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Communication skills

Effective communication is about adapting the way that you communicate with others to fit the circumstances and the purpose of the discussion. Communication takes place across a variety of formats, such as speaking in person, online via Zoom/Teams, and in written formats from report writing, through to effectively using social media. Communication skills cover a range of behaviours including the way you build relationships with others, how you present information in a formal presentation through to negotiation skills and influencing.

In an employment context, communication skills are an important foundation for developing positive and constructive working relationships with work colleagues, customers, suppliers and clients, so are often explicitly sought by employers. Communication skills also enable you to demonstrate your other skills and qualities effectively during employer’s recruitment processes, such as during interviews or with online application forms.

Activities where you could develop communication skills

Don’t forget you are developing communication skills through your course and should consider examples in support of these e.g. participation in group work and discussions, delivering a presentation, writing a dissertation or report.

The following activities, which may be undertaken as part of, or alongside, your studies can be further ways to develop your communication skills:

  • PASS Leader Voluntary role facilitating groups of lower year students on specific study related topics and strategies. Some students may have the opportunity to take on co-ordinator roles after a year as a Leader.
  • Peer Mentoring Improve your communication skills by supporting others through their studies and wider university life.
  • University college modules often contain opportunities to collaborate and debate ideas. Use the skills check list on the right hand side of the list of modules.
  • Talks, Workshops and Skills Sessions A variety of sessions are usually offered during the academic year, run by employers or careers consultants. Check CareerConnect for forthcoming events that include a scenario involving practical use of your communication skills.
  • Volunteering Gives you the chance to develop a range of skills while giving something back to the community. Or volunteer for a position of responsibility within your academic department where you will need to communicate with academics and students.
  • Work Experience Develop a range of skills and build up your experience in the workplace while still at university.

How will communication skills be assessed during the recruitment process?

Application form and interview questions

Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test communication skills:

  • Can you give an example of where you have persuaded someone round to your way of thinking?
  • Describe a situation where you communicated technical information to a non- technical audience.
  • What experience have you had of designing and delivering presentations or writing business reports?
  • Give me an example of a situation where you had to manage conflict and reach a satisfactory conclusion.
  • What do you think is the key to effective communication/negotiation/presentation?

If you are unsure how to structure an answer for either application or interview questions, visit the application and interviews section of our website and find out about the CAR (context, action, result) or STAR (situation, task, action, result) models. Our recommendations are based on feedback from employers.

Assessment centres

At an assessment centre you will often be asked to design and deliver a presentation so that your verbal communication skills can be assessed.

Be prepared to answer questions after the presentation. You may also be asked to discuss a case study as a member of a group and negotiate a set of recommendations or represent a particular interest. You could be asked to write a written report as part of this exercise or as an additional activity during the assessment centre. Role-play situations are also common practice to assess communication skills.

Psychometric tests are often used to measure your verbal reasoning skills, increasingly at the start of the application process.