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20 interview questions to assess candidates' communication skills (with answers)

Evaluate communication skills with online pre-employment testing


There are two key reasons why you should evaluate your candidates’ communication skills: exceptional communication skills can enhance your organization’s productivity, and they can also ensure that your candidates are capable of avoiding costly errors.

When you consider the fact that communication is also critical for saving time, ensuring that team members are working together well, and improving your team’s morale, it’s easy to see why top communication skills are sought after.

With miscommunication costing small organizations a lot each year, are you asking candidates the ideal interview questions to evaluate their communication skills?

Take a look at this blog post to find 20 communication skills interview questions that you can ask your candidates.

Ask candidates these communication interview questions to assess for verbal and written communication skills

There are several different communication styles, so let's take a quick look at these first before we go on to the interview questions.

When it comes to hiring, evaluating a candidate's communication skills is vital. These skills can be broadly categorized into four main styles: verbal, non-verbal, written, and situational.

Each of these plays a unique role in how a candidate conveys and interprets information, which is crucial in the workplace.

Verbal communication

This style involves the spoken word, whether in person, over the phone, or via video calls. It's not just about what is said, but also how it's said. In pre-employment assessments, verbal communication is often evaluated through interviews or role-playing scenarios.

Key aspects to assess include clarity of speech, articulation, tone, and the ability to convey complex ideas so they are easily understood. This style is especially important in roles that require direct interaction with clients or team collaboration.

Non-verbal communication

This style encompasses body language, facial expressions, gestures, and overall demeanor. Non-verbal cues can often tell more than words themselves.

During interviews, evaluators can observe a candidate's non-verbal communication to gauge their confidence, engagement, and responsiveness to situations and conversations. This is crucial in understanding a candidate's overall communication style and how they may fit within a team or in a client-facing role.

Written communication

This style is about the ability to express ideas effectively through writing. In today's digital workplace, where emails, reports, and online messaging are prevalent, written communication skills are indispensable. This is especially true for remote working roles.

Assessments may include tasks such as writing emails, drafting proposals, or creating reports. Attention is paid to grammar, clarity, organization of ideas, and the ability to tailor the message for different audiences. TestGorilla offers both the Communication skills test and the more advanced Communication (Intermediate) test that includes written communication skills evaluation as well as verbal and interpersonal communication skills.

You may also want to consider testing candidates' verbal reasoning skills, to evaluate their abilities to comprehend, analyze, and interpret information from written passages.

Situational and interpersonal communication

This style refers to the ability to adapt communication methods according to the context and audience. It involves understanding the appropriate tone, level of formality, and communication medium suitable for different situations.

In assessments, candidates might face various scenarios requiring different communication approaches, such as handling a conflict, explaining a complex concept to a non-expert, or leading a team meeting. This style tests adaptability, empathy, and emotional intelligence.

Understanding these communication styles and effectively assessing them in candidates can provide valuable insights into their potential fit and performance in a role. Effective communication is key in almost every job, and a comprehensive assessment of communication skills can help ensure a successful hire.

6 verbal communication skills interview questions and answers

Take a look at the following six interview questions to test your candidates’ verbal communication skills. We've provided example answers to give you an idea of what great candidates may say in response to the questions.

1. Can you describe a presentation that you led that went well?

Presentations and how they are delivered can be a valuable indicator of a candidate’s verbal communication skills. The purpose of this question is to help you identify candidates who can show how they’ve used their verbal communication skills to deliver a presentation in the past.

Example answer: Candidates may provide a relevant scenario to show this. For example, maybe they were responsible for leading a presentation that focused on the launch of a new application. Since the presentation was a team effort, when one of the team members was absent, not only did the candidate have to get familiar with the technical aspects of the app quickly, but they also had to explain it to non-technical stakeholders.

They also explained how they got in touch with other software engineers to learn how the UX had been tweaked and adjusted at each milestone and used active listening skills to take note of how these changes would impact end users. During the presentation, they used verbal and active listening communication skills to present the technical side, answer questions, give additional clarifications as needed, and deliver the right responses.

2. Which approaches do you use to build positive relationships with colleagues?

Building positive relationships in the work environment depends on how candidates interact with their team members, and open communication is crucial to any relationship. Are your candidates able to demonstrate how they would build positive relationships using the right communication skills?

Example answer: Good candidates may explain that they believe that empathy, communication, and active listening are essential when building positive relationships with colleagues. Perhaps they try to take note of colleagues’ values by listening carefully to their viewpoints and acknowledging differences in their work styles.

They may also mention that building positive relationships is also about respecting others within the organization. Giving others the chance to contribute their opinions during meetings and asking clarifying questions to fully understand their perspectives on projects is another way to build positive relationships.

3. Describe a moment where you had to resolve a conflict in a work environment. How did you approach it?

How well your candidates mediate to resolve work conflicts says a lot about their communication skills. Top candidates will use their communication skills to resolve workplace disputes. Here, you’d be looking for answers that mention specific strategies such as active listening, and candidates who are able to describe how they would speak to colleagues to come up with a mutually beneficial outcome.

Example answer: Candidates may mention that because conflicts are often about two different opinions about how to tackle a project, they would first try to understand the cause of the conflict. They may suggest they would set up meetings and encourage each party to share their views while using active listening to understand the specific points that each party agrees on and those on which they disagree.

For example, take this scenario. A person responsible for creating lesson plans had added an interactive game as part of a lesson. A temporary substitute teacher, however, felt that the game would not deliver the lesson’s content very well. The candidate used active listening to understand both perspectives and then determined a few solutions to resolve the conflict and achieve the mutual goal.

In the end, they used a combination of each teacher’s planning methods and the lesson was a success.

4. Have you ever had to share an idea that your colleagues did not support? Were you able to convince them of its validity?

Since persuasive communication is essential in the workplace, ask this question to see if your candidates have the right skills to persuade others. Can your candidates provide an example of how they have changed someone’s opinion and achieved positive results in doing so?

Example answer: Perhaps in a previous role a candidate had an idea to launch an inbound recruitment strategy that would potentially help build and maintain a continuous stream of candidates for open positions. The HR team did not support the concept at first, so the candidate presented the strategic benefits of inbound recruitment and explained how it would help the team.

They made sure to understand the concerns of all team members and a few who had mixed views throughout the presentation then became supportive of the idea. This enabled them to launch a successful inbound recruitment strategy.

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5. Can you talk me through a situation where you had to share negative information with a client?

Transparency and tact when sharing negative information are two crucial skills in communication that candidates ideally would have mastered in previous roles. Candidates should show how they combine active listening, honesty, transparency, and tact when handling difficult situations.

Example answer: It’s essential to be honest, open, and tactful when sharing negative information with clients. Candidates may give an example about calling a patient, explaining the situation clearly, listening to the client's concerns, and empathizing with them.

6. Can you give an example of a situation where you demonstrated exceptional verbal communication skills?

Your candidates should know what exceptional verbal communication in the workplace looks like and should be able to give an example of this. Which methods of communication do they choose as their example, and do they mirror the communication methods used in your organization?

Example answer: An example of this could be how in their last position as a marketing project manager, they had to provide feedback to a content writer regarding the consistency of style. To do this, they described the issue verbally via video conferencing software. They were tactful and empathetic, and were able to provide balanced feedback by talking both about the strengths of the article and what the client would like to see more of.

This resulted in better-quality articles from the writer and a happy client.

6 written communication skills interview questions

You can use the following six interview questions and suggested answers to assess your candidates’ written communication skills.

1. How do you make sure that your emails are error-free?

The correct use of grammar is crucial in written communication since it can completely change the meaning of a message. Spelling and typing mistakes can also make a message look unprofessional. Which processes and tools do your candidates use to proofread their written messages?

Example answer: Candidates may talk about how written communication should be clear and deliver critical points successfully, and that they often proofread their emails to ensure they are free of errors.

Part of this involves looking for grammatical errors, so they might mention how they use a proofreading software tool and also check to make sure they haven't missed any critical information or forgotten to attach something.

2. An important event is scheduled for next week. How would you remind others of it, using written communication?

Fact-checking and getting the details right is crucial in written communication, as well as using the right tone. Which processes do candidates use to achieve this, and does their approach align with the ones used in your organization?

Example answer: Candidates might talk about the importance of getting the facts, dates, and duration of the events correct. They might say that they would need to communicate with the event manager or coordinator via email to get the event details in writing, and eventually with other people involved in the organization of the event. This helps them to ensure that they have all the necessary details as a reference point.

Candidates may discuss that it's good to present the key facts using bullet points to break up the text and communicate the event information as clearly as possible.

3. Give me an example of a situation where you needed to handle a customer complaint using written communication. How did you resolve it?

The tone of voice used in written communication is important. Using the right etiquette when communicating with customers is essential and helps you maintain the reputation of your organization. Ask this question to evaluate whether your candidates know how to communicate professionally in writing.

Example answer: Candidates may talk about a time they received a customer complaint and perhaps some negative reviews.

Good candidates may say something like how they responded to each complaint or negative review with a clear, concisely written message apologizing for the poor user experience, explaining what was being done to fix it, and thanking the customer for bringing it to their attention.

4. Which do you prefer: written communication or verbal communication? Why?

Do your candidates recognize that different types of communication methods might lend themselves better to particular circumstances? In response to this question, your candidates should be able to provide examples in which written communication would be ideal and others in which verbal communication is more suitable.

Example answer: Candidates may say how giving general feedback or short instructions verbally is often a good idea, while more complex feedback or tasks are better given in writing.

5. How would you rate your written communication skills? Which communication examples can you give to support your rating?

Ask this question to understand whether your candidates are clear on what counts as top written communication skills and know how to improve workplace communication. You might also choose an alternative version of this question, for example, “How would your manager describe your written communication skills?” to get a potentially more objective viewpoint.

Example answer: Good candidates may give a score out of ten for their communication skills. They should go on to explain a time when they provided written instructions or a step-by-step guide that was useful for other team members.

6. Have you ever received unclear written instructions from a manager or team leader? How did you proceed?

Since communication is essential when solving complex issues, it’s important that your candidates can use the right communication skills to clarify any doubts they may have. Look for candidates who can reach out using good communication skills and who are able to explain the steps they’d take to clarify ambiguous messages.

Example answer: For example, perhaps they once received a client brief that was vague and difficult to decipher. Initially, they attempted to make sense of the brief but realized they needed more information so they didn't get the client’s requirements wrong. 

They then drafted an email asking the client for clarification on the project brief, and once they had the right details they were able to successfully complete the work.

3 non-verbal communication interview questions

Communication as a soft skill involves more than verbal and active listening skills. The three interview questions below will help you assess your candidates’ non-verbal communication skills.

1. How would you help a team member who lacks good verbal communication skills?

Since candidates may need to communicate with a range of team members who have varied levels of communication skills, you can ask this question to assess how well they can engage their colleagues to encourage communication and productivity.

Example answer: Interviewees may discuss their methods to include team members lacking communication skills. They may have an open-door policy, and make sure that team members know they welcome feedback and open communication.

They may also reach out using the employee’s preferred method of communication. For instance, if an employee feels more at ease with written communication, they might use communication tools such as Slack to communicate key messages in written form. Coffee chats and informal meetings may also be encouraged so that everyone feels included.

2. How vital are non-verbal communication skills with colleagues?

Communication skills include non-verbal sub-skills that can affect the interaction process. Evaluating these sub-skills is vital, which is why asking this question is important. Are your candidates aware of how body language and eye contact can affect communication?

Example answer: Candidates may explain how they find non-verbal communication skills like body language essential to gain a deeper understanding of feelings, attitudes, and emotions. They might discuss how awareness of others' body language enables them to respond appropriately.

3. Have you ever had to communicate with a colleague who was not comfortable with verbal communication? Which methods did you use?

Understanding and using a wide range of communication approaches and styles can enhance workplace productivity. Do your candidates know that using a colleague’s preferred communication method is important? Do they understand how it can facilitate the communication process and lead to better outcomes?

Example answer: Candidates might tell you of a scenario where they had to communicate with a team member who preferred written communication and didn’t often speak during meetings. Their approach to this was to try and pick up on non-verbal cues, such as their facial expressions and posture, and check whether they were maintaining eye contact.

They also used the team member’s preferred communication method to interact with them and found that teamwork was much more efficient when ideas were shared via email.

5 situational communication skills interview questions

Take a quick look at the five situational communication skills interview questions below. You can use them in your interview to assess candidates’ flexibility and their communication skills in different situations.

1. If a colleague gave you verbal instructions for a new, unfamiliar task, and you had no written information about it, how would you go about understanding and completing the assignment?

Communication involves asking clarifying questions, which can help your candidates avoid making mistakes. Assess how well your candidates can handle challenging situations with top communication skills using this interview question.

Example answer: Candidates may say that they would ask the right follow-up questions to clarify the order of steps that a task requires, or who to ask for support. They might also mention echoing back the information to the colleague to clarify that they had understood correctly. If they hadn't, they would ask them to repeat the instructions.

2. You’re given a choice between sending an email to a team member and setting up a video call with them to explain that you’ve made a mistake. Which do you choose?

You can use this situational interview question to see if candidates can tackle complex problems using the appropriate communication method. Does their choice match the main communication methods used for similar situations in your organization?

Example answer: This is rather a subjective answer, as there are pros and cons for each method, and it does depend on what communication methods are the norm in your organization. Some people may prefer to use a video call with screen sharing to explain their mistake, while others find it difficult to verbalize their thoughts and think they can do it better by writing them down so they don't forget any important information.

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3. You’re given the task of notifying the department about structural changes to the team. Which steps would you choose to explain these changes?

Are your candidates able to use the right timing and approach when communicating with different teams and departments about significant changes to the organization? Ask this question to determine whether their approach aligns with your company.

Example answer: Top candidates are those who always strive to communicate clearly, give all the details, repeat information as necessary, and make themselves available to answer clarifying questions. So, a good candidate may discuss using a variety of communication channels to get the news across instead of just one.

4. You notice that a team member never reaches out when they don’t understand your message. How do you respond?

Task collaboration is an important part of achieving company targets, which is why candidates sometimes need to be able to work with unresponsive colleagues who might not communicate as readily. 

Can they use the right approach that enhances productivity and makes task completion easy, even with unresponsive team members?

Example answer: Candidates may say how they would be as straightforward as possible with instructions for a task and be clear about what they need. This would involve explaining what’s required in a step-by-step list. They would monitor things by actively reaching out via the employee’s preferred communication method to check in and ask whether they need any assistance or support.

They may also say that they would use scheduled one-on-one time to provide feedback and encourage the team member to ask questions and share any doubts or talk about issues they’d like to resolve.

5. How would you explain a complex issue that requires technical knowledge to a colleague who had just begun work at the company?

Problem-solving skills and communication go hand in hand. Can your candidates address complex problems successfully? Are they capable of breaking them down into bite-sized, understandable parts, and then explaining them to others in layman’s terms?

Example answer: Good candidates know that it’s critically important to understand the problem themselves first. This might involve asking the right questions and communicating with project leaders to learn about the issue, breaking it down into smaller, understandable concepts, and then using the ideal communication methods to explain it.

This might involve using clear written communication (with bullet points or step-by-step instructions), a presentation (that takes the new colleague through each step verbally), or a combination of both (using active listening skills and picking up on non-verbal cues to clarify any doubts they may have).

For what kinds of roles can you use these communication interview questions?

Some roles for which you can use these communication skills interview questions include:

Marketing positions and technical writing roles

Marketing roles, such as those of a marketing director, graphic designer, content writer or copywriter, require an in-depth understanding of client briefs. For this reason, applicants must have superb active listening skills. To write effective blog posts, a writer’s written communication skills must also be excellent.

In this respect, communication interview questions are essential when hiring marketing candidates. These questions are also applicable when you’re about to hire a technical writer in your organization.

Teaching roles

Teachers must have a range of communication sub-skills to deliver precise and graspable lessons and provide parents with student evaluations. They must also use active listening skills to notice which parts of the lesson their students don’t understand, as well as written communication for preparing lesson plans.

For a teaching role, ask your candidates communication interview questions to find out if they have the required skills.

HR positions

HR professionals must communicate back and forth between candidates and stakeholders to hire the right talent for their organization. They require exceptional written communication skills to create contracts for new employees and have excellent verbal communication and active listening skills when rejecting or hiring a candidate.

If you’re hiring an HR professional, evaluate these skills by asking them some of the above communication interview questions.

5 tips when using communication interview questions

To make the most out of your interview process when using communication skills interview questions, we advise you the following:

1. Standardize your interview process.

Standardize your interview process by asking questions in the same order and giving your candidates an equal amount of time to respond. This will ensure you provide all candidates with a fair chance, and limit unconscious bias. Of course, you don't just want to make your interview all about communication questions and overlook other important factors. Our article on 100 interview questions provides you with a wide range of questions in different categories such as behavioral, career development, personality, skills, and general interview questions.

2. Strive to provide the same candidate experience to all candidates.

All your applicants should have the same candidate experience. You should ask them the same set of communication interview questions to keep the interview process fair and facilitate the evaluation process. If you are going to be conducting remote interviews, our article on the subject gives you lots of tips to help the process go smoothly - especially if you've never done a remote interview before.

While we are talking about communication skills, you also need to be aware of the communication you have with your candidates and how it affects the candidate experience. We can answer the questions about mastering candidate communication you may have to ensure you don't lose your best candidates.

3. Assess interview performance and communication skills separately.

Keep in mind that bad interview performance might simply indicate candidates are very nervous, rather than having poor verbal communication skills, and you must make sure you can distinguish between the two. You will need to observe their body language to determine if they understand what good communication requires, and try to help them relax by chatting a bit before the interview begins.

4. Use skills tests before interviewing candidates.

Use skills tests before you use communication skills interview questions to screen candidates. This approach can help you evaluate your candidates, inform the interview process, and provide you with talking points.

As well as using the communication tests we discussed earlier as standalone tests, you could consider giving your candidates a communication competence skills assessment which combines different tests to give a rounded picture of their communication abilities.

5. Offer feedback to unsuccessful candidates.

Following the interview, ensure you use the right approach to rejecting candidates with poor communication skills. Offer feedback on their application, providing an accurate evaluation of their interview and their performance if they ask for it to enhance the candidate experience and avoid negative feedback.

Assess your candidates’ communication skills to hire a productive candidate

Assessing candidates’ communication skills can be a challenge, especially if you’re unsure which interview questions to ask. But the process doesn’t have to be difficult.

You can use the list above for some initial ideas and you’ll soon start thinking of some great communication interview questions to assess your candidates successfully and make the right hiring decision. 

Keep in mind that skills testing (ideally, before the interview) can be a handy way to make interviewing easier. It can help you shortlist the best candidates fast, and avoid spending time interviewing applicants who aren’t qualified for the role you’re looking to fill. 

Assess your candidates with the right communication skills interview questions and make top hires with ease. Sign up for your free TestGorilla plan today or book a free live demo with a member of our team.


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