ECU Prof: Communication Skills Can Help Land A Job

Thousands of people in Eastern Carolina are trying to find work. The unemployment rate statewide is 10.4%. A professor in the School of Communication at East Carolina University says people may have a better shot at landing work if they brush up on their communications skills.

Professor Pam Hopkins says communication skills in general seem to be diminishing. She has advice that she thinks everyone can use but thinks it may be particularly useful for people job-hunting.
Eye Contact
Look people in the eye when speaking to them. Ignore any advice that you have heard that tells you to look at the other person's ear or forehead or above their head. Two to three seconds at a time is a comfortable amount of eye contact.
Filler Words
Get rid of the "likes" and "you knows" and "ums." These are just place holders. We use them instead of silence so no one else jumps in and takes control of the conversation. Let there be silence! Don't think out loud.
Hand Shake.
Practice the art of the handshake if you are not used to shaking hands. Grasp the other person's hand, not just the fingers. I usually extend my hand first to men especially to begin the process. As you shake hands, look the other person in the eye. Then state your name and listen as they state theirs. Repeat their name back to them: "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Jones." This helps you remember their name. If you are unsure that you heard their name correctly, ask for clarification. Then use that name in the interview or meeting.
Body Language
Stop fidgeting. Some people just can't sit still. You can practice this as well. Find a comfortable position in a chair and sit. Sit up straight, keep your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap. Don't cross your legs or one might start jiggling which is distracting. You can lean forward slightly to indicate your interest. Don't play with your hair, or jewelry or tie.
Speak Clearly
Do you mumble? Do you articulate clearly? Are you unsure? You can ask a friend or family member, but chances are they are so used to hearing you that they think you speak clearly, or they are too polite to tell you that they have trouble understanding you. Record yourself speaking and listen to yourself. Can you understand every word? If not, try tongue twisters. Saying these out loud will help you begin to help you with your articulation (pronunciation of each speech sound. So you don't say "I am goin to the store…" when what you mean is "I am going to the store." Or you don't refer to a pin as a writing instrument when you mean a pen.) Sometimes, this is just a matter of slowing down and thinking about what you say before you say it.
Talk TO the Person
Talk TO the person interviewing you or to the person with whom you are meeting. Address him/her by name. Always use a title unless directed otherwise. Never presume to use a first name unless invited.
Appearance
Dress professionally for any job interview. You don't dress for an interview the same way you dress to go to a bar or a party. A jacket is the great equalizer for women; it puts you on the same playing field as the men. Nothing strapless or strappy is really appropriate. Sky-high heels can be saved for another occasion. Short, tight, and low-cut are not appropriate either. Remember: just because it's fashionable doesn't mean it's functional. Men: a suit or a jacket and dress pants with a tie are appropriate. Both genders need to look in the mirror and make sure that you are wrinkle and
stain free.
Cell Phones
These need to be turned off during an interview. Never text or even look at your phone when interviewing or during a meeting. Give your full attention to your interviewer. There are other people competing for this job. You want to make the best impression.
Slang/Jargon
Save these for later.
Be Confident
Some people end all sentences as though they are questions. When your voice rises at the end of every sentence, you sound as though you are unsure, and the habit is distracting. Some also add questions and modifiers ("We need to have this report ready by 5 on Friday...don't you agree?" "It's only my opinion, but we need to have this report done by 5 on Friday.")
Listen
This is an overlooked skill. Pay attention to what the other person is saying. Make sure you listen to the question you are being asked. If you don't understand it, ask for clarification. It is fine to ask someone to repeat a question, but you don't want to ask to have every question repeated.
Thank You Notes
Always send a thank you note after an interview. Handwritten is best. Be specific and mention something you learned during the interview or someone you met. Express your appreciation for the time taken to show you the company or take you to lunch, etc.
Be Courteous
Think about the way you treat everyone you come in contact with at the place where you are interviewing. This includes parking attendants, support staff, interns. People talk to each other. The person interviewing you might ask the support staff how you behaved while waiting for your interview.
Be Positive
Aare you a complainer? Do you always have a beef? No one wants to work with someone who is always negative. Smile. Ask people how they are and listen to their reply.


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