Millennial Branding, a Generation Y research consulting firm, teamed up with entry-level job portal Experience Inc. to survey more than 200 employers, to figure out exactly what they want most in young professionals right now.
The number one coveted skill among Gen-Y applicants is—you guessed it—communication. In other words, communication skills can make or break you. Consider these tips:
1. Speak with an enthusiastic, assertive tone. Are you a low talker? Practice speaking up and out. Muttering under your breath is a sign of low confidence. All of your responses should be clear and self-assured. Keep your chin up.
2. Don't beat around the bush. Give a direct answer when asked any question. If you need a second to think about it, that's OK—but don't dawdle with words like "kind of" or "sort of." Speak directly to show that you're confident and value the interviewer's time.
3. Nix filler words like um, like, and uh. This goes hand-in-hand with No. 2, except these filler words are often involuntary. They just come out when you're nervous or put under the spotlight. The only way to beat a case of the "ums" is to practice, practice, practice. Record yourself and play it back until those non-words are nonexistent.
4. Use the mirroring body language technique. The thing about in-person communication is that your body language counts just as much as what you're actually saying. In fact, 90 percent of our communication is nonverbal, according to Susan Constantine, a body language expert and jury consultant. This is where a communication tactic called "mirroring" comes in. Vickie Austin, founder of the business, executive, and career coaching company CHOICES Worldwide, says that mirroring gestures is a great way to notice how connected someone is in a conversation. Simply put, if you subtly mimic the interviewer's body language, it shows that you're fully present. For instance, "If the person doing the interviewing leans forward, lean forward. If they lean back, do the same," Austin says. But the key here is subtlety. Don't be a copycat.
5. Ask for clarifications. Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you're engaged and committed to the conversation. If you have a single doubt about the interviewer's question, asking for clarification does not take points from you. Fire away.
6. Eye contact is key. Eye contact can communicate confidence, assurance, and understanding, says Kerri Garbis, president of the professional skills development firm Ovation Communication. "It can also tell us when someone is being less than truthful or is uncomfortable in the situation," she says.
7. Offer writing samples and/or blogs to prove communication skills. Most jobs require some type of writing skills—whether it's writing presentations or emailing progress daily. Show your potential employers that you can write clearly by bringing some writing samples or directing them to your blog. Of course, the content should be relevant to your industry.
8. Communicate anything missed in the interview in the follow-up email. If you know that a question fell through the cracks during the interview or that you ran out of time, take a mental note of it. It's not too late to elaborate on the subject in your follow-up thank-you email.
9. Speak in a conversational style, but never interrupt. The best interviews are those that feel like a conversation rather than an interrogation. Try to answer questions like you're telling a story rather than answering point-by-point in the form of a verbal list. Don't get carried away, though—the interviewer is still leading the conversation and you shouldn't feel so comfortable that you interrupt the head honcho.
10. End by mentioning their name. At the end of the interview, it's far more effective to say, "Nice to meet you, [insert name]" rather than a generic, "Nice meeting you." Referencing specific facts like these shows that you're paying attention, which is crucial.
Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, salary information, and a free career happiness assessment.