How to Assess a Job Candidate’s Communication Skills, With Sample Questions

Illustration of two people speaking through tin cans with the string connecting them shaping a lightbulb in the center to represent communication

As a hiring manager, one of the most important traits you are looking for in a job candidate is good communication skills.

Communication is key in the workplace and it’s imperative to have employees who can communicate effectively with their coworkers, customers, and clients.

Determining whether or not someone has strong written or verbal communication skills can be difficult though, especially through the hiring process.

The good news is that with the right strategy and interview questions, there are ways to determine whether or not a job candidate is a good communicator.

Why is communication in the workplace important?

Communication in the workplace is so important because it helps to:

  • Build relationships
  • Resolve conflict
  • Make sure everyone is on the same page
  • Increase productivity

Communication in the workplace may well be the most important skill a candidate can have. After all, we communicate with our coworkers constantly.

How to identify a job candidate’s communication skills

Pay attention to your first impression of their communication skills

When you first meet a potential employee, take note of your first impression.

Do they make eye contact? What’s their body language like? Are they engaging in the conversation? Do they seem like someone who would be easy to communicate with?

First impressions can be telling, so if you have a good feeling about the candidate right off the bat, that’s a good sign.

Ask scenario-based interview questions to see how they communicate

Another way to determine whether or not a candidate is a good communicator is to ask scenario-based questions.

Asking these types of questions will help you to determine how the job applicant would communicate in a real-life situation.

For example, you could ask the candidate what they would do if they had to give a presentation to a group of people who were opposed to their ideas.

Is active listening one of their communication skills?

A big part of effective communication is active listening and understanding what the other person is saying.

During the job interview, do your best to take note of the following:

  • Do they let you take your time while you’re speaking?
  • Do they ask clarifying questions related to something you said or asked?
  • Do they seem focused? Or are they distracted?
  • Do they show engagement through their body language?
  • Do they paraphrase things you’ve said or asked?
  • Do they stay on topic or do they derail the conversation?

Are candidates answers clear and concise?

Finally, if a candidate can answer your questions in a clear and meaningful way that conveys their understanding, that’s a good sign they would be a good communicator.

If their answers are all over the place and they’re having trouble getting their point across, that could be an indication that they wouldn’t communicate well in the workplace.

Sample questions to ask to determine communication skills

  • “What are your preferred methods of communication in the workplace?”
  • “How would you best describe your communication style?”
  • “Tell me about a time when you really had to sell an idea and get buy-in from major stakeholders and how you went about it.” 
  • “What’s an example of a conflict you’ve had in the workplace and how did you resolve it?”
  • “Tell me about a time when you had to communicate something complex to a client or colleague, the challenges you encountered, and how you overcame them.”
  • “Tell me about a time when you had to work with several people or departments on a project and how you managed communication to make sure everyone stayed on the same page.”
  • “What would you do if you noticed that one of your coworkers was struggling with their workload?”

Determining communication skills in job candidates

While it can be difficult to determine whether or not a job candidate has excellent communication skills through the interview process, there are ways to do it.

By paying attention to your first impression of potential candidates, asking scenario-based questions, and taking note of their answers, you should be able to get a pretty good idea of whether or not they would be good communicators in the workplace.

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