Successfully pitching a new product idea to your boss or presenting a financial analysis or strategic plan to your company’s management team requires a high level of proficiency across a broad set of communication skills that have never gone out of style—in fact they’re in high demand.
In the words of one US high-tech recruiter, “Communication is KEY. You can have all the financial tools, but if you can’t communicate your point clearly, none of it will matter.”
Our 2014 survey of nearly 600 employers revealed what they want most from new graduate business hires—they want people who can speak well, write well, listen to others, present well, sell ideas to others, and negotiate with others in the course of running a business—in other words, they want communicators, with a capital C.
“Communications, teamwork, and interpersonal skills are critical—everything we do involves working with other people,” observed another US tech sector recruiter.
Communication Skills Set You Apart from the Crowd
When company recruiters see a job candidate with an MBA, PGP degree, or other specialized business degree, they are going to assume you come equipped with the whole package of KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) that your degree implies—core business knowledge, strong analytical, quantitative, and technical skills. So, as you think about your post-degree career, how will you stand out from the competition in the job search OR to secure that promotion?
Of five major skill sets employers consider most important when hiring recent business grads for a mid-level position, communications skills top the list, followed in order by teamwork, technical, leadership, and managerial skills. With the exception of one industry–manufacturing, where leadership skills were in greatest demand—this finding was true across all world regions and employers, regardless of industry or company size.
In order of their importance in the workplace, employers ranked communications skills, on average, twice as important as managerial skills. The sheer value of these skills, and the high level of proficiency demanded in each, is on full display in the graphic below. The top four skills employers seek in new hires are communications-related: oral and listening skills are ranked first and second-highest, followed by written communication, presentation skills, and fifth-ranked adaptability, a teamwork skill.
Communications Skills Part of Package That Signals “Leadership Potential”
Companies are in the business of building their future talent and leadership pipelines; they need managers who possess not just technical skills but the requisite communication and interpersonal skills to be strong, effective leaders. As one European consulting recruiter explained, they need both “soft skills and real world skills.”
“Factors such as ability to project manage, communicate regularly, manage up, proactively take hold of tasks, and synthesize knowledge in a complex, real world environment (not only in a business ‘framework’ environment)—all these make a really big difference.”
Finding ways to develop and improve your communication skills—be they interviewing, listening, writing, or presentation skills—is always a good idea, whether through course work or co-curricular projects such as case competitions. And consider taking advantage of tools available online such as My Access, a subscription-based product available on mba.com that can help you and develop and enhance your written communication skills to get them up to executive level. Remember, how well you communicate and present yourself will set you apart, both in the interview process, and later as you advance in your career.