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How to Communicate Effectively in an Interview

Three years in the human resources field with one full year of experience specializing in recruitment and selection.

You arrive on time for your dream job interview. You know you have the skill set to do well at this job. You know that you would be an awesome fit for the company. But, just as you walk into the interview room you suddenly freeze and can’t think of a single thing to say...

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It happens to all of us. But, I promise to break down exactly how you can avoid that and walk into an interview feeling confident. Being able to communicate effectively is a skill that a lot of us put on our resume, but more than likely it's a skill you never thought to upgrade or become better at. Learning communication will actually help you convey your message a lot easier, without sounding wordy or jumbled, and also it will help you receive messages back with clarity.

The Sender, the Receiver, the Message

Okay, let's talk about the components of communication first. Essentially, there are three key components - a sender, a receiver, and a message. The sender is the person to first initiate communication, also known as the source. This person sends a message to the receiver who then, in turn, becomes the source and sends information back.

What tends to happen in an interview setting is that the person being interviewed becomes nervous. When that happens, we begin to panic and start throwing together in random order the components of the message we are trying to send. As a result, the receiver misinterprets the message and the communication is weakened.

How do we fix those misinterpretations? How can we strengthen that communication again? The answer lies in your choice of vocabulary. This tip is key not just in an interview but with any formal meeting you may have in your job. This is how you can recover from a fumbled answer. Apart from taking a deep breath and giving yourself a minute to recover, you need to make appropriate word choices that clarify exactly what you want to say.

Seek Plain, Pictured Words

For example, when someone mentions "pizza" there is no mistaking what they are talking about, in fact, you can picture it right now. But if someone says the word "lunch" it's harder to picture exactly what that person means. Are they referring to the time of day? Or a specific meal? There is a broad, more vague understanding, and everyone's mental picture of "lunch" will be different.

it's important to talk as much as possible with plain pictured words. Especially in an interview where you need to be extremely clear on your intentions and expectations.

For example, when asked a question about what you can do for the company, give an explanation that allows someone to really picture you doing that. A response like "I will be a great fit here because my background is in HR" doesn't give a clear picture. A better response might be "Using my HR background I can create an efficient screening method to ensure you get the best talent available." Now the picture becomes clearer.

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Practice in front of a mirror out loud or to someone that can give you feedback. Get good at talking confidently with your answers. The more you practice the more natural it becomes.

Before moving on to my list of tips and advice, I want to touch on another communication issue. Being on the receiving end of the communication stream does not mean that you simply stop talking. You as a receiver have an important job and that is to actively listen to what the other person is trying to convey. A lot of times, in my experience, the interviewer is often in their own head thinking of what they should say next, and of course, they miss what the interviewer has asked. I cannot express how important it is to hear loud and clear what the interviewer is asking. Don't be afraid to take a few seconds before replying with your answer so you can ensure you have heard the question correctly. It shows that you are capable of remaining calm and collected during high-pressure situations, especially if you come back with a killer reply.

Great communicators work at being great. Not everyone is born with these skills, and I would bet that some of the best communicators in history practice and build their skill set daily. Here are some tips and advice I have gathered in my experience as a recruiter.

Become an Active Listener

As I mentioned above, active listening means hearing what the other person is saying and mentally processing it in a way that allows you to respond effectively. Most of the time we do this without ever thinking about it. But sometimes, if there is a language barrier or the topic is complex I end up repeating the question or statement in my head. If I still don't understand, I simply ask them to repeat the message again or explain it in a different way. Don't be embarrassed if this happens to you, more than likely the person will appreciate that you are trying to understand the message.

Answer This - Who Are You Communicating with?

Your audience should give you a good indication of what kind of tone, and vocabulary to use. For instance, If you are talking to a child, your choice of topic and vocabulary will be vastly different then if you were to give an important presentation at work. So consider who the receiver is and adjust your method accordingly. Use the language of your audience.

Know That There Is Absolutely Nothing Wrong With Silence

It is totally normal to have mini lulls in the conversation. Great communicators are comfortable in silence. It could mean someone is gathering their thoughts or just processing what you have communicated. Wait a bit before you continue again just in case you interrupt someone’s train of thought.

Find a Mutual Understanding

Finding common ground with the person or people you are communicating with. It is an excellent way to ease into harder topics. Doing this creates a more relaxed environment. Just remember to keep the topics relevant. In an interview, you could find common ground by connecting your skills to the job posting. “I understand you are looking for someone with a background in journalism. I recently did an internship at the local newspaper.” This can work perfectly when communicated clearly and at the right time.

Know What You Are Talking About

The interview will not go over smoothly if you have no idea what the job entails or why they should hire you. DO YOUR RESEARCH and make sure you can answer tough questions about the job. I cannot stress this enough. Many times I have conducted an interview and the candidate does not even know the nature of the business! eek!! A good strategy is to memorize a few lines.

1. What you know about the company and how that relates to your past experience or how it relates to your future goals.

2. A little about yourself - keep it mainly academic with a few interesting hobbies or side projects. Make sure it can be related to the job your applying for.

3. Why you would be a good fit - focus on what you can do for the company, and less on what the company can do for you.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.