Leave Communication Skills Off Job Requirements

We’ve all seen ‘excellent communication skills,’ ‘ability to communicate well,’ or some other trifle about communication in a job description. But that doesn’t mean they belong there.


Should communication skills be a job description requirement?

No. In fact, different job seekers interpret communication skills differently, and some may self-disqualify depending on how they interpret them. Also, interviews and mock projects are better ways to gauge those skills, anyway.


Communication skills are vague, subjective

Communication skills are a vague requirement at best and can mean different things to different job seekers. Including them in the requirements section can cause confusion or even deter job seekers.

For starters, what type of communications are we talking about? There’s a big difference between writing a social media post and an in-depth blog post. And there’s a big difference between writing either of those and responding to customer complaints or requests for proposals. Different kinds of communications require different abilities and experience. And expertise in one area doesn’t necessarily mean expertise in another. 

Also, there’s the whole subjectivity thing. One person’s ‘excellent communication’ may be another person’s ‘word salad.’ With such a vague requirement, job seekers are left to interpret things on their own.


Linguistic diversity is a real thing

All candidates read job requirements through the lens of their own career path, education, and life experiences. Including communication skills as a job requirement opens up a linguistic diversity can of worms.

Linguistic diversity is as real as any other kind. A lot of people may question their communication skills because teachers questioned them during their education. Teachers told them their language was ‘deficient’ because it was different from the teachers’ language. And it stuck with them.

This has nothing to do with how intelligent or competent someone is. Yet many candidates will see ‘excellent communication skills’ and not apply to the job. By asking for that, hiring teams are inadvertently targeting only those job seekers who never had teachers question their ability to communicate. And by targeting those candidates, they’re deterring others.

Also, job seekers may interpret ‘excellent communication skills’ as public speaking chops, which are learned skills. Not everyone feels like a great public speaker, and they may not apply if they interpret it to mean public speaking ability.


You can assess communication skills in interviews, projects

It’s not necessary to include communication skills as a requirement in your job descriptions. Especially when your hiring team has the entire interview process to assess a candidate’s skills. 

In fact, your hiring team will have a much easier time assessing a candidate during the interview and mock-project processes. Only by communicating directly with a candidate, reading their writing samples, and working with them on a mock project can you truly assess their skills. And you can’t do any of that if they never apply to the job in the first place.Another point here is that you only have so much space for copy in a job description. Rather than adding soft skills, it’s better to remove anything that’s unnecessary and focus on the (less vague) hard skills. 


Leave communication skills off the requirements list

Although we see them there plenty, communication skills don’t belong in the requirements section of your job description. They’re vague and subjective. When we include them, linguistic diversity gets swept under the rug. And the interview process is a better place to gauge them, anyway. It’s best to leave them at the door.

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Nora Morikawa
Linguist
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