In almost all jobs today it is vital to have communication skills and you will almost certainly be asked questions in an interview which are intended to determine just how good you are at communicating.
There is a focus on three main behaviours within the competency Communications:
- Your ability to explain complex information simply and clearly.
- Your ability to adapt your communication to the audience and situation.
- Your ability to influence and persuade.
For more senior positions it is essential for candidates to show that they can communicate with and influence others.
Typical communication questions include:
- Tell us about a situation where your communication skills made a difference?
- Describe a time when you had to win someone over, who was unresponsive to what you had to say?
- Describe a situation where you were able to influence others on an important issue. What approaches or strategies did you use?
- Describe a situation where you had to explain something complex at work. What approach did you follow and how well did it work?
- Describe a time when you had to communicate to someone knowing that you were right and that they were wrong?
- Give us an example of where your listening skills proved crucial to an outcome?
- Tell us about a situation when you failed to communicate appropriately?
- How and when have you varied your communication approach according to the person you were addressing?
- Give us a time when you communicated successfully with an audience?
- Tell us about a time when you successfully promoted an idea on behalf of yourself or others?
Of course, there are many other communication questions all designed to challenge you. These questions are a useful guide but it is important that you do not try to write out your answer and learn it! You are very unlikely to be able to predict the exact questions you will be asked and you will find it impossible to adapt your answer in the interview convincingly. Generally, it causes brain-fog in an interview and as an Interview Coach I know immediately when someone is trying to remember their words. It is not good communication and you are unlikely to get the job.
Answering these questions well depends on the type of interview you are having, understanding how you are being assessed and preparing in the right way to meet the assessment criteria. Some companies will tell you whether you are having a competency interview or strength based interview and will share their frameworks.
An effective approach to preparing for interview questions is to:
- Understand the interview you are going for, the likely style of question and assessment. Introductory, behavioural competency, civil service competency, value or strength based interview questions are very different. Value based and strength based interview questions can be integrated within an interview such as in the consulting, accountancy and banking sectors. Or it can be a separate interview which is increasingly common within the NHS.
- Prepare for the competencies, values and strengths they are looking for, not for specific questions.
- Practise aloud in front of a mirror using the interview questions to practise your ability to adapt to the question. It is important that trust yourself to speak naturally and demonstrate good listening and story-telling skills.
Importantly, your communication skills will also be assessed throughout the interview. This can sometimes be forgotten!