Improving Students’ Employable Skills through Effective Communication
By Sandy Hocker
Without a doubt, social media has become a primary form of non-verbal communication replacing the more traditional non-verbal communication form. While acknowledging that this generation of students primary means of communication is through social media, a major concern among employers today is the lack of non-verbal communication skills of potential job candidates. Non-verbal communication (i.e. eye contact), communicated during face-to-face interaction, is fast becoming a lost art. There is also a lack of verbal interaction in today’s society due to connections being made increasingly through social media rather than in person. Becoming “friends” on Facebook or “following” someone on Instagram and Twitter is fast becoming more common than a verbal introduction and handshake.
Living in the age of electronic communication has changed the way people seek jobs. In the past, job candidates filled out application forms with a pen and submitted the hard copy through the mail or delivered it in person. Employers could screen applicants by simply reviewing their writing abilities and introductions. Today, many companies use an electronic application process. Potential candidates submit applications electronically and employers set up interviews electronically. Job applicants and employers are increasingly using social media as an important part of the job seeking process. To be successful in today’s job market, career counselors will need to help students assess communication skills lost in the process of connecting through social media as they prepare to enter the job market.
Improving Students’ Employability Skills
Social media has affected how people interact in professional situations (i.e., job interviews). Students are used to informal settings where it is easy to “hide” behind a profile page and communicate by posting comments through various forms of social media. Most students use social media more often than necessary because it allows for anonymity in difficult conversations. There is certainly more anxiety involved when they are forced to actually make conversation around professional topics (e.g., employment opportunities) in person. These skills must be developed, maintained, and practiced in order to become polished and ready to use in formal situations such as during job interviews or networking. Networking is an important tool in the corporate world and employers assess for this ability when interviewing job seekers. For this, and other reasons, it is important for career counselors to focus on helping students develop these skills to meet the demand of the 21st century job market.
Employers are looking for job candidates who can conduct themselves professionally in a business setting with clients and colleagues while displaying professional verbal and non-verbal communications skills. Job applicants who demonstrate employability skills will have an edge over those who can text the most words in a given time frame. Unfortunately, students learn more about texting than they do these important tools of effective communication. Career counselors should help students re-learn the use of these skills that are easily lost through too much dependence on social media as primary means of communication, beginning as early as possible-- even while a young student. Listed below are common simple yet important forms of non-verbal communication skills employers still look for in today’s job applicants.
Introduction: A strong introduction that begins with a firm handshake shows that you have confidence and can be assertive in the business world. Remember to take your cues from the interviewer and be responsive by extending your arm and offering a firm handshake following the introduction.
Eye Contact: Eye contact is another important form of non-verbal communication, which is easily lost with increased dependence on social media. It is as simple as looking someone directly in the eyes without staring. This type of body language is an expression of self-confidence and shows that you are interested in what the interviewer has to say.
Posture: Slumping in your chair gives a negative impression and sends the wrong message to the interviewer. Always sit up straight, keep shoulders back and both feet firmly on the floor. Exhibiting correct posture during a job interview lets the potential employer know that you can conduct yourself professionally in a business setting.
Positive First Impressions : Dressing professionally for a job interview gets you noticed. It communicates non-verbally to the employer about the job candidate’s professionalism. When an applicant strives to make a positive first impression by dressing professionally, this lets the employer know that he or she cares about getting the job. In a business setting, a good rule of thumb is to ask what the interviewer is likely to wear. Employers use this as an evaluative tool when making hiring decisions.
These examples of non-verbal communication skills are criteria which employers use to evaluate a job candidate during the interview process. As different forms of social media have emerged as primary sources of communication, it has become easy for these non-verbal skills to become lost, forgotten, or soft. It is important to acknowledge that social media is here to stay. It is also important to acknowledge the effect that social media has had on how students interact with others. When students find themselves in the job market, they must learn to identify the negative impact of social media on communication skills, and correct these before beginning the job search process. By doing this, students will make themselves more employable for the 21st century job market.
Sandy Hocker teaches Career Development and is currently in training to become a Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF). Before pursuing a career as an educator, she worked for nine years in production accounting and was a human resources supervisor for a large corporation. Hiring new employees and working extensively in employee relations has helped her realized the importance of having a quality workforce. She strives to prepare her students for the future and achieve success in the labor market. Her current goal is to complete her training to be a CDF and work in that capacity to help others achieve lifelong career goals. Sandy and her husband have two children who have kept them extremely busy and made them very proud. They are now pursuing careers of their own in the areas of business communications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sherry Montero on Saturday 11/01/2014 at 10:14 PM
Enjoyed your article. And very, very true!
Yvonne Raffini on Sunday 11/02/2014 at 06:23 PM
Enjoyed reading someone with common ground on this concern. When they limit meeting new people or new experiences self-confidence is likely to be lower. After 5 interviews a person I was working with did not get hired. Checking back with employers a key element he was missing they wanted was: enthusiasm. Job seekers with a weak work history can stand out better if they show interest, take a risk and realize knowledge is more powerful with experiences to back it up (volunteer, etc.).
Shavon Jackson on Monday 11/03/2014 at 12:07 PM
Thank you for this great article! You made some interesting and very valid points. We must help our students get back to the basics. Effective communication is definitely a lost art.
Jackie Bean on Wednesday 11/12/2014 at 03:20 PM
This is a great summary of the 'small things' that are actually so important. Seems like common sense but it's true that much of these actions or skills have washed away.
Amy Kenyon on Friday 02/06/2015 at 11:43 PM
I share the same concerns which is why I organized a networking event for our Employment Skills classes. I reviewed the importance of the soft skills you discuss in this article in order to prepare students for the event. About 15 members from the local business community participated and interacted with our students. It was a huge success and even the students admitted it was a very beneficial learning experience for them.