Most people go into a job interview prepared to talk about all the things that make them great. You should have stories about all your accomplishments ready to go as well as examples from your past that showcase your skillset. However, sometimes during an interview you might be asked about something that no one likes: conflict. It would certainly be great if everyone always got along in the workplace, and everyone became best friends. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case.
Interviewers are likely to ask job applicants about times where you had to handle conflict. This is to make sure that you are truly a team player and to see how you would resolve disagreements when they come up. Everyone seems nice and pleasant in an interview, but the hiring manager wants to be sure that whenever a clash in personalities comes up, it will not derail workflow.
Certain professions are more likely than others to ask about conflict resolution. For example, if you are applying for a customer service position, then it is very likely you will be asked something about handling arguments because it is a certainty that you will have to deal with an unruly customer at some point, and you should be capable of diffusing the situation maturely. Being asked, “What was a time at work where you had a conflict and how did you respond to it?” is not meant to throw you off your game or trick you into talking about a time where you lost your cool. Always be upbeat and cast yourself in a positive light.
How to Answer a Conflict Question
Admitting that you have had to deal with disagreements in the office is not a sign that you have a volatile personality. Even people who get along wonderfully will occasionally differ on certain topics. There are some very easy steps to follow in order to successfully answer this question.
First, you should be able to describe the situation or project you were working on. You do not have to go into a lot of detail. You just need to provide enough so that the hiring manager understands the context. It is important to pick a situation where the source of the conflict was not your fault. Instead, choose a conflict that was the result of something outside of your control.
Next, talk about how you approached resolving this conflict. This is where the focus of your response should lay. Take the interviewer through the scenario to show exactly what you did. It is good to show that you remained level-headed and professional as you talked the situation through with everyone involved.
Lastly, you need to briefly discuss the results that came from your actions. You are going to need a happy ending in order to really impress your interviewer. Therefore, you want to talk about a dispute that ended with everyone being satisfied and no one being left out. If the squabble was between you and a customer, talk about a time where the customer got what he or she wanted and where you made the company look good in the long run.
Additional Tips for Conflict Questions
Many interviewees might be tempted to say that they have always gotten along with everybody and have never had to deal with a disagreement. This is a bad approach because the interviewer will just think you are trying to avoid answering the question. It is okay to admit that you have gotten into a disagreement with someone as long as you have been able to neutralize the situation.
You also do not want to be too vague with your response. For example, simply saying that you resolve conflicts all the time without giving a specific example will also make the interviewer think that you do not know how to properly handle disputes. Specifics are vital when responding to this portion of the interview.
Finally, you should make sure to practice your response beforehand so that you know exactly what you are going to say. Being unprepared could make you give superfluous details, or you might give an example where you did not handle conflict particularly well. You should be spending plenty of time before an interview going over your responses to questions that are likely to come up. Spend at least a short amount of time talking about workplace quarrels so that you will be ready for anything.