Communication skills assessment should be like a “you need to be this tall to ride” checkpoint for every hire.
Communication plays a massive role in any business, and it can increase productivity by up to 25%. After all, a key part of any job is to discuss ideas, analyze problems to find solutions, and collaborate with other people and teams within the organization.
And poor communication can lead to passive-aggressive messages, failure to meet deadlines or a loss of customers. In other words, it usually leads to a bad hire (an expensive mistake).
So next time you’ve narrowed down your list of top candidates to just three, and each candidate is near perfect in their own regard, ask yourself, “Can they communicate effectively within the business?”. A quick communication skills assessment can help choose the best person for the job, stress-free.
With all of this in mind, let’s look at why communication skills are critical to any hire and how to best use communication skills assessments during your hiring process.
The 5 key communication skills and how to assess them
Think about every job posting you’ve ever had to write or had to pour over during your own career-hunting journey. What do almost all of those walls of text have in common? There’s one requirement that you will see on almost every single job posting: communication skills.
But communication skills can mean a lot of things. What ability is actually being required: writing, speaking, active listening, strategic or asynchronous communication? Or all of them?
Nailing down your job requirements will lead to better quality candidates, so don’t brush over this step. Instead, get detailed!
Here are brief descriptions of the 5 key communication skills for more context:
1. Written communication skills ✅
Every role in the tech-driven age requires employees to have a firm grasp of written language. Of course, this doesn’t mean that candidates need a Bachelor of Literature or understand how to structure a Haiku, but that they can effectively communicate in most written mediums.
For example, more than ever, businesses are communicating through instant messaging (e.g. Slack or Microsoft Teams), email, and internal wikis for knowledge sharing. In fact, many companies are migrating away from email for internal communications and focussing solely on messaging programs and knowledge-sharing platforms like Notion or Slite.
Often, the requirement for excellent written communication skills is actually a proxy for:
- Ability to translate complex ideas into simple language
- Ability to communicate clearly and concisely
- Ability to ‘connect the dots’ in writing
- Ability to convey big ideas in a compelling way
- Ability to capture the attention and imagination of the reader
The list goes on, but you get it – there’s a difference between being literate and being a great communicator.
Go-to methods for written communication skills assessments:
If communication skills are critical to the role, the only viable way to assess them is via a tailored communication skills test. Open-ended questions allow candidates to showcase not only how they write but also how they think and structure their arguments.
Can’t think of any good questions? Head over to our Test Library to pick from 15,000+ expert-created questions and get going in minutes.
2. Verbal communication skills ✅
It doesn’t matter how remote a role might be, chances are the candidate will need to be on team calls, especially during the interview process. The person you interview must accurately summarise their specialities, explain ideas to coworkers, and convey information without lunging into a 20-minute-long story that doesn’t relate to the task at hand.
Verbal communication skills are essential to roles in Customer Success, Customer Support, Sales, Leadership and HR, where speaking eloquently is seen as part of delivering quality work. But even positions that rely less on stellar verbal communication skills benefit from people who can cross-collaborate with different departments, engage in discussions or express themselves in a professional manner.
Go-to methods for verbal communication skills assessment:
Obviously, virtual or face-to-face interviews are the perfect way to evaluate candidates’ verbal skills. Nothing gives you a better idea of how good of a communicator someone is than having a meaningful conversation.
But if it’s a key skill you want to screen early in the process, you might want to partially automate the step to save your hiring team from inevitable bad-fit interviews. Simply opt for pre-recorded video interviews. For example, Toggl Hire Video Intros enable you to select relevant questions from the library or add your own and run the first-touch interview at scale. Candidates have time to practice and do a few retakes before submitting their answers. Works for everyone!
Active listening ✅
People usually place the focus on speaking as the most important aspect of communication, but without great listening skills, meaningful conversation is nearly impossible.
Any person in a team needs to understand what is being said by the rest of the business. It’s impossible to get ideas across if the recipient zones out or doesn’t listen when spoken to. Active listening skills are critical when it comes to managing teams, dealing with customers, and understanding the goals of leadership.
Go-to methods for Active listening communication skills assessment:
Active listening and verbal communication skills go hand in hand. You need both to have a constructive discussion. That’s why live interviews are a great method for evaluating candidates’ ability to listen and speak effectively. In practice, active listening skills look something like this:
- The candidate doesn’t shy away from clarifying what’s being said or asked
- The candidate doesn’t talk over other people
- The candidate asks pointy follow-up questions
- The candidate doesn’t jump to conclusions but aims to gather more information
- The candidate takes notes to retain information or maintain focus
- The candidate can effectively summarize what was discussed
4. Asynchronous communication ✅
Asynchronous communication is an exchange of information that happens not in real-time or ‘out of sync’. It can take any form – video messages, audio messages, written messages or even visuals. With the world’s shift to remote work and distributed teams, asynchronous communication has taken a central stage. And so have the asynchronous communication skills.
So what are they? The asynchronous communication skill set includes thinking independently in situations where information or feedback isn’t available in real-time. It relates strongly to one’s ability to be disciplined, manage their time effectively and think critically.
In practical terms, asynchronous communication skills are required for giving structured written feedback, fleshing out ideas, documenting processes and communicating with context.
Go-to methods for asynchronous communication skills assessment:
A homework assignment or paid project could be a swift way to assess candidates’ asynchronous communication skills. You’re looking for someone who is highly skilled and highly independent to thrive in an async-first workplace.
At Toggl Hire, we have developed an asynchronous hiring flow that relies on a combination of a skills assessment, live interview, paid challenge and final presentation to get the proof of competence before we hire. See the step-by-step explanation for more details.
Strategic business communication ✅
Out of the communication skills mentioned here, this may seem as though it is the least important, though it is still high on the priority list.
Can the interviewee communicate and understand roadmaps, business goals, and the importance of promoting the company? There’s the notion of “seeing the bigger picture” in business, and it’s crucial that employees, especially if they’re in leadership roles, can clearly communicate where the company is headed and what its goals are.
Go-to methods for business communication skills assessment:
If you’re hiring a team lead or a head of a department, business communication skills will be a key requirement. At this level, candidates expect a longer hiring process, so you should use the time to get to know each other better. Saying that, don’t go overboard with a 10-step assessment flow. You can employ situational interviews to evaluate candidates’ interpersonal skills and abilities. Steal these 100 soft skills questions for your next interview. Or use a mini-paid project to quickly assess candidates’ technical and cultural fit.
Are communication skills necessary in technical roles?
The simple answer is yes, as candidates must communicate and understand in an effective manner. They don’t need to have perfect grammar, or understand compound modifiers, as long as whoever they are communicating with can understand what is being communicated.
Let’s say that the perfect programmer‘s resume appears on your desk – they’re a unicorn that understands C#, Java, and even COBOL – they are the perfect candidate. There’s just one problem: they only leave comments as notes in the code and never tell anyone else about it.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has already shown employers how effective remote work is. Hiring workers from different countries, backgrounds, and time zones can bring a wealth of perspective to the business. This means that written and verbal communication skills are crucial as remote work is built on trust.
Documentation is also a key to remote and off-site workers and even to people in the same office. What if someone is out sick for a few days or is on annual leave – no one wants to disturb them to ask for processes or workflows. That’s why clear and concise documentation on managing their workload and processes is key.
Communication skills assessments should be a top priority when screening candidates. These tests help you determine if the candidate is a right fit for the business and team.
What are the challenges of testing communication skills?
As with any part of the hiring process, there are difficulties when testing various communication skills of candidates.
Cheating on written tests
The larger the company you hire for, the greater the chance you’ll use standardized testing procedures. Unfortunately, cheating is possible when it comes to written tests. Need to pass a certification or answer some multiple choice questions? Your candidate can probably google the answers in a matter of seconds.
The good thing about using an assessment library – like the one we’ve built at Toggl Hire – is that it boasts many anti-cheating features. Not only are test questions rotated dynamically across every quiz, but there are also copy/paste and browser fingerprinting features in place to flag fishy behaviour. You can get accurate results in minutes.
Some candidates don’t thrive under pressure
Not everyone handles pressure well, and the hiring process is already a stressful adventure for most job seekers. After all, the applicant might not have applied for a role that requires them to give eloquent and robust answers at the drop of a hat. Always be wary of placing candidates in high-pressure situations – they can choose to go with another company.
Instead of subjecting candidates to hours-long tests, we suggest breaking the flow into smaller chunks. This approach requires lower time and energy investment from the candidates and helps you arrive at your shortlist much faster. Check out our article on how to build a skills-based hiring flow for more practical tips.
Verbal testing can be bi-directional
The reality is that any verbal tests are a two-way street. While you’re asking the candidate questions, they are gauging your reactions, non-verbal cues and body language as well. If you’re rattling off questions from a list and not interacting with the candidate, that can sabotage your chances of finding the right person.
Summing up: Effective communication is a non-negotiable
Whether you’re hiring for a technical or non-technical role, a screening assessment test will help you evaluate a candidate’s communication skills and find better quality talent. One thing all high-performers have in common is they’re stellar communicators. Get started in minutes with access to 150+ pre-built test templates and find your amazing next hire!
Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.