Communication and presentation skills
“Communication goes part and parcel with team working and also relates to the growing importance of the customer. All businesses have customers, whether internal or external, and being able to [communicate with] people is considered to be of vital importance in any job, especially a graduate job.”
-Carl Gilleard, Former Chief Executive, Association of Graduate Recruiters
What do recruiters want?
Recruiters ask for good communication skills can in a variety of ways. The following examples are all taken from genuine job advertisements:
- "Articulate graduates wanted…"
- "We’re looking for someone who can relate to a wide range of people…"
- "You must have clear written English…"
- "You must be able to present complex ideas in an easy to understand manner…"
As you can see from the above, there are different ways of describing communication with colleagues and customers, but generally effective communication can be broken down into three main elements:
- Listening skills – communication is not just about getting your ideas across, it is also about actively listening to other people’s thoughts and taking them on board. People are more likely to listen to you if you've shown them the same courtesy.
- Presentation skills – To communicate effectively in the workplace, you need to be able to present your information clearly. Presentation skills doesn’t just mean knowing how to put a good set of powerpoint slides together, it means engaging and connecting with an audience to get your message across.
- Tailoring information to suit the audience – As well as being able to decide what information is important and how to present it, a good communicator is able to tailor that information to suit their audience. You wouldn't use the same language in an informal meeting with close colleagues as you would to present the same information to a group of external clients, for example.
Gaining communication skills
Below are some examples of how you may already have gained communication skills at the University of Bradford. There may also be some useful suggestions here if you are looking to develop your skills further:
- through academic work
- blogs - write regular articles on a subject you are passionate about
- administration experience through part-time work
How do you prove to a recruiter that you have these skills?
It is not good enough to simply say “I have excellent communication skills” - you have to prove that you have by giving examples of when you have communicated effectively.
One way to make sure you structure your example properly is to use the STAR technique.
- S - Define the Situation
- T - Identify the Task
- A - Describe your Action
- R - Explain the Result
Below is an example of how a question on communication has been answered using the STAR technique:
Define the SITUATION:
When I started university, I joined the Bradford University Theatre Club (BUTC). I really enjoyed it and acted in several productions, as well as learning about directing and the technical side.
Identify the TASK:
In my third year I decided I wanted to stand for the role of Treasurer. There were three of us standing and we each had to do a campaign and then give a speech before one of us would be voted in.
Describe the ACTION you took:
To get the club’s opinion on the sort of things that they thought we should spend our money on - recruitment events, marketing, better equipment etc - I spoke to the other members of the club and sent a short questionnaire round. I then used the feedback I received to formulate my campaign and speech. I made posters communicating my position, and wrote a five minute speech explaining why I wanted the position and what I thought I could bring to the club.
Explain the RESULT:
This preparation and my interactions with the other club members meant that I was in a strong position to represent their interests, and I was voted in with 65% of the ballot.
Describing your experience
Have a go at writing some statements like this which reflect your own experiences from your work, your study and your personal interests. These can then be used in completing competency based application forms, included in a skills CV, or used during interviews. You can add or remove detail as appropriate, depending on the circumstances.
See the related key words, right, to help you develop your statements.
Related key words / skills
- Customer service
- Interpersonal skills
Improving your skills
You may have gained communication skills whilst at university, but if you are looking to sharpen up your skills, for a job interview for example, please see the below for more resources and how we can help you.
Whether you're sending an email, writing a letter, putting an application together or compiling a report, having a good level of written communication is really important in portraying a positive, professional image.
Because emails are such a fast and easy way of contacting people, it is tempting to see them as an informal way of communicating. However, when using email to send your CV to employers or similar, it is important to use the same professional tone throughout your email, covering letter and CV.
How can I improve my written communication skills?
Remind yourself of potential mistakes with this list of commonly misspelled (not mispelled!) words.
If you are a current student at the University of Bradford, you can use the University's Academic Skills Advice service to speak to an adviser about your written communication skills or attend one of their workshops.
Verbal (oral) communication
How you interact with people and present information to them is essential in almost every job role from sales to education to management. What specific verbal communication skills do you have, and how will you evidence these?
- Influencing and negotiation: have you ever tried to change someone's mind about something? If so, what did you do, and more importantly how did you do it? Being able to influence and negotiate effectively are essential in many roles. When evidencing this, try not to use an example which is too complicated. Focus on something simple as this will be much more effective e.g. changing a friends mind about which film to see at the cinema.
- Presentations: delivering an effective presentation relies heavily on your ability to interact with the audience. Think back to the presentations you have made as part of your degree or other work experience. How did they go? What made them successful? If you are nervous about delivering presentations, think about someone you know who is good at them. What makes them effective? Why is it interesting?
How do I improve my verbal communication skills?
Career and Employability Services run a series of employability workshops each term, including sessions on effective interview skills, communication skills and group work.
Participating in group work during your degree and getting involved in social activities such as student societies, sports teams or a musical group can increase your confidence when speaking to others.
Your body language can be very important in how you are judged by others, as people can make assumptions (both conscious and subconscious) about others from the way they stand and sit, how they use their arms when they talk and the amount of eye contact they use.
Although this won't always be the case (and it's good practice for recruiters to avoid such preconceptions), having an awareness of positive body language can potentially help you perform better in interviews, presentations and other occasions where you need to make a good first impression.
Making a good first impression
- A firm handshake is really important - if you're not confident about this, you could practice shaking hands with your friends.
- Maintain appropriate eye contact - this conveys that you are listening, and that you are interested in what you are being told. It also adds a impression of honesty to your answers.
- Don't slouch, and keep both feet on the floor. Keep your hands relaxed and don't fiddle with a pen or your hair.
- Don't gesticulate too much, as this might make you come across as a bit aggressive and can detract attention from what you are saying.