How to answer an interview question about communication
This series on interview questions the aim is not to find ‘word perfect’ answers but to help you identify scenarios demonstrating where, when and how you used certain skills. You can then talk about these with confidence no matter what the questions are.
Number 2 in the series approaching interview questions covers a skill needed in all jobs – communication. Examples involving good communication are easy to discuss but interviewers seek to find out about challenging experiences and what you learnt from them. They aren’t trying to catch you out but seeing how you coped with a difficult situation under pressure. So a common area at interview is around communication breakdown.
The question appears in many guises, ‘Tell me or us about a time when communication has broken down or has not been effective’ is just one example.
‘Communication break down’ often occurs in a group project. This starts with good intentions, a small group, say 3-6 are given a task to complete to a deadline. Meetings are held but not everyone attends, time drifts without any real sense of what’s happening. Left to their own devices people can create the right materials, or come unstuck, go off at a tangent or just fail to do anything! Often realisation dawns very close to ‘hand in’ or presentation time. Urgent action is then needed with 2-3 people picking up the pieces.
Its difficult to experience but important to recognise how this happened … reflect upon it. Importantly if you had another chance how might it be managed differently.
An example answer from a student with experience of this said in future, at the start all group members would be asked their preferred contact method – so text, email, or social media group and stick to an agreed plan, regular meetings, interim hand-ins …
Depending on your experience, you may have other examples i.e. a customer failing to listen to your explanation. Think about what occurred and how you remedied the situation, using any additional skills i.e. tact and diplomacy. You may eventually have sought advice from a manager and that is fine, taking responsibility as far as possible and accepting you need to defer to someone else.
Pick a situation it down. STAR or CAR can be an effective way to do this.
S- Situation – the setting
T- task – describe what you were asked to do
A – Action what you did to plan and prepare for this
R- Result what happened.
Its useful to also add an E for Evaluation.
In CAR you just change the S and T for C – context.
Clarify it in your mind so you can interpret your answer to fit the angle they are taking.
By contrast you may also have been involved in a project that worked well. if you have experienced both then try to analyse both and work out why .
The question here though is tell me a time when communication broke down so you need to be thinking of an example that shows that.
For more on preparing for interviews go to our website via the link below and also look out for further blogs in the series.