Assessing Communication Skills

Communication skills are an essential aspect of employee success in the workplace. When a team has good communication, it can be more productive, collaborate more effectively and bond better as a team. By looking at examples of communication skills, employers can determine what to look for when hiring to ensure their work environment is positive and unified.


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What are communication skills?

Communication skills are abilities that allow an individual to give or receive information. There are different forms of communication, all of which are critical to employees in the workplace. These skills include:

  • Listening
  • Observing
  • Empathizing
  • Speaking
  • Writing
  • Reading

Speaking and listening are two of the most important skills a worker can demonstrate an aptitude for during the hiring process.


Why are communication skills important when hiring?

Communication skills are a critical aspect of evaluating potential candidates during the hiring process. Selecting an employee who’s capable of high-level communication for the job is pivotal to their overall performance in the role. Studies show that leadership communication is one of the top three factors influencing employee engagement at work. Employees with effective communication abilities can coach, support and work with others to achieve common goals.


When employees know to communicate verbally, it eliminates the issue of irrelevant email content and information loss due to an overload of unimportant data. An employee who’s confident in their verbal communication skills can be the one to speak first, reducing the chance of miscommunications among workers or departments. Communication is only 7% verbal and 93% nonverbal, meaning that if you write out and send an email , 93% of the potential information conveyed by your tone and body language is lost in the transaction. This can lead to misunderstandings and is the reason some people interpret emails as more aggressive than the writer intended. When reading a response, you impose your own mental tone of voice onto the text, regardless of how the speaker or writer meant to convey that message.


Employee communication can also increase productivity at work. According to studies by McKinsey & Company, better communication and collaboration through technology at work can increase interaction and productivity among employees by 25%.


Good communication and employee engagement can also reduce employee turnover rates within your business.


Examples of communication skills for the workplace

There are four types of business communication to be aware of in the workplace:

  • Internal upward (employee to a higher-up within the company)
  • Internal downward (manager to subordinate within the company)
  • Internal lateral (among company employees)
  • External (with parties outside the company)

While each of these business communication types requires basic verbal and nonverbal communication skills, you must also interview candidates to assess their emotional intelligence (EI), because this determines their ability to decipher and switch between the various communication types and tones necessary to succeed in a work environment. A communication skills resume is critical to any position, regardless of industry. Here are the critical skills to look for in potential employees:



Being a good listener is critical to workplace communication. Listening allows employees to learn from one another and be perceptive to each other’s feelings and ideas, and it creates an environment where everyone feels valued.



Empathy is a large component of listening because you can use phrases that communicate an understanding of a person’s situation or position to support them, even if you don’t agree with their idea. When you’re in tune with what someone is thinking and feeling, you can communicate with them more effectively and build positive relationships.


Nonverbal communication

Because a significant portion of how you communicate is nonverbal, this skill is critical for success in work. Your body language and tone support or contradict the words you use, depending on how effectively you’re utilizing your nonverbal communication skills. A candidate who is open, sits in a relaxed position and has a pleasant tone will often go further than someone who sits with their arms crossed and has a stiff, monotone voice.



Confidence is critical for success in the workplace because it demonstrates that you believe what you’re saying and helps you come across as genuine and trustworthy. Confidence is an important leadership quality and should be evaluated in all candidates applying for a supervising role. However, there’s a fine line between confident and cocky, so it’s important to be firm but respectful at all times.



When you demonstrate respect for other people’s ideas, you become easier for them to open up to and they’ll feel more comfortable communicating with you honestly. Employees who are respectful are invaluable to an organization.



Part of being respectful is having an open-minded approach to other people’s ideas. When you approach a conversation with an open mind, you create an opportunity for dialogue in which both sides share their ideas and build on them.



In a work environment, being able to respectfully give and receive constructive feedback is critical. When you receive critical feedback, you must be able to accept it gracefully and not become defensive or rude. When giving critical feedback, other communication skills like empathy and respect come into play to ensure you don’t offend anyone in the process. How you express feedback makes a significant difference in how it’s received and whether that individual respects you enough to apply the feedback effectively in their daily work.


Choosing the best communication forum

Finally, how you choose to communicate is a critical part of workplace communication skills. A good candidate must be able to determine when to have a face-to-face conversation vs when to send an email or make a phone call.


How to assess a candidate’s communication skills

During an interview, a hiring manager must be able to effectively assess a candidate’s aptitude for these communication skills to determine whether they’re right for the job. To assess communication skills during an interview, pay attention to the person’s:

  • Tone of voice: Are they friendly, upbeat and pleasant? Would they sound happy and positive over the phone?
  • Posture: Do they sit upright and with a respectful stance, or are they lounging casually in the chair?
  • Body language: Are they open and inviting, or are they sitting stiffly with their arms crossed?
  • Comprehension: Are they understanding the questions you ask? Does their tone match yours when responding to questions appropriately?
  • Level of interest or engagement: Do they seem invested in the industry and performing well? Are they asking relevant questions? Have they done their research on the company?
  • Confidence: Do they sound genuine and appear to be sure of themselves? Do their answers come across as believable and motivated?
  • Honesty: Do you think this person is telling you the truth? Does it seem like some of their answers are fabricated? Are there discrepancies between their resume and their verbal responses?
  • Defensiveness: Are they responding negatively to questions that ask them to be critical of themselves, such as their weaknesses?

Besides visually monitoring the person’s behavior for how they exhibit these traits, you can craft several interview questions around deciphering a person’s communicative abilities. Use open-ended prompts that ask the person to describe a scenario or situation to you. This will help you see how well they can verbally discuss a topic or experience.

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