Communication: verbal, written, telepathic — whatever the style, you’ll need to master communication skills in any job you hold (though that last one is just a prerequisite for superhero positions). If you’ve got an interview coming up for your dream job, you can bet your interviewer is going to dig deep to find out what kind of communicator you are. To help you prepare, here’s a run down of 10 common communication interview questions and answers:
1. How would you describe your communication style?
Be honest, but also make sure your answer jives with the job you’re interviewing for. For example, if you’re applying for a retail position where you’ll be interacting with customers frequently, don’t lead by telling the interview that you’re really shy.
2. How would you avoid a breakdown in communication at the office?
Describe what you would do on a micro level (how you would adjust your day-to-day interactions and communication style to avoid miscommunication) and on a macro level (maybe you’ll bring the communication breakdown to the attention of your boss, and come armed to the meeting with examples of how the communication misfires are negatively affecting the office).
3. Have you had an experience where you felt you hadn’t communicated something effectively?
In your response, describe a situation in which it was clear that you didn’t get your point across the first time, and make sure you go on to describe how you rectified the situation to ensure that you were understood correctly in the end.
4. Do you prefer to communicate through writing or verbally?
Again, keep in mind what kinds of communication the job will require the most. If it’s a writing-based job, it’s totally fine to emphasize how you prefer to get things done through email and Gchat. But be sure to convey that you understand how different situations call for different kinds of communications — sometimes an email just isn’t going to cut it!
5. What would you do if you felt you misunderstood a vital communication on the job?
Hey, it happens. Admit to your interviewer that you’re not too proud to ask for clarification — it will save your department a whole lot of hassle later! A good tactic to ensure you understood an instruction correctly is to parrot back the information you received. If you’re having trouble repeating back what you just heard, ask some questions to clarify the instructions so you can fully digest what’s being asked of you.
6. Describe an experience in which you had to relay bad news or particularly delicate information.
Your interviewer may ask a question like this to see how well you’re able to tailor your communication style to certain tasks — when delivering bad news, for example, your delivery should be much more delicate and sympathetic. Describe how you predicted the response of your recipient to help gauge what kind of communication approach to take.
7. Tell me about an important presentation you’ve had to give. How did you ensure your audience understood all the presented information?
This question gets at your verbal communication skills, and how well you can lay out information to ensure it’s easy to digest. Walk your interviewer through the communication styles you exhibited during the presentation to ensure every member of your audience could follow along — for example, maybe in addition to your verbal presentation you also developed a PowerPoint that more visual learners would appreciate.
8. How do you explain something complicated to someone who has less knowledge about the topic than you?
The key: Don’t be condescending! And as the saying goes, you don’t really understand something yourself until you can explain it in layman’s terms. Your interviewer will want to hear how you practice patience when describing complex or technical topics, and that you avoid or at least break down jargon to make it easier for the person you’re explaining things to to understand.
9. Describe a situation in which you successfully persuaded someone to your point of view.
Persuasion is important in every job, not just sales positions! Being able to persuade someone to back your stance or perform a certain action is a hallmark of a good communicator. In your response, though, make sure you don’t conflate persuasion with coercion — your interviewer will not smile kindly on tales of your blackmailing tactics.
10. Which is more important — being a good listener or being a good communicator?
It’s a trap! Watch out for trick questions like this — in your answer, convey that you consider listening a vital skill of a good communicator. You can’t be one without the other, since good communication is never a one-way street.
What other questions about communication skills and styles have you been asked during interviews? Share your insights with us in the comments below!