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Top 7 Communication Strategies for Your Job Search
By Bill Lampton, Ph.D.
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Officials in a Florida city advertised job openings for thirty-five firefighters. Amazingly, 1,500 unemployed people lined up outside the interviewer's office, with many of them sleeping in the street overnight to preserve their places.
Let's face it--competition for almost every job is tough now, and competition for the best jobs has become almost overwhelming.
To succeed in your job search, you will need seven vital communication strategies.
- Talk Positively to Yourself
You might be thinking, “That’s crazy. I don’t talk to myself.” But you do. I’ll bet you have muttered to yourself comments like these:
“Lost my glasses again. Man, am I scatterbrained.”
“No need for me to try out for the team. I’ve got no athletic ability.”
“I’m so sloppy. That’s why my office looks this disorganized.”
During a job search, you need to change the tone of your self-talk considerably. In fact, you should say many affirmative things to yourself before you go to your first job interview. Try affirmations like these:
“My suit might not be new, but it’s still in style and looks very professional.”
“I meet people well, so this interview will give me a chance to shine.”
“Other candidates for this position might have more credentials on paper, yet none of them can match my work ethic, which makes me the ideal choice.”
- Sharpen Your Speaking Skills
When you interview for upper level jobs, you can expect to do more than talk with one or two individuals in an interview setting. Chances are good that you will also speak to a group, made up of the officials you would be working with very closely. Search committee heads arrange these group interviews frequently, so you will be wise to get ready for them.
Let’s face it—we choose presidents, corporate CEOs, coaches, and other leaders because they can stand before a group and share their ideas with poise, power, and persuasive ability.
To upgrade your speaking, hire a communication coach, enroll in a local college's speech class, participate in Toastmasters, and watch powerful speakers in action to determine why audiences love to hear them.
- Become a Keen Listener
Assume that you are interviewing a candidate for a job. Suppose the candidate didn’t get your name right, or the name of your executive assistant. Imagine that although the candidate seems intelligent and articulate, he seems to misunderstand key points you are trying to make. Occasionally he asks you to repeat a question. Once while you were talking, he was looking out the window, as though he had lost interest. He looks like he prefers not to be here.
As a supervisor, would you hire this person? No, you wouldn’t. You recognize that top-notch team members are keen listeners.
Almost everyone who meets former President Bill Clinton gives the same report. They describe Clinton as one of the finest listeners they ever met. He welcomes everything you say. He asks questions, inviting you to talk longer. He nods in agreement. He doesn’t interrupt you. He seems far more interested in what you have to say than in taking over the conversation himself.
Interviewers respond very positively to good listeners, sensing they will become solid team players, open to other people’s ideas.
Rate your listening skills. In a typical business conversation, what percentage of the time are you truly listening? Do you let people have their say without interrupting them? Do you give nonverbal listening signals, such as nodding in agreement and maintaining eye contact?
- Maintain Maximum Motivation
I’ll admit that’s not easy for an unemployed person. Appointments get canceled, advertised jobs are filled before you apply, and you keep finishing among the top four finalists—which doesn’t do you any good at the bank or grocery store.
Realize first that maintaining your motivation is strictly up to you. Your family, friends, and professional contacts can’t do that for you. Don’t wait on others to inspire you. In addition to altering your self talk--which we mentioned at the outset-- take these steps:
Affiliate with a positive group. Avoid hanging around with job seekers who complain constantly that “there’s nothing out there for any of us.” Join civic, humanitarian, or religious groups centered on hope.
Study the lives of highly successful people, particularly those who faced severe hardships. For me, Christopher Reeve endured his paralysis with grace, humor, and optimism, though his condition warranted scant opportunity for healing. How remarkable that he could say, “I have my down days, but haven’t been incapacitated by them.”
Of course, the role models you select don’t have to be famous. Unheralded heroes surround us, volunteering in hospitals, delivering meals to shut-ins, and tutoring underprivileged children.
Memorize inspiring sayings, even short poems. Repeat them while you are exercising or as you start your day.
Spend time reveling in the marvels of nature. Breathe the fresh air deeply, with appreciation for your lung capacity. Step outside at night to see the stars on a clear evening.
Maintain your motivation, and you’ll become far more winsome than job applicants who display long faces and sagging outlooks. They look like losers, and who wants to add a loser to the payroll?
- Simulate Interviews, Tape Them, and Critique Them
The camera doesn’t lie. The camera tells us when we frown too much, lose eye contact, get defensive when a question makes us uncomfortable, repeat nervous mannerisms and gestures until they become distracting, use a monotone pitch, and ramble from the point under discussion.
On the positive side, the camera tells us when we establish obvious rapport, demonstrate a commanding presence, look confident, talk proudly about our professional accomplishments, and smile regularly.
Be sure to arrange at least one simulated interview, with a person qualified to role play, and then enlist a professional qualified to help you critique your performance, offering suggestions for creating a more convincing presence.
- Network Creatively and Constantly
Networking could easily become your most powerful communication tool during your search. Why is networking so valuable? Because you can capitalize on the credibility others have created with decision makers.
Are you afraid to ask business leaders to refer you actively or be available to give an endorsement by phone? That’s not a realistic fear, because prominent citizens feel complimented by your request.
Really, networking may be the most enjoyable part of the job search, because you get to talk with outstanding achievers, and usually you sense they are genuinely interested in referring you.
Get appointments with high achievers, talk with them about your employment goals, and invite them to refer you, write testimonials, and advise you about your search.
- Learn How to Adapt Your Communication Style
Jane goes in for an initial interview with Marvin. Jane is the effervescent type, always upbeat, bubbly, and extroverted. She intends to win Marvin over with her witty comments. Unfortunately, Marvin prefers a communication style that is much more subdued. He is detail oriented, interest in financial reports and budgets. He considers small talk a waste of time. When Jane begins the conversation by telling him what fun she and her friends had on the weekend, Marvin wonders why she didn’t get to the point of the interview right away.
Situations like that happen all too often. Highly qualified candidates like Jane are unaware of the barriers they create by using a style that not only won’t work but backfires.
Fortunately, learning your preferred style, learning how to identify communication styles quite different from your own, and learning how to adapt your style and establish productive rapport is neither complicated nor expensive. Ask your professional colleagues who they recommend to administer DISC or the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument. Once you complete the process, you will relate far more effectively with potential employers whose style might even clash with yours.
Bill Lampton, Ph.D.--author of The Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication, Change Your Life!--has spoken, directed seminars, and provided communication coaching for Gillette, Ritz-Carlton Cancun, British Columbia Legal Management System, and other leading clients. Visit his Web site to sign up for his complimentary newsletter: http://www.championshipcommunication.com
Article Submitted On: February 23, 2009