Home / HR Strategies / Conducting an Interview / Assessing Communication Skills in an Interview

Assessing Communication Skills in an Interview

Assessing Communication Skills in an Interview

According to employer reports across the country, communication skills are the most important skills for employees to use on the job. So how do you assess the ability to communicate clearly and effectively when interviewing job candidates?

“Gauging a candidate’s communication skills is something that is measured from the initial contact to the last contact,” says Jessica Meglio, senior recruiter at Turning the Corner, a Denver-based recruiting and career counselling firm.

“How quickly did they respond to the interview request? Did they provide a one-sentence answer or did they use a few sentences to express their interest and availability? These subtle interactions are very telling of how the candidate may communicate on the job.”

Because business runs on communication, here are a few tips for how to use solid communication techniques in an interview to gauge a candidate’s verbal skills.

Compare Real Life to the Cover Letter

Your interactions with the candidate have been fairly minimal to this point, so when you meet them for the first time, take a moment to assess the first impression they make. Are you surprised by how they communicate? Do you feel like you are getting what you expected?

“A person’s ‘voice,’ or way of communicating, should be similar, whether they are writing or speaking,” says April Klimkiewicz, owner of Bliss Evolution, a career counselling agency based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“A big red flag for me is when the voice in the cover letter sounds like a completely different person than the person interviewing for the position.” If everything seems similar, however, that is a good sign.

Observe How They Listen

Communication is never one way; your candidate will need to be a good listener to answer communication interview questions. “Someone who struggles with communicating effectively will just answer whatever they think is being asked, without stopping to consider if they have it right or asking clarifying questions,” says Stephanie Troiano, executive recruiter at HireTalent in Brea, California.

Pay attention—and not just to the content of the answers that candidates provide—to really assess communication skills. You need to ask yourself whether that information actually answers the question you asked.

“A huge part of communication is actually listening, and if you find your candidate suddenly veering off with something irrelevant to the question you asked, that is a red flag,” Troiano says.

Ask Behavioural Questions About Communication

Asking behavioural interview questions lets the candidate to provide examples of what they’ve done in the past. This type of communication interview question provides insight into a person’s communication style, says Jana Tulloch, a human resources professional for DevelopIntelligence, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that provides customised technical learning solutions.

Here are some sample behavioural questions that focus on communication skills:

  • “Tell me about a time when you had to communicate a difficult concept to someone and what challenges you encountered.”
  • “Have you ever had to sell an unpopular idea? If so, what was the idea and how did you go about selling it?”
  • “What was the most significant conflict you had with another employee? How did you resolve it?”
  • “Tell me about a challenging customer that you had to handle. What was their concern and how did you address it?”

Again, listen to both the content of their answer as well as how they communicate that content. Do they tell their story in a clear and logical way, or do they dart off into different directions?

It’s All About Role Playing

Hypothetical scenarios that focus on workplace communication skills shed light on how a candidate might deal with sensitive topics or difficult situations they have to communicate to others, says Joe Campagna, owner of My Virtual HR Director consultants.

As interviewer, create questions around scenarios that could conceivably happen at your company—especially in the role the person is applying for—and then evaluate how the candidate responds.

Campagna gives the example of the question, “Please demonstrate how you would tell a high-profile customer that their project was not going to make a deadline.” Answers that are straightforward and clear show the candidate can communicate information well; an answer that hedges or makes excuses might be an indication that the candidate shies away from difficult discussions.

Use Good Communication Skills to Boost Your Recruitment

Using effective communication can help you get the most out of your recruiting efforts, but there are still more pieces to the puzzle. The good news is that you do not have to find them on your own. At Monster, we put the pieces together and can help to tailor and amplify your efforts to reach the candidates you need. Stay with Monster to find out what we can do for you and how you can post a job for free today.