Look at any job posting or legal resume and there is sure to be something mentioned about having excellent communication skills. Everyone wants it. Every resume says that you have it. What is it? In short, it’s thinking before you speak, being vigilant with your online voice and focusing on listening.

People with good communication skills are often assumed to be more intelligent, more precise, more disciplined and more professional. But what can you point to what shows that you are a good communicator? Exhibit A is your resume. Exhibit B is your cover letter (and writing samples if applicable). All further exhibits are demonstrated every time you open your mouth, send an email, post online, etc.

Employers want to see that you are able to speak and write in a grammatically correct manner. Every communication needs to be spell checked. How you communicate with potential employers is how they expect that you will communicate with your clients. Ideally, you want to demonstrate in your communication with potential employers that you can communicate with the audience in a manner that is appropriate for that audience (that means it’s okay to put a smiley face in your Facebook post, but never okay to put it in an email to a potential employer).

The greatest indicator of good communication skills is being able to selectively decide what information is or is not to be communicated. You show this every time that you write/speak. Answer the questions. Answer appropriately. Then stop. Our profession is all about keeping confidential information confidential. If you let on that you may have trouble with that, you won’t get very far in an interview.

While what you say is important, the other half of communicating is listening. Potential employers want to know that you are a good listener. Unfortunately, this is very difficult to show until you ask a question that demonstrates that you are a subpar listener. Remember what is said to you and use that information to your advantage in the interview.

Being a solid communicator may not get you your next job, but being a lousy communicator may cost you a job. Be careful!