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Effective communication in the workplace
Effective communication in the workplace

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6 Written communication skills for the job-hunting process

This course has focused on developing your communication skills in order for you to be more effective in your work or for any future role that you wish to undertake. So to finish this week, you’ll look at how employers assess your written communication skills during job hunting.

When you apply for a job, there is usually a written application stage, whether that is a CV, application form or some other expression of interest, often with an accompanying cover letter.

A photograph of someone signing a document.
Figure 5 Working on your CV

In each piece of written communication, there are some key considerations:

Presentation: employers can assess your communication skills simply from the way you have presented your application. An application with poor spelling or grammar will usually not progress to the next stage of the recruitment process.

Clarity: make sure that the content of your CV, covering letter or application form is concise, relevant and clear. If an employer can’t assess your application quickly and easily, they are more likely to reject you from the process.

Relevance: try to communicate relevant information to the recruiter. By tailoring your application to each role/organisation, you can demonstrate your understanding of their needs and the particular ways in which you meet them.

In an application form, you may find specific competency-based questions about when and how you have utilised certain skills. The STAR technique, mentioned in Week 4, will help you provide a structure to your answer and ensure that it is clear, concise, coherent and complete. As a quick reminder:

  • The Situation will set the scene, i.e. where and when your example took place.
  • The Task is the problem to be resolved or objective to be achieved.
  • The Action is where the main body of text should be concentrated – what steps did you take to resolve the problem?
  • The Result(s) – what was the desired outcome? Was it achieved? Was there anything that you would do differently?

Activity 6 Practising the STAR technique

Timing: Allow 20 minutes for this activity

Answer the following question using the STAR technique.

Give an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult situation.

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Now compare your answer with the example below:

Situation Last summer I was employed at a local restaurant.
Task My role involved serving customers their food, taking payment and dealing with any problems that arose.
Action On one occasion, a difficult customer started shouting at one of my less experienced colleagues. I joined the conversation to support my colleague and was able to calm the customer down by listening carefully and calmly to her problem (cold food) and offering a range of possible solutions for her to choose from, including reheating the food and offering a free desert.
Result The customer appreciated my calm approach and agreed to have her food reheated. She left the restaurant happy with the result and paid in full for her meal.

Did your answer address each point like the example above?

Could you have developed any areas further?

Did you choose the best and most relevant example you have for dealing with a difficult situation?

Remember: the way you convey your answers will allow recruiters to judge your communication skills from the outset. Proofreading your application is essential. Nobody wants to see poor spelling or grammar or read the wrong company name if you’ve cut and pasted from a previous application!