Behavioral Interview Questions About Communication
How would you rate your communication skills? Do you communicate better verbally or in writing? Are you able to paint a picture of an idea or concept, and can you convince other people to go along with a proposal for a project or a new initiative? These are qualities hiring managers are interested in and will seek to understand during an interview.
This article will help you get ready for behavioral questions that address your communication skills which include your verbal, written, non-verbal (i.e., body language and expressions), and visual communication techniques. Knowing how to correctly respond to this type of question will help you demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively and convince the interviewer you are the right candidate for the job.
Questions about your communication skills are a specific type of behavioral question. Behavioral questions explore how you reacted to situations in your past positions and indicate what you will do when faced with similar challenges in the future. You can identify behavioral questions when the interviewer starts the question with something like, “Tell me about a time …”
Questions About Your Ability to Communicate Effectively
The best way hiring managers can learn about your ability to communicate is to ask questions about your previous experiences, using behavioral questions. Behavioral questions require you to create a story and relate it in an organized and clear fashion. Interviewers will note the words you use, your sentence structure, facial expressions and gestures, and how well you create an image in their mind of the story you are relating.
An interviewer may also ask you to answer a question in writing to help them understand your written communication skills. Some interviewers will even ask for samples of reports, presentations, or visuals you created in your previous jobs.
How to Answer Communication-Related Behavioral Questions
The best way to respond to a behavioral question is to frame your answer using the STAR format. This enables you to create a story that helps the interviewer get a clear picture of your communication skills and your ability to paint a picture of an idea, concept, or behavior in their mind.
The STAR Format uses the following framework:
Situation – Briefly describe a situation related to the question. Make sure the situation you use is related to a communication issue.
Task – Summarize the task or goal you needed to achieve. Describe how communicating better helped resolve an issue or accomplish an objective.
Action – Talk about the actions you took to accomplish the goal. These should focus on the steps you took to improve the communication and the understanding between the parties involved.
Results – Discuss the results you achieved and the impact they had on the organization. Illustrate how improving the communication contributed to achieving the results or a lesson you learned from the event.
When preparing for an interview, you should anticipate this type of question and have your STAR stories ready. The stories you relate should be relevant to the position for which you are interviewing so they resonate with the hiring manager. Preparing your stories in advance and rehearsing them before the interview will give you confidence. This will also enable you to respond to the interviewer’s questions by providing compelling stories and communicating them clearly and expertly.
Communications-Based Behavioral Questions
Here are some examples of communication-based behavioral questions you can anticipate during an interview, the rationale behind them, and an example of how you can respond to them.
Question: What methods do you use to build rapport with others? Can you give me an example?
Explanation: Building rapport with other people is a critical skill for any job. It requires you to be sensitive to the other person’s communication style and able to use your communication skills to create a positive relationship with them. Employers look for this skill in the people they hire so they will be assured you will be able to get along with your co-workers, management team, partners, and clients.
Example: “I have always been able to build rapport with the people I encounter in a short amount of time. I do this by quickly assessing their communication style and then adapting the way I speak to them to match it. (Situation) An example of this was when I was asked to join an existing team working on a project. (Task) I had to quickly develop relationships with the other team members to effectively collaborate with them. (Action) I took the time to engage in conversations with each of the team members individually to get to know them and convince them I could contribute to the project’s success. (Results) Because I met with each of them individually and adapted my communication style to theirs, I was quickly accepted by the team. I was then able to focus my attention on doing my job and finishing the project.”
Question: Tell me about a time when you were able to break down a complex issue and explain it to a customer.
Explanation: A common challenge in any position is explaining complex issues and ideas to people who may not be as familiar with the topic as you are. This requires strong communication skills and simplifying the issue while communicating the fundamental concepts, features, and benefits. Being able to provide the interviewer with an example of how you’ve done this will demonstrate your communication skills.
Example: “In my previous position, I had to explain how a piece of equipment worked to a purchasing manager who was not familiar with the technology. They would not issue a purchase order unless they were comfortable the product would meet their needs. I started by describing the benefits of the product and the results the customer would achieve once they began using it. I then summarized the features with as little technical jargon as possible. I answered their questions using simple and easy-to-understand language. As a result, the purchasing manager felt they understood the product well enough to complete the transaction.”
Question: Walk me through an example of how you persuaded someone to agree to your suggestions in a business situation.
Explanation: Being able to persuade somebody to agree with your suggestions, ideas, or recommendations will help you succeed in any profession. This applies to people who deal with customers, individuals from other departments, or members of your team. Persuasion is one of the most critical communication skills you can develop.
Example: “I am constantly challenged with being able to persuade others that my ideas or recommendations are the best courses of action. When setting out to do this, I first try to understand the other person’s motivations and what they’re trying to achieve. I then communicate my ideas in the context of how they will benefit the other person or help them achieve their goals. An example of this is when I had to convince one of my colleagues to work over the weekend to complete a project. I explained the project’s importance and how much our boss would appreciate it if we completed it on time. I also noted the company policy that would provide additional time off to compensate for working on a weekend. This convinced them to do the work, and we completed the project as scheduled.”
Question: How would you go about explaining the solution to a complex problem to a client who was already frustrated with the situation?
Explanation:We are often asked to resolve an issue that involves somebody being frustrated, angry, or uncooperative. This takes a special type of communication skill. Not only do you have to convince somebody to agree to an idea or take a course of action to which they may be resistant, but you also need to do it when the other person is not at their finest. The best approach to this situation is remaining calm, having empathy for the other person’s position, and communicating simply and clearly.
Example: “I have found the best way to convince a client about the best solution to a complex problem when they’re frustrated or angry is to first calm them down. I do this by asking questions which will help me understand why they feel the way they do and what needs to be done to correct the situation. I then provide them with recommendations that will resolve the issue to their satisfaction. I do this calmly, using simple language. I periodically ask if they understand my suggestions or have any questions. I complete the conversation by summarizing a planned course of action and getting them to agree to move forward.”
Question: What steps did you take to resolve a situation where there was a communication breakdown between you and a work colleague?
Explanation: Disagreements often occur because of a breakdown in communication rather than a difference of opinion. Recognizing this and taking steps to resolve it is the easiest way to overcome a difficult situation and reach a solution which both parties support. Having a strategy to resolve issues that result from a communication breakdown is a key quality that will differentiate you from other candidates who are interviewing for the same position.
Example: “I often recognize that when a misunderstanding occurs between one of my colleagues and me, it is not so much that we disagree, but rather we are not adequately communicating our position or point of view. The minute I recognize this, I start to ask clarifying questions to clearly understand my colleague’s position. I then reiterate what I understand to be their position and ask for confirmation. This usually leads to more open and clear dialogue between us, resulting in an agreement on how to proceed.”
Additional Communication Questions:
What was the last successful presentation you gave, and why do you think it went so well?
Describe your communication skills, and give me an example to support your description.
What do you think is more important – being a good listener or being a good communicator, and why?
Can you demonstrate how you would explain a complicated technical concept to someone with no technical background?
Have you ever worked for someone who was a poor communicator? How did you overcome this?
What steps would you take if you realized you had misunderstood an important communication from your supervisor?
Which do you prefer – communicating in writing or communicating verbally, and why?
Describe a time when you had to convey some sensitive information to someone you didn’t know well. How did you go about doing this?
How did you react the last time you made a valid argument and you knew your colleagues didn’t agree with you?
How would you rate your communication skills on a scale of 1 to 10? Can you give one example to demonstrate the rating?
The key to nailing your interview – practice, practice, practice.
As with anything, practice makes perfect. The most common ways to practice are with in-person mock interviews or a list of questions. While these options are a great place to start, they can leave a lot to be desired.
Practicing with In-Person Mock Interviews and Question Lists
One way to get valuable interview practice is to set up in-person mock interviews. Unfortunately, they can be somewhat inconvenient. You have to find someone to conduct the mock interview, and schedule a meeting every time you want to practice.
Question lists offer a much more convenient way to practice interviewing. Unfortunately, they do little to recreate actual interview pressure. In a real interview you’ll never know what’s going to be asked and this is exactly what can make interviews so stressful.
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