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Answering “How do You Deal with Conflict?”

Conflict is something we have to deal with on a daily basis.  How we handle it is a reflection of the type of professional we are. That’s why the question “How do you handle conflict?” gets asked in interviews.  When asked about your ability to deal with conflict, be prepared to explain your overall philosophy and give examples:

  • Show that you are confident in your ability to handle conflict.
  • Focus on how you create win-win situations.
  • Demonstrate how you modify your approach depending on your relationship with the other person:
    • With a coworker, a proper response would be to attempt to work it out with that person.  If a resolution can’t be reached, then call in a supervisor.
    • With a customer, include your ability to let the customer vent, listen to and identify the problem, and try to solve the problem along with follow-up to ensure customer is satisfied
  • Focus on how you deal with the conflict constructively. Avoid sharing a situation that ends in a fight or you quitting.
  • Regardless of the type of situation you discuss, do not speak negatively about anyone, co-worker or customer.

A short but specific example of a time when you were able to resolve a conflict is important.  For example:

I sat down with my co-worker at company x and asked what her issues were.  Then I stated my concerns.  We both discussed our most important issues and the ones we could compromise on.  Once we identified and prioritized common goals, we decided together what to give up and what to keep.  Both of us felt like we were gaining something and were instrumental in the compromise.

Have several examples ready and, if possible, use one that relates to the job you would be doing for this company. For example, if the job is customer-focused, pick an example of dealing with a customer. If you would be managing people, share an example of resolving a conflict with someone on your team.

By using your interview answer to highlight your interpersonal skills, you will be able to show your maturity level and ability to stay calm in the face of difficulty.

Read more:


Handling Tough Interview Questions

4 Comments

  1. Joe
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Funny thing – I have never resolved an on-the-job conflict peacefully or rationally, and I don’t know of anyone who has. In my experience, that’s all hooey. When you get a job, you’re going to be disappointed if you think it’s going to be anything but a weasel riot.

  2. Posted September 15, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Companies now are paying more and more attention to this issue as it negatively impacts workplace productivity. If you feel that there are no resources at your workplace to help you, there are plenty outside resources on the internet. Here is an example of tips on resolving conflict: http://www.examiner.com/workplace-issues-in-national/tips-for-resolving-workplace-conflict.

    Hope this helps.

    -James

  3. Posted December 15, 2011 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    Conflict is one thing that is present almost every day of our lives. We just have to keep ourselves composed, learn to weigh things, be objective and think positive. Having these, conflict will never be too difficult to handle.

    Natalie Loopbaanadvies

  4. Posted December 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Well put Natalie. Have examples of times you were composed and objective to use in interviews. That way you can demonstrate your ability to handle conflict. As you say, it’s part of life.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Carrie Krueger, Jobfully. Jobfully said: Tricky #interview question: "How do you handle conflict?" Ideas for a winning answer: http://bit.ly/iemka6 [...]

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