How Do You Deal With Conflict?

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April 29, 2020
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min read

One of the most common job interview questions is, how do you deal with conflict? Below we'll break down the best way to answer this behavioral interview question. We will also address why it's one of the most frequently asked interview questions.

There are multiple interview questions that are aimed at learning how you handle conflict. Here is a list of key behavioral interview questions targeted around dealing with conflict in the workplace.

  • Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a former coworker or boss
  • How do you handle conflict?
  • What is your method for conflict resolution
  • How do you approach diversity at work?

Why these questions are asked

Regardless of the role, you should prepare to discuss dealing with conflict during your job interview. In almost every job there is some level of conflict. Hiring managers ask about how you handle conflict to make sure you would fit in with their work environment.

How people react when the situation gets difficult is helpful in determining if you are the right person for the job. If the position calls for a lot of conflict resolution, your interview may be centered around these questions.

How to prepare for questions about conflict

Before you go to an interview, think about the type of person you are. When faced with conflicts, how do you react?

Do you stay calm or do you easily lose your cool? Have you had past work experiences that have tested your patience?

Have an example from your past about a time you had to handle a major conflict. You can apply the STAR method when telling the story. Walk the hiring manager through how your actions helped ease a tough situation.

Your answers should always include context. If you just respond by saying, I'm great at handling conflict, you are not really demonstrating that you have the skills to get the job done.

It's important not to say that you do not like conflict or handle it well. If disagreements make you uncomfortable, you can put a positive spin on your example.

If you decide to let your potential employer know that handling conflict is a weakness of yours, make sure you take the time to explain how you will continue to work to improve. Share a related story from your background where you faced a difficult situation and found a way to get through it.

If you are a person whose career requires communication with multiple employees or clients, it's good advice to be ready to discuss these situations at length during an interview. Take some time to think about the way you handle problems.

These could be issues with coworkers or members of the management team. Avoid answering conflict questions with examples where the results were negative.

Instead, provide a past work situation where you were the person to help fix the problem. This could be a project that had a tight deadline or when you dealt with someone who had a different opinion from you. Try to give an example that's relevant to the job you are trying to get.

During your job interview

All employers want to know if their future employees can handle conflict. During all of your job interviews, you will have a chance to ask a question or two. A good question to ask is, can you let me know how often I am going to face possible conflicts?

Having a good understanding of the potential issues will help you make an informed decision if you are the right person for the job. Remember, your interview is the time for you to gather as much information on the company and the role.

Another way to find out if the open role will be faced with conflict is to ask about the previous person in the job. Are there resources in place to handle conflict? Candidates should always ask these questions during their job interviews.

Final thoughts on handling conflict at work

In the end, you never know exactly what you will be met with when you start a new job. Do as much research as you can prior to your interview. Search on job sites such as Glassdoor for feedback from others that have worked at the company. You can also ask current employees you meet for their perspectives on conflict in the workplace.

Most jobs have some level of conflict--that's a given. So decide if you are the right person for the role based on all the information you get during the interview process.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common mistakes to avoid when answering how you deal with conflict in an interview?

When answering how you deal with conflict, avoid being vague, placing blame on others, showing an inability to handle criticism, or suggesting that you avoid conflict altogether. Employers value candidates who can articulate a clear conflict resolution strategy, demonstrate emotional intelligence, and show a willingness to collaborate and learn from challenging situations.

Can you provide an example of a conflict resolution strategy to mention in an interview?

A good example of a conflict resolution strategy is the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Describe a specific situation where conflict arose, the task or goal that was at risk, the action you took to address the conflict, and the positive result or resolution that followed. This method shows your problem-solving skills and ability to navigate disagreements constructively.

How can I show that I am a good team player when discussing conflict resolution in an interview?

To demonstrate that you're a good team player, focus on examples where you collaborated with others to resolve conflict. Highlight your ability to listen actively, respect different viewpoints, and seek a compromise or consensus. Emphasize any outcomes that benefited the team as a whole, such as improved communication, stronger relationships, or enhanced team performance.

Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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