Bob Lankard, a business columnist for the Indiana Gazette and former program manager at the state Job Center in Indiana, Penn.,offers common sense advice and innovative tactics to help all levels of job seekers satisfy their employment ambitions.
Oral and writing skills are absolutely essential in a service and knowledge based economy, according to the National Commission on Writing, New York City.
The commission s report estimated that 75 percent of employers take writing into account when hiring or promoting. Poorly written application materials are likely to doom the job seeker s chance of employment.
The Human Resource Management Association in Milwaukee cited good communications skills as the single most important characteristic a potential employee should have. Their 1989 survey of 1000 personnel mangers in the United States found the top two skills for predicting job performance were oral communication and listening ability.
It also found that one-third of American workers do not meet the writing requirements of their positions.
A job seeker needs to think of ways to demonstrate good written and oral communication skills.
I can take dictation if you want. But you don t have to, if you tell me what you want in a letter I can compose the letter for you, said an applicant for a position as secretary at the job center. This statement made the difference to me in making the hiring decision. Could the other secretarial candidates compose a letter? Probably. But the others did not sell their skill. It is important to sell the communication skills you possess.
Job seekers can impress employers with their communication skills at any point in the job search process. They can also damage their job prospects beyond any chance of recovery.
Crucial steps include initial visits or phone calls, cover letters, the resumes and interviews.
A job seeker s first contact with an employer most likely will come when he or she calls a business to ask for an interview or visits the business in search of a company application.
A job seeker who plans his or her initial contact with an office and uses correct grammar increases his or her chance of getting the job. On the other hand the job seeker who takes the initial con tact lightly because they are talking to only a secretary and not the hiring authority is making a mistake.
I can t believe my last phone call from someone who wants to be an interviewer in this office. He used poor grammar and every other word was uh. This was a report I received from one job center employee who took a call from someone I was to interview as a prospective employee.
A cover letter can also demonstrate the ability to communicate. The cover letter should be typed neatly using care in sentence structure, spelling and punctuation. Use good grade of letter-size white bond paper. Be sure to follow the three C s in your application letter: Be clear, concise and complete.
One can insure the clarity of a letter by asking several other people to read it and explain its content. If your friends do not tell you what you intended to say you were not clear enough. If you have included all relevant information the letter is complete. To be concise it should not be more than one page.
The same opportunities to get a hit or strike out exist in the job interview. Listen to each question carefully so you know you are responding to the question asked. Make sure you respond with good grammar, avoiding slang and lazy words, such as and, uh, you know and such.
Some ways to demonstrate communication skills in a cover letter, resume or interview include:
Bring a portfolio of some of your writing assignments;
List committees where you are an active member or are secretary;
Mention a speaking responsibility,however minor;and
List any responsibility for dealing with customers over the phone.
Television has changed the styles of modern communication relaxed, informal, crisp, quick and entertaining, wrote Roger Ailes in You Are the Message (Currency, 1989).
Job seekers should state their business concisely without beating around the bush. If television has changed verbal communication, e-mail has done the same to writing. People will no longer read a wordy cover letter or resume.