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Communication Interview Questions

20 Questions and Answers by

Rachelle Enns is an interview coach and job search expert. She works with candidates to perform their best in employment, medical, and post-secondary admission interviews.

Communication was updated on April 19th, 2019. Learn more here.

Question 1 of 20

Tell me about an error or mistake you made because of a breakdown in communication from you or one of your team members.

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Communication Interview Questions & Answers

  1. 1.

    Tell me about an error or mistake you made because of a breakdown in communication from you or one of your team members.

      How to Answer

      The interviewer would like to know about a time when communication was weak on your part, and a mistake occurred. On occasion, mistakes will happen, and discussions will break. Think back to a time when you made an error in communication, and it caused a ripple effect that reached your team members or your organization as a whole. The final part of your answer needs to include the steps you took to repair the situation. Make sure to conclude your answer on a positive note.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I recall one instance where I misread an email from one of my subordinates. The punctuation was incorrect, and I read it in in a dire tone rather than in a positive one, as it was intended. After a tense conversation, the employee clarified her intention, and it seems I was mistaken. She and I agreed to exercise verbal communication on a regular basis to avoid a similar situation from happening again."

      Rachelle's Answer for an Admin Interview

      "I am the executive assistant to three different members of our company's c-suite. One day I made the error of emailing the wrong schedule to the others, resulting in a disastrous day. I was able to reschedule their appointments for later in the week, but my error did result in a few unhappy clients."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Manager Interview

      "I missed a shipment to a customer because there were two similar items in the production schedule. Usually, the scheduler highlights oddities like that, but not this time. I missed the difference and thought it was the same order when it came through on my end."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Marketing Interview

      "I missed a deadline the other week because I did not fully read the email from my marketing director, stating that the deadline had been moved up. I committed myself to be much more detail-oriented when it came to reading my messages from him. He also agreed to red flag any matters of importance, moving forward."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Retail Interview

      "We missed one of our inventory shipments last month because I too quickly skimmed a memo from head office regarding the change in schedule due to a long weekend. The shipment was returned which resulted in extra costs to the business and a delay in receiving our seasonal stock. I offered to pay for the extra charges. They refused to charge me for the error but did ask that I take additional care in the future. I was embarrassed, and I do all I can now to ensure an oversight like this never happens again."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Sales Interview

      "We recently had a missing link in communications to one of our vendors, who we signed on to provide a large service. They were not aware of a change in the agreement which cost the company wasted time, resources and money. We were able to identify the breakdown in communication and change the process to ensure it does not happen again."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Teacher Interview

      "Last year I made an error in communicating with a parent newsletter. I had the wrong date for a school field trip which resulted in all of my students showing up to school, ready and excited for a day at the museum. Oops! The parents were pretty good about it, and we went the following day; however, I had some pretty ticked off little students that day. Nobody is perfect but I certainly triple check my dates now!"

      Rachelle's Answer for a Loan Assistant Interview

      "I recall one instance where I misread an email from one of my subordinates. The punctuation was incorrect and I read it in in a dire tone rather than in a positive one, as it was intended. After a tense conversation, the employee clarified her intention and it seems I was mistaken. She and I agreed to exercise verbal communication on a regular basis to avoid a similar situation from happening again."

      Josh's Answer for a Civil Engineer Interview

      "On one of my bigger bridge projects, we had to use more complex software that our team was learning on the fly. We did not realize until we began an internal QA review that our live loads were not being applied the correct way. Luckily we caught the error and adjusted our model before it was too late."

      Heather's Answer for a Health Information Technician Interview

      "There was a time that one of my co-workers an I didn't necessarily have poor communication but a lack of communication. I invited her to lunch to get to know her more and show her that I was easy to talk to and that I'd like to get to know her not only professionally but possibly outside of work. She admitted to being a bit timid and shy in the office and that she found it difficult to form friendships. After sharing a few laughs over lunch we both realized we were very much alike. Because of this lunch outing it really helped her open up not only with me but with others in the office. She was less timid and more assertive at work too."

      Sue's Answer for an Architectural Drafter Interview

      "I try to identify which tasks are more urgent and require immediate attention, and which tasks can be held off a little longer. If there is a particular piece of work that needs to be delivered immediately, I like to set aside some uninterrupted time to focus on completing the task. To ensure quality of work and meeting deadlines, I also have learned to get help when needed and delegate tasks to someone else on the team when I know I have too much on my plate."

      Krista's Answer for a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Interview

      "I made a mistake last year and thought my CPR card was good for one more year. I was working a job that required a current CPR card, and they asked for a copy of it for their files. When I pulled my card out of my wallet, I realized it expired the month before. I immediately informed my employer that my card was expired. I told them that I would get online right away and find a course to become current in CPR. My employer was understanding but told me I could not work until I became recertified. I found an online course that was accepted by my employer and was able to recertify the same day. Now, I put the expiration dates of all certifications and licenses in my calendar and receive an alert months before the expiration date so that will never happen again."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Summer Law Clerk Interview

      "When working for (X firm) as a/an (X position title), we had to complete a project (... what happened in this project which resulted in X mistake on your end). I soon realized this was due to miscommunication as I did not adequately understand my colleague's points she had communicated via email - and I should have instead requested an in-person meeting or a phone call as soon as possible as I had doubts about what needed to be done next. To resolve the situation, I (... what you did to resolve the situation and successfully complete the project in a timely fashion, and what was the final outcome)."

      Rachelle's Answer for an Urban and Regional Planners Interview

      "Working with difficult personalities is something that comes along with the job, from time-to-time. Being an urban planner, I find that the more difficult situations to navigate come when we need a work-around with a city design. The government is not the easiest to navigate and the employees are not always given the ability to decision make. If I do not get the answer or response that I am looking for, I will call another time, until I reach someone that I can work nicely with."

      Clara's Answer for a Water Quality Analyst Interview

      "I try to maximize my time as efficiently as possible, so I tend to map out my day to follow a flow. I'll pick a starting point and work my way inward to the end point - the lab. By batching my fieldwork and lab work, I'm able to successfully balance my calendar and complete all of my tasks in a timely manner."

      Clara's Answer for an Application Database Administrator Interview

      "Given my experience in this role and my understanding of the company, nothing in the job description particularly surprises me. I was very excited to see the value the company places on professional development opportunities for staff, so I greatly look forward to learning and growing in the role, organization, and overall industry."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Surgical Technologist Interview

      "Earlier in my career I prepped the operating room with the incorrect checklist because I was so worried about making a mistake that I wasn't wholeheartedly listening to the instructions given to me. It caused a delay in the doctor's schedule and I felt terrible. I was very sure to never allow that to happen again!"

      Rachelle's Answer for a Wildlife Biologist Interview

      "When working for (X company) as a/an (X position title), we had to complete a project (... what happened in this project which resulted in X mistake on your end). I soon realized this was due to miscommunication as I did not adequately understand my colleague's points she had communicated via email - and I should have instead requested an in-person meeting or a phone call as soon as possible as I had doubts about what needed to be done next. To resolve the situation, I (... what you did to resolve the situation and successfully complete the project in a timely fashion, and what was the final outcome)."

      Sue's Answer for an Editor Interview

      "At my previous internship, I underestimated the amount of time I would need to work on a presentation for a team meeting. Other teammates had some experience and saw that I was struggling a bit. I was still getting used to the workflow in this fast-paced office setting, so I didn't realize that I would need an extra few hours to put a deck together, and I didn't ask for help early on. The workload exceeded the time I had to finish, and I finally asked my manager for help to complete it in time. It was a valuable lesson in time management, and I've become better at listening to team members with more experience. I'm also better at prioritizing and mapping out my schedule as a result of that experience."

      Neha's Answer for a Behavioral Health Technician Interview

      "I was busy updating notes on a patient when I was approached by a doctor who had asked me to take notes on our next patient and record their upcoming session. Since I was multitasking, I did not hear the doctor's request and forgot to record patients ession. The doctor, of course, was a bit disappointed, and I sincerely apologized. From then onwards, I have made it a point to pay attention to anyone who is talking to me even if I am in the middle of something important. It is imperative that as a behavioral health technician, I respect the institution and act in the best interest of my patients."

      Nisha's Answer for an Underwriter Interview

      "When I was a trainee I was asked to perform a simple task of collecting data of our clients and I spent two days in doing that. When I submitted my final report I realized that I had made a mistake and had collected the wrong data. The reason was that although I was paying attention there was a part which I could not listen to the instructions given by my senior clearly and since I was new, I hesitate to ask questions. He bought this to my knowledge and I admitted my mistake and apologized and collected the right information. Since that day I make sure that I listen to everything and ask questions if anything is not clear. I have learned that if you hesitate in asking questions if things are not clear you will end up making mistakes which will be even worse than the hesitation in asking questions in the first place."

      2 Community Answers

      Anonymous Answer

      "I recall one instance where I emailed my supervisor to order a filter paper that we need to perform the test. A few days after, the product came, and it was the wrong size. I checked the product code number, and I saw that I did make a mistake and immediately told my supervisor. I said to my supervisor that I am sorry and that next time, I will double-check the product code number to make sure it is right."

      Rachelle's Answer

      It's great that you owned up to the error rather than trying to hide it. Everyone makes mistakes at work; however, it's more important to the interviewer that you handle these instances with integrity. Well done!

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      Anonymous Answer

      "There was an issue one of my colleagues emailed me, which had to be resolved on a critical priority basis. I did not fully read the email from my co-worker, and I started working on the issue. Once the issue was resolved and informed him, your system was good to go. I had another email stating that he still had a problem. Then I spent an hour to go through the issue and took support from other resources to overcome this. I discussed with the co-worker, then he said let me see the ticket. I realized that I did not read the ticket properly; it was about something else. Since then, I have started developing the habit of reading any kind of information properly so that I do not mislead anyone."

      Rachelle's Answer

      This answer is good because it shows that you took ownership of the error, that you took action to fix the error, and that you improved to avoid the situation from happening again.

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