Communication Skills for the Job-seeker

By Philip Bliss

Phil Bliss

Phil Bliss talks to students about confidence in speaking at a recent Boot Camp event in BBS

Imagine meeting you for the first time. You’re a well-educated and decent sort of person with ambition – but is that how you look and sound? Here’s how you can make sure that it’s you that HR meets – and not your defence reactions to a stressful experience. 

When faced with a nerve-racking situation we generally respond in one of three ways: FIGHT, FLIGHT, or FREEZE.

fightThe FIGHT response provokes a neural charge to go from brain to hands, causing them to tense and even make fists. The same reaction can make the hands fidgety.

It’s amazing that tensions in the hand muscles are frequently mirrored in the vocal chamber. Your hands can make you sound and look tense; the throat may close a little, and the jaw, tongue, lips and face muscles tighten up. All that muscular response massively affects the volume, range, pitch and clarity of your voice. You sound and look different.


The FLIGHT response causes a message to go the feet. As you aren’t going anywhere, the feet and often the leg and buttock muscles, are left in a state of tension which cause the lower abdomen to harden. This prevents the diaphragm from dropping appropriately and from allowing the lungs to inflate fully. The paucity of breath starves your voice of the air flow it needs to function properly and, incidentally, your brain of the oxygen it needs. Ever wondered why your voice and focus is so limited in these situations?

freezeThe FREEZE response is like fast working glue in all your joints. It inhibits breath flow and if you do manage to speak, you sound unlike you.

So to maximise voice and focus:

  •  RELAX THE HANDS by thinking the palms soft and dropping the shoulders.
  • RELEASE THE FEET by keeping relaxed, full contact with the floor and keeping a little space between the toes.
  • KEEP THE JOINTS FROM FREEZING by having the notion that you can at all times catch a ball – there is the possibility of movement even as you remain still.


  • KEEP FROM JUTTING THE CHIN SLIGHLY UP, OR TUCKING IT DOWN, as both majorly impact the voice.
  • PRACTICE until these interventions have become habitual.

Philip Bliss is a communication skills coach with clients in finance, law and education. He regularly guest lectures at Brunel Business School as part of the Business Life programme and in Stockholm School of Economics.

From strength to strength: Brunel Business School

THE Awards

BBS won Times Higher Education Award

Brunel Business School continues to celebrate its success of winning the  Business School of the Year 2013 at the Times Higher Education awards, by looking back at key achievements as well as looking to the future.

Road to Success

Prof Irani with THE Award

Prof Irani with THE Award

Commenting on the road to success, Head of School, Prof. Zahir Irani notes:

“It has been a long journey to this point – but this is wonderful recognition for all the hard work carried out by staff and students. It is a great achievement and I feel proud for us all as winners from amongst a very strong peer group. Through a combination of targeted recruitment, linked with an increasingly strong focus on student employability outcomes Brunel Business School (BBS) has sought to balance growth across all of its programmes. In a rapidly changing HE landscape, I foresaw that the only constant apart from change, was to adhere to quality as far as student enrolments is concerned. Our tariff requirements reflect that. To maintain this, we developed what we believe to be an effective conversion strategy through our experiential Business Boot Camp, where AAB+ applicants are invited to experience Brunel first hand by staying and learning on campus.”

Innovative Student Recruitment

Business Boot Camp has been an innovative way to seek higher applicant conversion rates – so much so that this is being scaled across the University. Professor Amir Sharif, Assistant Head also adds that:

“Another key element has been in revamping admissions and recruitment activity in the last year. This has included the School literally getting on the road to visit a wide number of feeder schools and colleges. Working with colleagues in our excellent marketing team in BBS and centrally in the University, we have taken a wider team-based approach to ensure enrolment success.”

The School has also made great strides in developing its social media strategy to engage students via facebook, blogging, twitter and YouTube.

Employability Agenda

BBS was also shortlisted in the category: Outstanding Employer Engagement of the Year

BBS was also shortlisted in the category: Outstanding Employer Engagement of the Year

Once at BBS, students are encouraged and provided with opportunities to develop their employability skills through the ‘Business Life’ programme. BBS is maturing an approach it started several years ago to embed employability across all of its

programmes. Prof. Irani notes:

“Improving leaver outcomes is really important. In BBS we provide a wealth of employability skills sessions throughout the year. These are provided as part of the degree.”

Indeed employer recognition and input is part of the success behind these initiatives, with a number of companies and chartered bodies being directly involved across the School. Amanda Clay, Head of Brand at Telefonica and a board advisor to BBS notes:

“I have always worked in the private sector and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to help a university shape its programmes so that students can meet the needs of industry. Personally, this allows me to have a meaningful input into the curriculum and relationship with the students.”

Research Efforts

BBS has seen its share of UK research council and EU-funded projects rise dramatically, even in the last few months. Comments Prof. Irani:

“Research is a vital part of our success. To be an internationally-recognised business school, I continue to maintain that you need to have strong research credentials.”

BBS has steadily grown the number of research centres since its inception, with strong representation across all key business fields such as marketing, HR, operations, IS, accounting and international business. Supported by an increasingly heavy-hitting research pedigree, the School is seeking to reap success in its REF 2014 submission as well.

What of the future?

With deep partnerships across countries as varied as Bahrain, India, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Sudan and Turkey to name but a few, the vision of BBS is decidedly going places.

“Business is global. Our students themselves represent a wide selection of countries – and so it follows that we need to prepare students to be global citizens.”, comments Prof. Sharif.

Given all of the above, BBS has also seen a rapid improvement in National Student Survey results over the last two years, a point which Prof. Irani reflects on:

“We have to take our recent success in context. None of these elements can exist in isolation. Everything that we have done and are seeking to do is about maximizing the value that we can add. We have always been and will continue to be committed to developing BBS in order to make sure we can continue to be a business school of choice.”

Brunel Business School Staff Members

“Leading a Business School is all about the people”, Professor Zahir Irani.

PMI-accredited Project Management course is a plan for success

Over the last week, Brunel Business School successfully introduced and ran an accredited Project Management course for a range of undergraduate (level 3) and postgraduate students, as part of its on-going employability initative, Business Life.

Following a rigorous selection procedure, selected students joined the five day course which was facilitated by Dr George Diakonikolaou (Head of Core Technologies, OTE Greece). The course was highly interactive and involved students working in teams as well as individually to explore core project management principles including industry standard methodologies, tools and techniques as well as learning about and applying best practices to challenging project management scenarios.

The programme culminated in students being taken through a series of mock exam questions and model answers in preparation for taking the official Project Management Institute (PMI), “Certified Associate in Project Management” qualification. In addition to this recognised professional qualification, students will also be awarded a certificate for attending 35 hours of Advanced Project Management training. Prof. Vishanth Weerakkody, Director of the Business Life Programme in BBS notes:

“Companies and firms are always looking for business skills and talent. Being able to plan, manage and lead projects is one such vital skill that many organisations now seek ‘out-of-the-box’. Students need project management skills not only for the workplace, but also in support of their studies. I have been impressed by our students dedication, commitment, discipline and enthusiasm to gain project management skills on this course – especially more so because they attended these sessions during their vacation period. I am proud of their efforts these last few days!”