort, understanding, or other emotions.

Paralanguage: Vocal elements aside from words, such as intonation, pitch, and pacing.

Great communicators have a finely tuned radar to these micro-behaviours and your resume should make it clear that you are a master of both conveying and picking up on these most subtle of clues.

3. Written communication skills are becoming a lost art in the age of Zoom, instant messaging and emojis, but as the old adage goes: “if it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist.” And if you are going to write it, you had better leave no room for interpretation as you likely won’t be there to explain yourself when it is read. Written communication skills are especially important for bloggers.

While oral communication can have an effect in tandem with body language, the permanent nature of written communication means that it can be revisited again and again. While a spoken message may fade, the message in an email or presentation can be revisited again and again. Written messages are also easily forwarded to others. Proficient written communication can therefore be incredibly effective.

There are different nuances to written communication skills:

Clarity: Clear and concise writing free from jargon or complicated language.

Grammar and syntax: Proper sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling.

Structure: Organizing text logically to guide the reader through your message.

Tone: The emotional attitude expressed in the writing.

Editing and proofreading: The ability to revise and improve written material.

Proving your written communication skills is not difficult in a job application. Your resume is a prime example of your ability to use language to persuade and impress.

4. Visual communication skills. Every picture tells a thousand words. In a world where attention spans are plummeting and technology enables the creation of arresting graphics and stunning presentations, the ability to communicate your ideas visually is rapidly becoming a desirable hiring trait across many careers such as content marketeers.

There is a lot to be said for taking a canva course or learning about visual design. It may creep into your career in all sorts of unexpected ways. Our brains light up when they process a visual, so the choice of image is crucial. Does it really fit with the message that you are trying to convey?

Visual communication skills have different components:

Graphs and charts: The use of visual aids to represent data.

Icons and symbols: Simple visual elements that can be quickly understood.

Design principles: The effective use of elements like color, contrast, and balance in visual presentations.

Non-verbal cues: Understanding how elements like framing, focus, and movement convey meaning in visual mediums like film and photography.

For certain careers, the opportunity of including a portfolio with your resume is commonplace. Sharing a link to social media profiles is also a way of giving a future employer an idea of your visual communication style.

From four broad areas, here are ten more specific communication skills with some examples that you might see on a resume.

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Ten communication skills for your resume 

Here are some examples of communication skills for your resume that will paint a picture of how you go about your working day. What are 10 good communication skills? Which of these do you excel at?

Reflection

The ability to pause, reflect on what has been said and only then respond appropriately is central to developing a productive conversation. This is more than listening skills – it is the ability to build on the communication that has come your way. 

Expert tip

It does not have to be immediate – mulling over a message away from the workplace is often a great way of letting your brain work out how to reply. You can then draw on these decisions to inform future replies.

Clarity

No one wants to listen for a minute when they could have got the message in five seconds. 

The simple messages are easiest for our brains to retain, so no matter how tempting it might be to ramble on about your business-critical idea, the time you spend speaking about something does not equate to the power of your delivery. Think before you speak and keep your message concise.

Listening

Active listening skills revolve around the desire to understand rather than simply hear a message. Being a great listener means giving the communicator the opportunity to finish their message before you respond. 

Expert tip

Too many of us respond with a pre-planned agenda before we actually process what has been said. Be comfortable with longer pauses to digest messages and only reply when you are ready. Listeners appreciate that  you are taking your time to compose a sensible reply. If you reply immediately, it will seem that you haven't quite listened properly.

Feedback

Giving and receiving feedback lies at the heart of productive communication. If we do not know what others think about what we are saying, it is impossible to adjust our thought process. 

Expert tip

Use intelligent questions to clarify and zone in on someone’s point of view. When offering feedback, honesty is the best policy, but realize that your opinion will often be just one perspective on the matter. Don;t be too precious about defending your opinion - be open to differing perspectives.

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Open-Mindedness

If we all thought the same way, life would be very boring (and, frankly, the human race would grind to a halt). Being open to the fact that the ideas of others might differ from our own is the key to finding creative solutions in a process of communication. 

Expert tip

Productivity comes when two conversations meet somewhere in the middle to forge a new way forward. Poor communicators insist on ramming their message home. If you are not getting through to someone, regroup and try to work out why.

Empathy

Just telling someone that you understand their perspective is not enough. True empathy comes when your actions demonstrate that their perspective has influenced you. Too many people say: “I get you” and leave it at that.

When the other person understands that you are trying to comprehend their perspective, communication will flow because they become even more open to sharing their deeper feelings. Acknowledge their lived experience. Empathy is an especially important skill in customer service-related roles.

Honesty

Communicating with authenticity and putting your cards on the table takes a great deal of confidence. There are always people who are out there to shoot down our ideas in order to further their own agendas, but unless communication is honest and transparent, the route to understanding can be winding and tortuous. 

Expert tip

When two people are communicating honestly, understanding comes quicker because you do not have to decipher what has been left unsaid. It may get to the point that you are finishing each other's sentences.

Negotiation

The back and forth of workplace communication often involves an element of commercial give and take, so negotiation and influencing skills are vital to making sure that you and your team get what you need.

Expert tip

The art of negotiation involves all of the communication skills listed in this blog, and most resumes will need to hint at a degree of prowess in the negotiation dark arts. You get what you want when you listen to the other party and work out a way towards making it happen.

Balance

Balance is a key attribute of great communication. Views are shared, outcomes are agreed upon and there is an even split between speaking and listening. When both parties feel that there is parity of communication, the end result seems fair.

Influencing

It is one thing to communicater the message that you wish to convey, but it is another thing entirely to get someone to act on it. Influencing skills come into play after the act of communication, but they are no less important becuase they help to cement the actions that the communicator was hoping for.

Expert tip

We have all come away from a chat that seemed like a one-way street – no one likes that feeling. Balanced communication is effective communication.

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How to list communication skills on your resume

We hope that it is clear by now that it is not enough to add “communication skills” to the skills section of your resume. The impact of this personal attribute is simply too weighty when it comes to getting things done at work. Every part of the job application process will require effective communication skills - even the nature of a solid resume shows that you are able to sell yourself effectively. Sometimes showing is better than telling.

Share some of the examples above in your resume summary. Leading with a communication skill at the very top of the resume shows that you value its impact. For some roles this is crucial, so don't leave it out thinkingthat the hiring manager will assume that you are great. If communication is your superpower, shout about it.

Definitely consider sprinkling into your career stories in the work experience section. So many projects that you will have taken on will include moments where communication was central to achieving the desired result. If there are one or two examples across your work experience where it was your intervention that made a difference, consider mentioning it in the resume. You will hopefully have the opportunity of an interview where you can explore it in more detail.

Add some of the deeper communication skills into the skills section. While the skills section should mostly contain hard and technical skills, there are certain roles where the softer communication skills should absolutely feature here too. Maybe you are a well-known public speaker or conference panelist? Maybe your writing is featured regularly in industry press? You may be an executive coach in your spare time. All of these examples would merit inclusion in the skills section as your communication skills rise over and above what is required for the day job.

Use effective action verbs to add an extra dimension to the context of the communication and make sure that you quantify the outcome of the communication wherever possible. Effective communication should always be measured.

Sometimes, it is enough to select achievements that obviously require proficient communication skills. The ability to present at a conference of 5,000 people is impressive. Equally, negotiating a $15m deal is not for the amateurs. As with most CV skills, the best way to describe them is to showcase them.

Key takeaways

  • Communication skills are critical in most careers, so explicitly sharing them on a resume will help to frame the subsequent interview conversations.
  • Use examples of where your communication skills have led to breakthrough change and try to include a mix of verbal, non-verbal, written and visual communication.
  • Effective resume communication skills are like rocket fuel for your career.
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