Assessing Communication and Articulation Capabilities in Software Engineers

Assessing Communication and Articulation Capabilities in Software Engineers

Lucid and Articulate Communicator

The practice of software development frequently requires complex thoughts to be conveyed from one engineer to another. Transforming a concept into a design, and then a working implementation requires that multiple developers share their ideas in ways that are easily understood.

Each engineer prefers to convey and receive information in a different format. Due to these differences, communication often breaks down. While the communication failures are widely varied and diverse, they often fall into one of the following categories.

  • Too little communication – the sharing of knowledge is an extremely effective way for an engineer to improve the overall productivity of the team. Information hoarders focus on improving their own skills, while information distributers focus on improving the skills of their teammates.
  • Too much communication – engineers prone to pontificating seem to approach every conversation as if the goal is to hold the floor as long as possible. While this may be a worthy strategy during a legislative assembly of politicians, it tends to be offensive and unproductive on most software teams. Luckily, most engineers tend to be on the introspective side, so it’s not a frequent problem. However, when a pontificator joins the team, the other engineers often experience frustration, as they feel like they’re continually talked over or not heard.
  • Wrong type of communication – some engineers are unable to speak the language of their customers or business partners. This results from too much focus on technology without truly considering the customer’s needs. This makes it challenging to develop a solution that fully captures the intent of the product.
  • Unclear communication – some engineers have great difficulty articulating their thoughts in a way that other engineers are able to understand. In a collaborative development environment, this characteristic can significantly impede a team’s productivity.

Differing audiences require a variety of information and formats. Stakeholders and business partners expect information based on the language and the needs of the customer. Technology-specific jargon simply complicates the conversation. Discussions among engineers often require a deep dive into the minutia of a particular technology or framework. Leader of technology teams require detailed descriptions of problems, project statuses, and updates on technical or product direction.

Engineers must effectively communicate with all audiences. As technology provides development teams with exponentially expanding volumes of information, the ability to filter, distill, decipher, and convey information becomes increasingly important. Those who lack communication skills will be forced to improve, or risk becoming irrelevant or obsolete.

Sample Interview Questions to Assess Communication Capabilities

If you had the choice to use technology [A] or technology [B] to solve problem [X], which would you choose? Why? This type of question may be used to demonstrate a candidate’s ability to clearly articulate technical concepts.

Tell me about yourself? This type of question may be used to see how a candidate is able to communicate how their skills and experience relate to the role they applied for.

Interviewer describes a situation they encountered and asks the candidate how they would have responded? This type of question may be asked to see if the candidate is able to empathize with the interviewer. It also may be used as a way to determine a candidate’s propensity for listening or to see if a candidate will ask further clarifying questions before providing an answer.

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