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Communication Skills: Definition, How To List On A Resume & How To Improve

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Are you struggling with your communication skills? You’re not alone in this.

Many people struggle to communicate effectively with others, but it’s vital for work and one of the main things many companies look for when hiring.

Luckily, getting better at communicating isn’t as challenging as it seems.

Here’s what you should know about communication skills.

What Are Communication Skills?

Communication skills are a wide range of techniques that help you talk with and persuade other people more effectively.

They include things like:

  • Presentation skills
  • Writing skills
  • Active listening
  • Mass communication
  • Interpersonal skills

Which types of communication skills you need depends on your job.

For example, people in customer service roles need excellent interpersonal skills for dealing with angry customers, while researchers need good writing skills to create high-quality reports or studies.

Essentially, anything involving conveying information to other people ultimately falls under communication skills. Similarly, these skills include your ability to understand others.

Most communication skills for work ultimately fall into three categories: communicating with bosses, coworkers, and customers.

How much they value each skill depends on the company style and what work they expect you to do.

Why Are These Skills Important?

Communication skills are one of the most essential parts of any job.

They address your ability to get along with coworkers, how you function under different management styles, and how well you understand directions and assignments.

Communication skills are the foundational element of work itself.

You can’t complete an assignment if you don’t understand it, so your ability to communicate with others is paramount to any position.

Remember, people have various skill levels, so it’s vital to adapt your communications as necessary.

Types of Communication Skills

Here are some of the different types of communication skills you should know.

Interpersonal Communication Skills

Interpersonal communication skills cover feelings, ideas, and information going between two or more people.

This is an overarching category you can fit most other skills into, but it includes things like negotiating skills, assertiveness, problem-solving, and active listening.

The main difference between interpersonal skills and other categories is that interpersonal skills emphasize receiving communications from others and addressing any ideas or information they provide.

Communication is a two-way street, so you should adapt to anyone you’re talking to.

Written Communication Skills

Written communication skills cover all forms of writing you may perform.

Elements of good writing include completeness, clarity, and good composition.

Common types of writing at work include emails, reports, and memos.

Specific jobs often involve writing additional things, such as job descriptions, instruction manuals, or marketing materials.

Many people in America are quite bad at reading and writing, so effective communication requires understanding your audience and simplifying your communication to help them understand it better.

Simplifying often takes practice.

Verbal Communication Skills

Verbal communication skills cover talking to other people, without visual aids or writing to help you out.

This includes one-on-one talks, but also small group discussions, and your ability to ask the right question in meetings.

Many customer service jobs emphasize this, but verbal communication is valuable for nearly any position where you interact with people directly.

Professional Communication Skills

Professional communication skills arguably fit into every other category, so the difference here is in the fine details.

Professional communication can include things like presenting information in meetings, requesting more information or guidance from someone else in the company, and providing feedback to others when talking with them.

Professional communication skills also address topics like how well you can present yourself to others and inspire bosses to trust or promote you.

Soft Communication Skills

Soft communication skills cover specific techniques that help improve your communication with others.

Things like storytelling, humor, and body language fall into this category.

Some people put public speaking skills into this category, but technically, that falls more into the professional communication skills area.

Hard and soft skills are both valuable, so don’t ignore either.

10 Most Common Communication Skills

Here are some of the most common communication skills that employers look for.

They’re also some of the best skills to put on a resume when relevant to a job.

Active Listening

Active listening is the technique of being an engaged participant in a discussion, looking to understand the intent of what people are saying instead of just standing there and taking things at face value.

Active listening also involves subtly encouraging the other person to keep talking so they feel valued and listened to.

How to Develop Active Listening Skills

Face other people when they’re talking.

Avoid interrupting them, and don’t jump to conclusions about what they’re saying.

Ask open-ended questions that let people elaborate on specific details, stay focused on the topics they’re discussing, and pay attention to their body language.

Body Language

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication, and studies suggest it makes up a significant element of all interpersonal talks.

This is particularly true if your body language contradicts anything you’re saying.

Body language covers expressions and things like your pose.

If you’ve ever suffered from Zoom Fatigue, part of that is your brain working harder and trying to pick up on body language.

How to Develop Body Language Skills

Relax your body. Lower your arms and avoid any defensive posturing.

Smile, lean in slightly, make eye contact with others, and try to mirror the other person a little. Don’t fidget with anything, and keep your chin up.

If you’re moving around instead of standing or sitting, try to slow your movements somewhat and travel at a relaxed pace.


Completeness is the act of covering everything you need to say in a discussion, especially when writing.

The idea here is to say everything you need to say while avoiding things you don’t need to bring up.

How to Develop Completeness Skills

Make a mental or physical list of everything you want to cover in a specific communication.

Completeness can include creating an outline when writing or forming a list of specific points or questions to answer.

Check to see if you’ve answered who, when, where, what, why, and how, as relevant to the conversation.

Learning journalistic writing can help with this.


Feedback covers your ability to give information back to someone when they’re talking to you.

Feedback includes body language for making others feel listened to and valued, but also professional criticism or advice when warranted.

Remember, communication goes both ways, so feedback covers consideration for others.

How to Develop Feedback Skills

Take a few moments to stop and think before you give feedback to others. Focus on their behavior, not their identity, and share positive and negative things.

Be as specific as possible when giving feedback. For interpersonal communication, try to have friendly and approachable body language.

Group Talking

Group talking skills cover your ability to discuss things with two or more other people at once.

These skills come into play for things like meetings or collaborating with teammates on a project.

Proper group speaking helps you ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak up, rather than letting one person dominate the conversation.

How to Develop Group Talking Skills

Try to ask questions and bring in people who haven’t talked for a while.

Actively solicit input from different people, and try to tie it to their expertise.

For bigger groups, consider setting an order for people to talk.

Learn how to cut people off gently so they don’t feel upset if you need to interrupt them and bring someone else in.


Negotiating skills cover your ability to make deals with other people.

Negotiating can include elements like trading work to focus on what you’re best at, getting raises or time off, or making deals with customers.

Few things are more effective than negotiating skills for helping you get what you want in your career.

How to Develop Negotiating Skills

There are many ways to improve your negotiating skills.

Learn how to figure out what other people want, figure out your must-haves, and look for ways to present deals well.

Remember, people will almost always accept an offer they see as beneficial for them, but some people take longer to consider their options.

If your company actively negotiates, ask if you can sit in on meetings and listen to see how others negotiate with each other.

The more you see others doing it, the more tricks and techniques you can learn.


Precision is your ability to clearly explain the things you’re communicating.

People shouldn’t have to listen to unnecessary interjections or off-topic material to understand what you want to convey.

There’s a time and a place for small talk, and knowing when to avoid it is essential.

Precision is especially valuable when writing, but applies to all communications at some level.

How to Develop Precision Skills

Try to minimize the amount of time you spend writing.

Don’t call for a half-hour meeting to ask about something that can be an email, and make sure you cover all the relevant points of any topic you’re discussing.

Solicit feedback from others and ask them if they have any questions or feel like you missed something.

Public Speaking

Public speaking is your ability to speak to groups without the same level of interpersonal discussion as a group conversation.

Public speaking covers areas like presenting information in meetings, talking to crowds, and some elements of marketing.

It’s also one of the most common fears, with some estimates putting concerns about it in 75% of the population.

How to Develop Public Speaking Skills

The best way to develop public speaking skills is by taking a class on them, where you’ll have an opportunity to learn the specific skills necessary in a structured educational environment.

These classes are usually available at community colleges and continuing education schools, and many also cover debate and negotiation skills.


Questioning skills mainly cover talking with others and uncovering more information in a conversation.

Good questions help prompt others to address points they may have overlooked and ensure you have a complete understanding of the topic.

How to Develop Questioning Skills

Focus on specific details when asking questions.

In group settings, ask people individually for input, especially if you think they have relevant experience.

Make sure to frame questions in a way that other people can understand.


Humans are hardwired for storytelling. It’s an intrinsic part of our communication strategies, and it’s excellent for helping people understand things at work.

A good story can help concisely explain a complex situation and direct people to think about the primary point of what you’re saying.

How to Develop Storytelling Skills

Practice telling stories in conversations, remembering to be precise in the details. Begin with a simple introduction-conflict-resolution style, then adapt as necessary.

Try practicing and memorizing a few specific stories that showcase your skills so you can rattle them off confidently, rather than trying to figure them out as you talk.

How to List Communication Skills On a Resume and Cover Letter

Here are some ways you can put communication into a skills-based resume.

How to List Communication Skills On a Cover Letter

For cover letters, you can add mentions of communication to relevant sections.

For example, you can discuss talking with team members or customers, or discuss how you wrote reports or gave presentations.

Tailor it to the communication skills you think an employer is looking for.

How to List Communication Skills On a Resume

When deciding what to put on a resume, remember to be concise.

State outright that you have excellent written and verbal communication skills, and mention specific skills from the list above if they’re relevant to the job.

Focus on the core communication skills they care about and don’t list more than three.

Tips for Highlighting Communication Skills in Writing

Here are some ways to highlight your communication skills while writing:

  • Put communication skills at the top of a list of professional skills. They’re important enough that recruiters care about them, and putting them first shows you understand their importance.
  • Show examples of both verbal and written communication skills.
  • Include a summary describing your communication skills.
  • Highlight previous experiences where you successfully communicated, preferably to the company’s benefit.

How to Demonstrate Communication Skills In An Interview

Here are some tips for interviewing well while integrating communication skills into the discussion.

How Do I Say I Have Good Communication Skills?

It’s usually better to demonstrate your skills instead of just saying you have them. You can use humor, tell a story, and otherwise present yourself well to prove it.

The basic principle of communication is that it’s better to show than tell, so keep that in mind during your interview.

Tips for Highlighting Communication Skills

Here are a few quick tips for highlighting your communication skills.

  • Use stories to highlight times you used communication skills. Keep it brief, but have a clear introduction, identify a problem you encountered, and mention how you used communication to resolve it.
  • Practice active listening to make the interviewer feel like you’re paying attention to them. However, don’t be subservient. Most companies like leadership skills, so being confident without being arrogant is usually the right emotion to aim for.
  • Emphasize your strengths in communication. Nobody’s perfect at everything, but things tend to go better if you showcase a communication skill that’s specifically relevant to your job.

Interview Questions Related to Communication Skills That You Might See

Here are some other questions about communication skills that you might hear when you’re in an interview.

What is Your Work Style?

This question helps a company understand how you prefer to work. It’s open-ended, but interviewers are usually looking for answers that relate to how you communicate with bosses or teammates.

In some cases, they may also be fishing for information on what sort of hours you want to work and what you prioritize.

Why Communication Skills Are Relevant to this Question

Communication skills matter here because they help companies understand how you integrate them into your work style.

Good answers will showcase how your skills work with the company’s culture.

For example, in deadline-oriented companies, you can discuss using online calendars to keep others informed of your progress.

What is Your Management Style?

This only applies to managerial positions.

Here, companies want to know how you tend to lead others.

Most businesses are willing to be flexible about this as long as you can produce results, but they’re also looking for risks of culture clash or other impediments to getting the job done.

Why Communication Skills Are Relevant to this Question

Most management is about communication, so explaining how you communicate with subordinates and superiors can provide a good answer here.

Depending on the company, you may also want to emphasize tracking metrics and ways of integrating ideas to reduce costs or otherwise improve results.

How Do You Handle Stress?

Many businesses involve some level of stress.

This can come in the form of intensive work periods, aggressive management styles, physical danger or exhaustion, or emotional impacts from dealing with people.

Companies with stressful environments always want to know how you plan to address this.

Why Communication Skills Are Relevant to this Question

Communication skills are often a key element in handling stress.

In most cases, good responses emphasize your familiarity with identifying stress and trying to turn it into something productive.

You can also mention finding ways to destress before responding to people so it doesn’t hurt your communications.

Tips for Improving Communication Skills

Here are a few more things you can do to improve your communication skills.

Take Classes

Classes are one of the best ways to develop specific communication skills.

They’re particularly good for things like public speaking and negotiation, but classes can also help you improve your writing skills, active listening abilities, and more.

People often struggle with different elements of communication, and classes help mitigate those differences.

Classes are usually available at places like local community colleges or professional skill centers.

Some larger corporations have internal educational systems with high-quality classes.

Try to take classes in person if you can.

While most classes are fine remote, improving your communication skills works better if you’re with other people.

Ask For Feedback

Don’t hesitate to ask for feedback when you’re done communicating with others.

For example, you can ask if everything made sense or if anything was difficult to understand.

Most people are hesitant to provide critiques unless they’re in a position of authority or know you well enough to believe you won’t take it the wrong way.

To mitigate this, try directly addressing it.

Emphasize that you’re trying to provide the best information possible, and you welcome feedback even if other people don’t think their thoughts are very important.

Once they get used to speaking up, they’re far more likely to do so in the future.

Develop A Filter

In many cases, you can improve your communication by thinking before you speak or write something.

Try to figure out if a specific matter is important enough to bring up to others before you discuss it.

Also, work on understanding that there’s a time and place for specific conversations.

If possible, try to figure out what types of communications others prefer.

For example, some people like to research facts and statistics before answering questions.

If you send them the question ahead of time and ask them to have an answer by a specific time, they’re usually able to give a better response.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions people have about communication skills.

What are the best books on communication skills?

Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results by Rob Biesenbach is a great place to begin improving your communication skills.

Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston is a good choice for tougher conversations.

What makes a good communicator?

A good communicator is someone who listens to others, understands the objectives of conversations, and contributes to them in meaningful ways.

Great communicators are excellent at persuasion and dealing with larger groups of people.

Additional Skills to Be Aware Of

Here are some related skills to be aware of for jobs.

Almost anything is technically a communication skill if you’re creative enough when describing it, but these are specific categories that are valuable in both work and personal life.

  • Leadership Skills: Leadership skills focus on your ability to manage others, ensure work gets done, and ultimately help the company profit.
  • Adaptability Skills: Adaptability skills cover your ability to adjust to different situations and deal with unexpected circumstances or problems.
  • Social Skills: Social skills are a broad category that emphasizes your ability to fit in with different groups regardless of your personality, interests, or abilities.
  • Active Listening Skills: Active listening skills can help you improve your interactions with others by understanding more of what they’re trying to communicate. This is a bigger category than the short version described above.
  • Conflict Resolution Skills: Conflict resolution skills will help you solve issues between different groups peacefully.

Wrapping Up

Communication skills cover a broad area of work duties, from understanding assignments to coordinating with coworkers and giving reports.

Each job needs different communication skills, but once you learn how to implement these effectively, you can showcase them on a resume and use them to improve your performance.

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