How to Answer the Interview Question: What is Your Communication Style?

Marcie Wilmot

Certified Resume Writer, Career Coach, and Business Writer

As a job searcher, you probably have so many questions about job searching. However, once you’ve landed an interview, your excitement takes your questions to a whole new level. What will you wear? Will you know how to answer all the questions? Have you practiced giving nice firm handshakes?

But as you prepare for your interview, remember that one of the most important things you can do is show you’re a strong communicator. After all, no matter the type of job, employers want to hire individuals who can articulate their thoughts and opinions.

Although interviewers can assess a candidate’s abilities in this area in several ways, one of the most common is to ask direct questions about their communication style. So, this article aims to explain how you should answer one of the most popularly asked interview questions: what is your communication style? So if you Googled “how to answer what is your communication style interview question” and ended up here, then perfect! Read on to learn exactly what to do the next time you get asked this question during a job interview.

Interview Question: What is Your Communication Style?

Communication Skills are Crucial to Almost Every Job

You probably don’t spend much time thinking about your communication skills, but they play a tremendous role in the workplace. From a general perspective, how you communicate dictates how you will network, interact with, and manage others. It is even a reflection of how you will respond to being managed. A good communicator usually excels at

  • collaborating with others
  • establishing meaningful client and colleague relationships
  • giving and receiving feedback
  • smoothing over conflicts
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The type of job doesn’t matter because all of them benefit from excellent communication skills. That said, some occupations rely on this ability more than others. For example, a successful salesperson usually finds it easy to persuade others and explain complex concepts. Lawyers use their communication skills to influence and defend. Meanwhile, doctors must be able to share life-saving information and facts. Even service jobs, like barbers and bartenders, use verbal and non-verbal communication.

Excellent communication skills permeate through every career to help people build relationships, work with others, and excel in their careers. So, if you think this doesn’t apply to you, think again!

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the interviewer will be 100% sold on your amazing communicative abilities if you nail a question or two about communication. The truth is that they will be evaluating your communication skills the entire duration of the interview. It won’t be just a matter of what words you use. Interviewers are also assessing the following:

  • Are you self-aware? – If you understand yourself (i.e., your personality, emotions, and behaviors), then you’ll understand how you affect others, how they might perceive you, and how to manage your responses to them. To show self-awareness during an interview, know what communication style(s) suit you, use “I” statements, and be specific and factual.  
  • Are you an active listener? – You can show that you’re an attentive listener by paraphrasing some of what you hear, asking thoughtful, open-ended questions, and giving short affirmations.
  • Do you show respect? – Be careful your attitude isn’t dismissive and that you show proper gratitude (like saying thank you).
  • Do you show empathy? – The interviewer will want to see that you recognize and understand their emotions. Being compassionate will help you to connect with others and build trust.
  • Are you friendly? – This seems obvious, but its importance can’t be overstated. No one wants to work with a grump. Put your friendly personality on full display by smiling and being easy to talk to. 
  • What is your non-verbal communication like? – The interviewer will pay close attention to your body language and facial expressions. Although you’ll probably be nervous, try not to appear stressed or uncomfortable. Make eye contact, smile, and nod at appropriate times. Avoid crossing your arms, and don’t fidget.
  • Are you confident? – Practice all the non-verbal suggestions above and you’ll come across as confident during the interview. Also, don’t forget to firmly shake the interviewer’s hand in greeting and watch the volume and tone of your voice as you speak.  
  • Are your responses clear and concise? – Avoid rambling or going off on tangents. Instead, answer the interviewer’s questions succinctly and in a straightforward manner. 

Interviewers assess these things based on the way you answer any interview question they throw at you. For the best chance to showcase your communication style in a positive light, it is so important to practice and prepare for interview questions in a way that puts you in a positive light.

Do YOU Know Your Communication Style?

Before going into your interviews, make sure you’ve determined what your personal communication style is. Some people opt to generally describe their style, while others like to specifically name their communication style. So, as you review the four most common styles below, keep in mind that no communication style is better than the other. They are just different.

  • passive – tends to yield to others; not very expressive
  • aggressive – speak loudly and intensely; very expressive
  • passive-aggressive – appears passive but subtly expresses anger; sarcastic and indirect
  • assertive – direct, honest, and considerate

If you are trying to figure out which style best fits you and your personality, think about a recent argument or debate you engaged in. Ask youself

  • Did you dominate the interaction or allow someone else to dominate it? (aggressive vs. passive)
  • Did you react sarcastically or give the silent treatment? (passive-aggressive) 
  • Did you try to understand the other person’s perspective and actively listen to them? (assertive) 

Note that people commonly switch between different communication styles depending on the situation and who they’re interacting with. Sometimes one style is more effective than the other, depending on the circumstances. So, be ready to explain how your communication style may be dynamic and why.

How To Answer the Interview Question: What is Your Communication Style?

Now that we’ve covered how to identify your personal communication style, let’s talk about how exactly to respond if an interviewer asks you the question: what is your communication style?

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Here are some tips that will help you answer this question effectively:

Highlight your communication strengths.

Each communication style has its own strengths. For instance, if you’re a passive communicator, you’re likely a great listener who appears to be respectful. On the other hand, if you are an aggressive communicator, you likely exude confidence and speak articulately. Meanwhile, assertive communicators are empathetic and understanding. So, depending on which communication style you identify with, be sure to highlight some of its strengths.

Use the word “flexible.”

You likely don’t speak with your coworkers the way you speak with your mother. We often change our communication styles based on our environment and the people we interact with. If you do this often in your professional setting, then you should highlight this in your interview. 

Discuss your ability to be logical and decisive. 

If you’re interviewing for a leadership position, it’s crucial that you emphasize your ability to be a decisive communicator (no matter your communication style). The interviewer will want to know that you can speak with authority and persuade others using logic and reasoning. 

Point out that you can communicate on any medium

Nowadays it’s necessary to communicate via different platforms. Assure the interviewer that you’re comfortable sharing your ideas and directives whether it’s in-person, over Zoom, or through another technical channel.

Example Answers

Below are two examples of how you can answer an interview question about communication:

After some consideration, I’ve determined that I’m an assertive communicator who occasionally speaks aggressively when the situation warrants. I actively listen to others so I can understand their perspective and opinions. I also directly communicate my ideas and needs. When I’m in a leadership situation, I speak more confidently and decisively to ensure things get done efficiently and correctly.

I would rate myself an 8 or 9 when it comes to communication. I’m typically an assertive communicator who is respectful, honest, and direct; however, I’m not a big fan of confrontation, so sometimes I communicate more passively too. I don’t view this as a bad thing because it allows me to avoid conflicts and de-escalate certain situations.

Think of Instances to Use as Evidence to Back Your Answer

It’s not always enough to just claim that you possess a certain skill (in this case, being an excellent communicator). Sometimes it’s necessary to back up your assertions with examples.

The best way to think about how to answer the interview question, what is your communication style, is by using the STAR interview method. Prior to the interview, think of some occasions when the way you communicated helped you accomplish objectives at work. Then as you talk with the interviewer, be sure to support those claims by describing the actions you took and the results of those actions. Stories and anecdotes such as these make for great examples to depict your communication style.

Your Interview Itself Will Be Taken as a Demonstration

Remember that the interviewer will be paying attention to how you communicate during the interview itself. Are you talking over them? Are you coming across as very passive and quiet? So when you discuss your communication style, be sure it matches your behavior during the interview so you come across as genuine and honest. 

Here are some areas the interviewer will be noting:

  • How well you listen
  • How confident you appear
  • How easy it is to talk to you
  • How respectful you are
  • How clear your answers are
  • How long your answers are
  • How your nonverbal language appears

Can You Slightly Adjust Your Answer to the Particular Interview?

While you should never fake what kind of communicator you are, you can certainly make adjustments during an interview to give a favorable impression to the interviewer. How can you do this?

  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer
  • Don’t go off on tangents
  • Don’t use technical jargon
  • Do listen, so you don’t have to ask for a question to be repeated
  • Do maintain eye contact
  • Do act enthusiastic and energetic

Tips for Always Giving the Best Answer

Below are some tips you can follow as you answer communication-related interview questions.

Don’t Forget About Non-Verbal Communication

Be cognizant of what your body language is communicating to the interviewer. Pay close attention to your facial expressions, posture, hand movements, and other body movements that may be distracting. Try to portray a relaxed, confident, and open.

Articulate Carefully

The easiest way to ensure you articulate well is to practice situational interview questions. The more you prepare, the less caught off guard you will be. In the end, well-prepared answers help keep you on your toes and ready to articulately respond to any question.

Practice Active Listening

Give the impression that you care about and understand what the interviewer is saying. Display this via your body language, positive affirmations, and thoughtful questions.

Possible Follow-up Questions and Answers to Those

After discussing your communication style, the interviewer will likely ask follow-up situational interview questions. Let’s quickly go through some of them.

Tell me about a time you were involved in a work conflict. How did you handle this? 

Several months ago, I was working on a time-sensitive team project. My colleague had a difference of opinion about how we should move the project along faster. Rather than risk this becoming a bigger conflict, I scheduled a time to privately meet with him. We both directly and respectfully voiced our opinions and came to a compromise. In the end, our mutual understanding led to the project being completed successfully and on time. 

Give an example of a time when you explained a complex issue to a non-technical person.

In an earlier customer service role, I had to frequently describe our high-level product to folks who weren’t familiar with the industry terminology. To overcome this, I avoided technical jargon and spoke as plainly and simply as possible. I also used pictures and metaphors to support my explanations. I received feedback from both customers and managers who complimented my ability to convey complex concepts to others. 

Have you ever had to tell someone something sensitive? How did you approach this?

I think there comes a time in everyone’s lives when they must talk about a sensitive topic with someone else. In my case, I had a junior employee on my team who wasn’t carrying their weight. I knew that if this continued, their job would be in jeopardy, so I decided to approach them and tactfully make some suggestions that would help them improve their situation. I made sure to communicate the issue in a non-judgmental and friendly manner. In the end, they were receptive to my feedback, adjusted their behavior, and went on to become an integral part of our team.

What happened the last time you dealt with an upset customer?

It’s never easy to calm down a disgruntled customer, but I’ve been successful at doing so. First, I listen to their issue and repeat it back so they know they’ve been heard. I apologize for the trouble and express gratitude for their patience. Then I quickly think on my feet and problem-solve to fix their issue. If I can’t do so myself, I escalate it to someone at a higher level and assure the customer I will follow up with them soon.

Key Takeaways

As you can see from this article, your communication skills matter to potential employers. They want assurance that you can successfully interact with clients and colleagues, resolve conflicts, collaborate within teams, and more.

To show the interviewer that you’re a great communicator

  • watch your body language
  • prepare for your interview questions
  • be an active listener
  • talk about your communication style honestly, clearly, and enthusiastically

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