Job Interview Questions: Communication Skills

What to ask to evaluate a candidate

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Effective communication is a key skill for success in the workplace. With more emphasis on team-based collaboration, it's essential to address communication skills in any job interview you conduct.

Certain questions can help employers assess a candidate’s skills in communication. If possible, conduct a team interview and observe the candidate's interaction within a small group to get a lens on how they might behave if hired.

Communication Questions for Interviewers

Posing scenarios and asking for specific examples are good ideas for any interview. For instance:

  • Why are you participating today in this interview?
  • In past positions, if you attended a weekly staff meeting with your supervisor, how did you ensure the information you received was communicated to your staff and co-workers?
  • Let's pretend information you believe is untrue or confidential has reached you via the grapevine. What actions would you take to resolve the situation if this kind of negative communication got out of control?
  • Give me an example, from your past work experiences, of a time when you were part of a project or team and never knew what was happening with the other action items or participants. How did you handle this situation?
  • Rate your communication skills on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 representing excellent communication skills. Drawing on your past work experiences, give me three examples that demonstrate that the number you selected is accurate.
  • What has surprised you about our interview process so far?
  • Describe the work environment or culture where you experience the most success. What communication style does it use?
  • Describe five things about communication within an organization that must be present for you to work most effectively?
  • How often do you believe it is necessary to withhold information from staff members who report to you? Would you say you do this regularly, not often, or never? Under what circumstances have you limited communication, in your experience?
  • When you've had a boss who failed to adequately communicate with you, how did you handle it?
  • When you enter a new workplace, describe how you go about meeting and developing relationships with new co-workers, supervisors, and staff who report directly to you.

Communication Skills Assessment

Pay attention to how your candidate interacts with people such as the receptionist. This observation is key, in addition to your own observation of the candidate's level of comfort and how they communicate during the interview:

  • How articulate is the candidate?
  • How clearly does the candidate communicate?
  • How easily does the candidate select words to use to answer questions?

Observe non-verbal communication and facial expressions as well:

  • Does the candidate radiate sincerity and energy?

In group interviews:

  • How did the candidate interact with each employee who attended?
  • Was the interaction easy?
  • Did the candidate answer their questions?
  • Did the candidate talk around them? 

Look out for Red Flags

Your team has probably experienced all sorts of dysfunctional behavior and communication styles in candidates. Often the behaviors are red flags for an employer. For example:

  • A male candidate looks at men when responding to questions, or vice versa.
  • A candidate is sincerely liked, communicates effectively, and seems hireable when senior team members are in the room during the interview, but when meeting one-on-one with managers and employees, fails to make eye contact and repeatedly looks at their watch.

Finally, in assessing communication, is the candidate genuinely interested in your company and the open job? Pay attention to nonverbal communication, too, in making a hiring decision.