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 $420,000 each year, are you asking candidates the ideal interview questions to evaluate their communication skills?
Ask candidates these communication interview questions to assess for verbal and written communication skills
If you need a few ideas, you’re at the right place!
Take a look at this blog post to find 20 communication interview questions that you can ask your candidates.
6 verbal communication interview questions
Take a look at the following six interview questions to test your candidates’ verbal communication skills.
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.
On one occasion, I was responsible for leading a presentation that focused on the launch of a new application. Since the presentation was a team effort, when one of my team members was absent, not only did I have to get familiar with the technical aspects of the app quickly, but I had to explain it to our non-technical stakeholders.
I got in touch with other software engineers to learn how the UX had been tweaked and adjusted at each milestone. I used my active listening skills to take note of how these changes would impact end users. During the presentation, I 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?
I believe that empathy, communication, and active listening are essential when building positive relationships with colleagues. I try to take note of my colleagues’ values by listening carefully to their viewpoints and acknowledging differences in our work styles.
For me, 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 clear communication strategies to resolve 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.
Because conflicts are often about two different opinions about how to tackle a project, I would start by trying to understand the cause of the conflict. I 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.
In one situation, the person responsible for creating lesson plans had added an interactive game as part of the lesson. A temporary substitute, however, felt that the game would not deliver the lesson’s content very well, so I used active listening to understand both perspectives. I then determined a few solutions to resolve the conflict and achieve the mutual goal.
In the end, we 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?
In a previous role, I had an idea to launch an inbound recruitment strategy that would potentially help us build and maintain a continuous stream of candidates for open positions. Our HR team did not support the concept at first, so I presented the strategic benefits of inbound recruitment and explained how it would help our team.
In the presentation, I made sure to understand the concerns of all team members and a few who had mixed views throughout the presentation became supportive of the idea. I also used clear verbal communication to explain the benefits of inbound recruitment.
Five months later, we had launched a successful inbound recruitment strategy and were beginning to see the results. We had filled three open positions much faster than usual.
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.
For me, it’s essential to be honest and open when sharing negative information with clients. On one occasion, I had to explain to a medical patient that we wouldn’t proceed with treatment for two weeks due to a long waiting list. I began by calling the patient and explaining the situation clearly.
I listened to the patient’s concerns using active listening and, after acknowledging and empathizing with their concerns, explained that if there were any cancellations, their appointment would be brought forward. I followed this up with a written letter to confirm the date of the appointment.
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?
In my last position as a marketing project manager, I had to provide feedback to a content writer regarding the consistency of style. To do this, I described the issue verbally via video conferencing software. I used tact and empathy, and strived to provide balanced feedback.
For instance, I noted the positive elements of the article they had written, such as the strength of the title, and explained which elements the client would like to see more of. The future articles provided by the content writer were better in quality and our client was happy with the result.
6 written communication interview questions
You can use the following six interview questions 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?
Since written communication should be clear and deliver critical points successfully, I often proofread my emails to ensure they are free of errors. Part of this involves looking for grammatical errors, for which I use a proofreading software tool, and part of this involves re-reading the emails to ensure that no details are missing.
When I use a proofreading tool, I always make sure the suggestions are grammatically correct in the context of the email. And when I re-read my emails, I follow the same procedure each time, ensuring the subject header is complete, that the attachment isn’t missing, and that all details are clear and understandable.
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?
For me, what’s crucial with reminders is getting the facts, dates, and duration of the events correct. Even though a simple group email might suffice, behind the scenes, I 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 would help me ensure that I have all the necessary details as a reference point.
I would then choose an appropriate email header and convey the information succinctly and clearly since longer emails are less likely to be read carefully. I would present the key facts using bullet points and colons 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.
One of our language learning apps had a bug that needed fixing, and our engineers failed to pick up on it. We received a complaint that the app closed unexpectedly when users wanted to record their voice to practice their pronunciation.
We received a few negative reviews, and I responded to each one with a clear, concisely written message. I first apologized for the poor user experience. I explained that we were in the process of fixing the bug responsible for the error. I also thanked each user for bringing the error to our 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.
In my opinion, different circumstances require different types of communication. If you need to give someone instant feedback on a project, verbal communication in a meeting format would be my go-to communication method. If I had to explain a complex issue with a number of problems, I would break down the information in a written document or email.
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.
I believe my written communication skills are effective—perhaps nine out of ten. For example, on one occasion, I had to provide written instructions for a team member on structuring a “How to…” article. I put together a style guide using precise step-by-step requirements for this type of article.
I divided the style guide into various sub-sections so that it was easy to navigate and used links to example articles that helped illustrate our requirements. I went a step further and included written examples of what our content writers should avoid, and also provided a few good examples of what they should aim for.
Finally, I formatted the style guide and included bullet points and bold font to emphasize which sections our content writers should pay attention to.
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.
In my previous position, I received a client brief that was vague and difficult to decipher. Initially, I attempted to make sense of the brief using problem-solving skills. But I realized that it was challenging to make sense of the brief without more information, and that I might get the client’s requirements wrong.
I decided to take action and drafted an email asking for clarification on the project brief. I made a point to clearly explain the information I required to begin the project. Within 10 minutes, the client had responded with the necessary details, and I was able to complete the project with little difficulty.
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.
As an engineering manager, I use three essential methods to include team members who lack good communication skills. First, I communicate with all team members that I have an open-door policy. I explain to all team members that I welcome feedback and open communication.
Second, I reach out using the employee’s preferred method of communication. For instance, if an employee feels more at ease with written communication, I would use communication tools such as Slack to communicate key messages in written form.
Third, I encourage employees to take part in coffee chats or informal meetings to create an environment where they would be comfortable communicating with other team members. When doing this, however, I always make sure that everyone feels invited and 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?
For me, non-verbal communication skills are essential when communicating with colleagues. Not only do they give me a shared understanding of their feelings, emotions, and attitudes, but they also help me respond appropriately when solving problems in the workplace.
For instance, I believe that body language is essential. In the past, I realized that a colleague was slouching and not making eye contact during a presentation I was making, so I changed tactics and gave my team members the chance to interject and ask questions. This increased the level of interest and helped me convey my information more clearly. Most importantly, it also helped him become more involved, and he provided invaluable feedback.
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?
In one situation, I had to communicate with a team member who preferred written communication and didn’t often speak during meetings. My 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.
I also decided to use the team member’s preferred communication method and found that teamwork was much more efficient when we shared ideas 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.
For me, communication doesn’t only involve speaking. So, although I would approach this challenge by asking the right follow-up questions to clarify the order of steps that a task requires or the team members I would need to ask for support, I would also have to use active listening skills to understand the instructions.
What’s also vital in situations like these is to clarify all details. I would echo back the information my colleague provided me and ask whether I had understood them correctly. If not, I would ask them to repeat their instructions. I’d begin working on the task only once I made sure to fully understand 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?
I would personally choose to arrange a video call, in this case, to communicate that I had made an error. Video calls let you share your screen and provide examples of your mistakes. They also help you use non-verbal communication skills to convey your reactions to the advice you receive from team members.
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. 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.
Since managing structural changes well is critical to a team’s success, I’d communicate this using a variety of communication channels. So, in addition to emails, I would use a video call and the appropriate communication tools for each department to communicate the changes and how they would affect the team. A video call would help me make sure I’m able to answer everyone’s questions and provide additional information as needed. I’d follow up with a written reminder explaining how the changes would affect the team. Choosing the right moment to communicate is also critical, so I’d assess the team’s schedule to pick the best time to schedule the call and subsequent reminders.
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 should 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?
I would begin by being as straightforward as possible with my instructions for a task and be clear about what I need. This would involve explaining what’s required in a step-by-step list. I would then actively reach out via the employee’s preferred communication method to check in and ask whether they need any assistance or support.
As a manager, I also know how important it is to arrange one-on-one sessions to offer feedback to employees and answer questions they might have. So, I’d use the scheduled time to provide feedback and encourage them 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 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?
To explain a complex issue, I think it’s critically important first to understand it myself. 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 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 writers’ 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 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.
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.
3. Assess interview performance and communication skills separately.
Keep in mind that bad interview performance might simply indicate candidates are very nervous, rather than have poor verbal communication skills, and 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.
4. Use skills tests before interviewing candidates.
Use skills tests before you use communication interview questions to screen candidates. This approach can help you evaluate your candidates, inform the interview process, and provide you with talking points.
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 interview questions and make top hires with ease!