Invariably, hiring managers list 'excellent communication skills, verbal and written' as a key requirement for applicants when undertaking a recruitment exercise. No surprises there, but very few candidates see this criteria as a reason not to apply. So how can you, as a candidate, demonstrate that your communication skills are better than the rest? First impressions are important, so please do yourself a favour and proofread your covering letter and resume. There is no point highlighting your 'great eye for detail', if there are grammatical errors and typographical errors in your documents 'selling' yourself. If you cannot get this right, the recruiter or hiring manager can only be left to wonder about what else you may be mistaken. Great news: you have passed the first hurdle and have been asked in for an interview. So, when assessing your communication skills, what is the interviewer looking for?
Are you actually answering the question that was asked of you? Too many times, candidates hear the question they want to answer rather than what was actually asked. A classic example is when the interviewer asks the applicant to provide a real life example of a situation they have been confronted with and how they handled that situation (the logic of such questions being that past behaviour is a good indicator of future behaviour). Sounds simple enough. Unfortunately, more times than not, applicants respond with a hypothetical example. That is, rather than giving a real life example, they will talk in general terms about what they would do rather than what they actually did. Your answer may be well thought out, but unfortunately you haven't answered the question! Is this nit picking? Possibly, but it does raise concerns over a candidate's comprehension, and when you are in competition for a role, you do not want to be raising any concerns. If you are unsure of what the interviewer is actually asking you, you are perfectly entitled to ask them to reconfirm the question to ensure you are on the right track.
Be targeted in your responses
Employers are invariably judging applicants on their ability to provide a relevant amount of detail to answer the question and also on their ability to get to the point. Think of it in these terms: having asked the question, the interviewer's job is to listen, and yours is to talk. If the interviewer finishes his or her job before you finish yours, then you are in trouble. Keep it simple.
Whether English is your first, second or third language, it is essential that the interviewer be comfortable in being able to understand your responses. Sounds simple, but candidates miss out on more jobs more frequently for this reason than any other. Often, the cause of the issue can be the candidate's enthusiasm/excitement to tell their story. So, what can you do? Take a breath and concentrate on speaking slowly and clearly. If you have a good story to tell, make sure the interviewer gets to hear and understand it.