Dear Coach Kwan,
I am very comfortable with my technical and software skills. However, I am quite concerned about my communication skills during the hiring process and after I land a job in the US. Could you please give me some guidance to help me improve my skills in this area?
– An international student striving to build a new career in the US
It is amazing to see that you wanted to improve your communication skills. As an international job candidate, communication approach that works well in our home country may not be considered effective in the American professional setting.
With us today is our guest mentor, Nadia Ibrahim-Taney, M.Ed., MA, Assistant Director of Career Development at the University of Cincinnati Carl H. Lindner College of Business. As a first-generation American, a woman, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Nadia founded her company, Beyond Discovery Coaching, to welcome diverse clients where their needs are heard and respected.
Read below to learn more about the top tips for effective communication in the US hiring process and workplace from Nadia.
Why Communication is Important.
Communication is the cornerstone of getting hired in the US and navigating the American workplace. Without effective communication, team members often go off on their own, become isolated and feel disconnected from the overall mission of the organization and team.
If you don’t take the time to learn how to engage in effective and holistic communication, it will directly impact your ability to get hired in the US and to develop valuable relationships with your manager and teams across the company.
In this article we look at a few key communication areas and tips, tricks and examples to help you get hired and be successful in the US workplace.
Communicating via LinkedIn to Network
When reaching out to folks on LinkedIn or email, you should start the conversation with the common thread that brings both people together. Whether it be a mutual connection or the fact you both people went to the same university program, make sure you underline the reason why the other person should care about you and continue reading/respond.
From there, use direct communication and say a little about yourself, what you’re looking for from them and when you would like it to happen so the other person has a clear expectation of the reason or ask of the connection.
A full version might go like this:
I saw on LinkedIn you went to Suffolk University for education as well!
I graduated in 2011. I see you now work at BU in career services and I am actually looking to move into that space myself. Might you have 15-30 minutes over the next week or so to chat over the phone on how you have been successful in that space?
I really appreciate it and if you are ever around Suffolk’s campus, I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee.
What I like about this approach is the person can decide if
a) they want to help and
b) they choose how they help and
c) puts the pressure of time on for a commitment so you don’t end up going round and round in circles saying yes, we should meet up (and then never do) or yes, I’d love to help (but never does).
It is direct and strategic and has a clear ask.
Reaching Out To HR Recruiters
The recruitment and hiring process for US companies can progress very quickly or drag on for months. It’s important to keep in mind HR recruiters are typically hiring for multiple positions at the same time and are juggling competing priorities making it difficult to return your email quickly or honestly, at all.
Here are a very simple guidelines to emailing HR recruiters:
- Put the name of the position you are emailing about in the subject line to help them organize email better
- Write no more than 4 lines
- Be short, brief, and to the point
- Be specific in what you are asking for
- Offer to chat on the phone
How many times we should follow up?: A Three-Email Rule
It’s appropriate to wait at least a full week before sending a follow up email to an initiative email request.
Culturally, if you don’t hear back from the recruiter within three emails, stop emailing. At that point, the persona has received three communication touch points from you and they’re choosing not to respond – let it be.
You don’t want to come across desperate, too aggressive or annoying in emailing too many times or too close together.
Workplace Communication In Remote/Virtual Teams
When joining a new team, it’s sensible to address the rules, regulations and cultural expectations of effective communication behavior as part of your onboarding. Don’t assume everyone on the team is comfortable with electronic communication or virtual environments.
You need to work with your manager to understand rules and expectations of the team culture such as utilizing cameras in every meeting or favoriting or liking comments to show you read them in virtual chat platforms like Slack or Teams.
If you’re moving into a manager role in a US workplace, it’s important to communicate expectations and procedures with your team to get team members to buy in. If a rule or expectation seems out of step with the culture of the team, this phase gives members an opportunity to speak up and ask questions to the motives of the rules or provide constructive feedback on how the regulation could be improved to address the team’s needs.
Here are three steps to leading and managing communication effectively within a US based team:
- Lay out simple to follow rules, regulations and cultural expectations
- Communicate processes and procedures to all stakeholders
- Endorse proper communications and discourage violations of the rules
Endorsing proper and effective communication encourages those who are successfully navigating the system to keep doing so and conversely, discouraging violations of the rules helps keep team members accountable to effective methodology.
Writing Strong Emails
For professionals entering the US workforce, be intentional and thoughtful with the language and word choice you utilize over email. For example, as opposed to saying “I’m sorry” for not replying fast enough or not having the information at hand, consider saying “thank you for your understanding and flexibility…”.
This slight change in perspective changes the tone of the email away from looking weak, disorganized and overwhelmed and towards a more confident approach. Personally, I have stopped (or at least minimized) using the phrase “I think” and have replaced it with “I believe” as that to me seems a more vested and intentional point of view than thinking on something.
Be sure to have a social opening and closing to all your emails.Just because your approach is formal and strong doesn’t mean you can’t recognize the human element in email such as “I hope you are well” or “no worries on replying today, I know it’s a lovely day out, I hope you get a few minutes in the sun!”.
Having a balanced approach of social recognition, intentional and purpose-driven language and a very clear, concise email structure allows people to understand and connect to your communication more easily from a human perspective and a professional “let’s get stuff done” kind of way.
Make your communication easy and thoughtful for people to navigate and you will likely get better and more timely replies.
- Don’t forget attachments
- Consider business hours
- Reply within 24 hours
- Email is to make people’s lives easier.
- Be brief, clear and intentional with your writing.
Effective American Email Writing: Example #1:
It was wonderful seeing you last week to celebrate John’s promotion! Congrats again John.
Please take just a few minutes and provide your input on the timing of summer BDC meetings. If possible, please complete this by Thursday, 4/29 at 6 pm so we can reserve the dates on folk’s calendars to ensure everyone can participate.
Thanks all, look forward to seeing you on Friday!
Effective American Email Writing: Example #2:
I hope you’ve been keeping well this quarter. Get to any baseball games yet? I went to Opening Day and it snowed! Just my luck!
I’m writing to ask if you would be willing to jump on a quick Teams call and catch up on the Red project? I have a few questions about production from the client. Would you have time next Tuesday anytime from 12-4pm?
Let me know a time that works for you and I’ll send through a Teams Link on Outlook.
Look forward to catching up!
Don’t let poor or ineffective communication hold you back from getting your dream job. The more you practice the tips, tricks and examples we outlined today to effective communication (writing or verbal) the easier and more natural it will feel over time.
Communication is part of your professional brand. The hiring process starts as early as your networking or submission of your online application so make sure you exemplify stellar professional communication throughout the entire process, not just once you get the interview.
About the Writer:
Hi! My name is Nadia Ibrahim-Taney and I help people design happy and fulfilling careers through authentic career coaching. My expertise includes career exploration guidance, resume writing, interview prep and LinkedIn profile optimization. My pronouns are She/ Her/ Hers and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I focus on how diverse identities impact and influence folks holistically and professionally. You can connect with me on LinkedIn or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org