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Interview questions about communication skills

Use these interview questions about communication skills to find out how candidates present their ideas, interact with customers, and work together with a team.

Why you should ask candidates about communication skills

Clear communication is key to a healthy and productive working atmosphere. The benefits are manifold. Just think how…

  • a well-worded email can help to avoid much discussion back and forth;
  • a well-written set of regulations makes sure that the whole staff understands a company’s values and policies;
  • informative, captivating presentations help team members understand problems and solutions.

Whatever their role, employees interact with their colleagues, supervisors, customers, and external partners on a daily basis. Good communication skills are thus an important attribute for candidates to have and should be probed right from the interview stage. In addition…

  • employees sometimes have to make difficult decisions and lead protracted discussions;
  • sales staff have to strike a friendly and empathetic tone, even when they are talking to unhappy customers;
  • social media officers have to represent their company when they address subscribers online.

Interviews allow you to assess how candidates communicate. They also help you find out how candidates work together in teams and whether they have clearly understood a message.

Here are a handful of interview questions designed to help you spot good communicators.

Combine these interview questions with those on presentation skills and social skills.

Sample interview questions about communication skills

  • Do you prefer communicating via email, over the phone, or face to face? Why is that?
  • What team communication tools have you used? What was your experience with them?
  • How do you overcome challenges in communicating with your team?
  • If you presented an idea or a project to a group who seemed unimpressed or bored, how would you make them pay more attention?
  • How would you respond to a negative online review of your company?
  • Have you ever worked with someone with whom it was hard to communicate? If so, why was that and how did you handle the problem?
  • How would you respond if your supervisor gave you unclear information about a task?
  • If you wanted to tell your team or your stakeholders about the quarterly results, would you do this by email in a detailed report or present them face to face? Why? How would you make sure that your message is received loud and clear?
  • How would you reply to a potential customer who claims that your competitors are offering better prices?
  • Have you ever spoken to an angry customer? If so, how did you deal with the situation?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to break bad news to your team or had a difficult conversation with a colleague.
  • If we were to offer you the job, how would you introduce yourself to your new colleagues? How would you get to know the new members of your team?

How to assess candidates’ communication skills

  • A candidate’s cover letter speaks volumes in terms of their written communication skills, especially if the position requires being able to express themselves in another language. Look at how the candidates write. Simple, clear sentences without any spelling or grammatical errors are a sign of good communication skills and the ability to proofread.
  • Communication skills cannot be conjured up out of nowhere. During interviews, therefore, you should pay particular attention to how candidates are expressing themselves. Whether applicants can keep a conversation going and listen well is also important.
  • Vague questions like “How good are your communication skills?” or “Do you like communicating?” are to be avoided. Instead, ask for specific examples that highlight candidates’ ability to communicate.
  • If the position requires interacting with customers, consider whether you want to incorporate a role play into your interview, allowing you to test the candidate’s skills for yourself.
  • To test written communication skills, use tasks that might arise on any given day at work. For example, you could ask candidates to draft emails for two or three different scenarios.

Warning signs

  • Applicants are impolite or arrogant. Impolite comments, persistent interruptions, and a self-righteous manner are totally out of line. People like this could have problems working with their colleagues.
  • Applicants have poor presentation skills. If you notice that candidates are having difficulties talking about topics that they are likely to have prepared in advance (e.g. past jobs), this may well also be the case for more complicated subjects.
  • Applicants’ body language suggests they are uncomfortable. Being nervous in an interview is completely normal. However, if candidates are unable to maintain eye contact or seem ill at ease throughout the whole interview, this might indicate difficulties with colleagues and supervisors further down the line.
  • Applicants’ answers are too short or too long. “Yes/no” answers do not leave much scope for conversation. It’s a similar situation with speeches that go on for ever, which can create confusion. Candidates with good communication skills will strike a balance between appreciating your time is valuable and making sure their point is clear.
  • Applicants have no power of persuasion. In addition to stating the facts, good communicators are also able to influence others (e.g. with motivational language, visual aids, or coherent arguments). Instead of hiring someone who merely states the obvious, look for candidates who are creative and convincing, particularly for sales roles.

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