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How To Hire Job Candidates With Great Communication Skills

Jen Morris
Jen Morris September 21, 2022
how to hire for communication skills

What are communication skills?

Our communication skills define our ability to interact with others, convey ideas and emotions and maintain effective relationships. They also impact how we interpret information and navigate the social world around us.

Essential in almost every professional environment, communication skills in the workplace can be broken down into four categories:

Verbal communication - how we relay spoken information, not just through our choice of words, but also tone of voice, volume, and speed of speech. Verbal communication also relates to how we receive information through active listening.

Non-verbal communication - our body language, facial expressions and gestures all contribute to how effectively we communicate.

Written communication - this applies to our own command of written language and our ability to process the information we read.

Visual communication - is often overlooked but key in many working environments, this is how well we’re able to support ideas and information with visual aids.

To be skilled in each of these areas an individual must show a good level of language comprehension, alongside key qualities like emotional intelligence, empathy, creativity, respect and confidence.

Those that tick all of these boxes can be said to have great communication skills.

How do great communication skills make an employee more effective?

how to hire for communication skills

Good communication skills are seen as essential by the majority of employers, and for good reason. They impact almost every aspect of working life, from an employee’s actions at an individual level to the wider organizational culture.

Here are some of the key ways communication skills make an employee more effective:

1. They help mitigate conflict

Good communicators can express themselves clearly and calmly. They also take time to understand others. This helps them avoid misunderstandings that so often result in workplace conflict. When tension does arise, good communication helps resolve it.

2. They boost productivity

Communication skills allow employees to follow instructions, update others on progress and access the resources they need to perform at their best. This makes them more productive in their role and thus more valuable to their employer.

3. They improve working relationships

Good communicators interact well with colleagues, making for a healthy working environment, but that’s not the only benefit here. They can also build strong relationships that improve customer retention or result in better deals with suppliers.

4. They increase engagement

Strong lines of communication help connect employees to management and understand business objectives. This increases their engagement as they see themselves as an integral part of the organization.

5. They drive innovation

Key to the ongoing success of any business, innovation comes from the sharing and development of new ideas, which in itself comes from the ability to communicate well.

What jobs benefit the most from great communication skills?

There are few roles in existence that do not require communication skills at some level. There are, however, some professions where the need for effective communication is far greater.

Customer-facing roles are a good example here. Those dealing with the public on a daily basis often need to communicate under extreme pressure. They also publicly represent the company they work for, so must maintain professional communication at all times.

These skills should be considered essential for roles such as:

Creative roles also require strong communication skills. A marketing manager, for example, uses these skills to share ideas and motivate their team, as well as to determine the most effective way to deliver messages to a certain audience.

A journalist on the other hand would use their communication skills to connect with sources, uncover information, and relay that information clearly to the public.

Other job roles that benefit from good communication skills include those that involve conveying complex information, providing a service of care, or taking on leadership responsibilities, such as:

How to hire for great communication skills

communication soft skills

Communication falls into a category known as soft skills. These skills are typically inherent to an individual, transferable between roles, and notoriously difficult to measure in the recruitment process.

It is because they are so hard to assess that, although usually listed as must-have criteria, communication skills are too often overlooked in candidate selection.

Employers tend to rely on how a candidate presents themselves in an interview, but this ignores the practical application of communication in the workplace.

Thankfully, with the right tools and techniques, recruiters can delve deeper into an applicant’s communication skills and make more insightful hiring decisions.

Use a communication skills test

A communication skills test is an aptitude test designed for the specific purpose of measuring the skills required for effective communication. Skills like clarity, emotional intelligence, attention to detail, and language proficiency.

Covering verbal, non-verbal and written communication - these tests are a valuable addition to the recruitment process for two key reasons.

The first is that they allow you to screen for these essential skills at scale, and narrow down the applicant pool based on objective, practical data. This saves you the time and money associated with interviewing candidates that may look good on paper, but simply don’t have the communication skills to be successful in the workplace.

The second is the detailed score report they produce. These allow you to see a candidate’s communication skills in action - not just a bullet point list of what they claim to be good at, but an actual view of their practical capabilities.

When you come to further assess your shortlisted candidates, these reports are an insightful resource, particularly when used alongside other key recruitment techniques.

Be thorough with reference checks

Reference checks are a great source of information to tap into. Rather than just verifying employment history, use this opportunity to learn more about a candidate’s communication skills from those with first-hand experience of them.

Questions that can reveal a lot about communication skills include:

  • How did the employee handle workplace conflict?
  • How did they respond to feedback?
  • How would you describe their participation in team meetings?

Ideally, seek out references that have worked closely with the candidate in question, like their line manager for example. A contact in HR can confirm employment details, but may struggle to comment on communication skills.

Ask the right interview questions

Every employer has their own preferred interview technique, but soft skills like communication are best assessed through structured, behaviourally focused questions.

This question type forces an interviewee to consider a time they applied their communication skills and describe the scenario in detail.

A strong candidate will respond using the STAR technique, explaining to you a situation, task, action and result.

There’s a bonus here in that the STAR technique requires strong communication skills in itself. The candidate must structure information in a logical manner, be concise and speak with clarity.

Here is an example of a behaviourally focused interview question you might ask a candidate to assess their communication skills:

“Tell me about a time you were working on a task or project and needed to keep a number of stakeholders updated. How did you manage to keep them informed?”

How testing for communication skills can benefit your company’s hiring process

Whatever role you’re hiring for - and whatever recruitment strategy you choose to adopt - psychometric tests are a valuable addition to it, particularly where communication skills are concerned.

These objective assessments are expertly designed to test the essential competencies, qualities and behaviors that, together, facilitate effective communication in the workplace.

A communication skills test is particularly useful if you prefer a more informal, unstructured approach to interviews. Whilst the interview process helps you get to know a candidate on a personal level, their test results give you a reliable and accurate picture of their natural talent for communicating.

If you do opt for behaviourally focused interview questions, pairing a candidate’s responses here with data from their score report will provide a comprehensive measure of their communication skills and result in a well-informed, successful hire.

Jen Morris
Jen Morris September 21, 2022

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