Because interviewers want real-life examples of how you’ve applied your skills and training to specific situations, you may be faced with fewer traditional interview questions and more behavioral questions, such as, ‘Give me an example of how you deal with conflict.’
Whereas traditional interview questions are based on concrete facts including your educational background, previous jobs and GPA, the rationale behind behavioral interview questions is that the way you’ve performed in the past is a good indicator of how you will perform a job in the future. These questions give you a chance to highlight your abilities and show how the skills you’ve developed will directly benefit the company, organization or team you are placed on.
So when it comes to this or similar behavioral interview questions, interviewers are looking for you to provide an example that illuminates how you deal with difficult situations, how you solve problems, how you respond to challenges, and how you learn. You may also encounter this question in slightly different forms, like, ‘Describe a time when you had to overcome an unexpected challenge or were not agreeing on something with your coworkers.’ Practicing some common behavioral questions, like the one above, can prepare you to answer them successfully during any type of interview.
What Skills Do You Need to Resolve Conflicts?
Some of the best skills or abilities to have or acquire include:
- Skills/abilities with recognizing and addressing problems
- Skills/abilities with recognizing the perspectives of others
- Skills/abilities with negotiating and/or creating a resolution that suits all parties
- Skills/abilities with ensuring that said resolution is carried out successfully
How to Answer the ‘Give Me an Example of How You Deal With Conflict’ Behavioural Interview Question
1. Come Prepared With a Good Example
You can feel pretty confident that you are going to be asked about conflict resolution at some point during the interview. The reality is that there will always be unpleasant people in the workplace, and many personalities that differ from yours. A potential employer wants to know that you will be an asset in these situations, not a detriment. How you deal with conflict is a good indicator of your level of self-control when you are asked to deal with unhappy employees or clients.
Before the interview, come up with an issue from a previous job where conflict was a serious problem. Don’t wing it during the interview. Choose an example that started with a clear problem, definable steps to conquer it, and the ultimate outcome. Avoid poorly defined examples or situations that didn’t turn out well.
Use the STAR method to organize your answer. STAR stands for:
- ST– situation or task, or a clearly identified problem
- A–actions that were taken to resolve the issue
- R– results that show the situation went from negative to positive
2. Don’t Be Glib or Casual
Conflicts in the workplace can be serious, and can greatly cut into productivity and revenue if they aren’t handled correctly. Casual remarks about how you would ‘meet them in the parking lot to sort it out’ or glib comments about ignoring the individual do nothing to highlight your ability to work with difficult or different personalities. Discuss the issue with maturity and calm, rather than making a joke of the situation. Address the conflict head-on – even if you were part of the problem. You’ll have a chance to sell your conflict resolution skills as you wrap up the example, during the results portion of your STAR answer.
3. Keep the Focus on the Positive
Surprisingly enough, conflicts in the workplace can have very satisfying results – if they are handled correctly. While the situation started out negative, don’t dwell on the bad parts when relaying the story. Focus on the positive outcome and the good steps you took to get to the end. While this question can be tricky, the interviewer wants to see how a bad situation became a good one, and focusing on the problem may make you seem more problem-focused instead of solution based.
4. Show Both Sides of the Conflict
It’s easy to make the other party the ‘bad guy’ simply because they aren’t present in the room, but the truth is that your potential employer wants to see you take responsibility for your part in the conflict. Don’t play off your problems, rather address them and take accountability for them. Practice the balance between accepting your weaknesses without focusing on the negative parts of your personality.
Sample ‘Give Me an Example of How You Deal With Conflict’ STAR Interview Answer
I had an upcoming deadline for a client that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to meet. I verbally communicated this fact to my manager and he agreed to speak to the client about a deadline. He forgot the conversation and was upset that my part of the project wasn’t done on time. I calmly reminded him of our verbal agreement, connected with the client and took responsibility for the late work – offering them an additional follow-up after the project was done to make up for the missed deadline. I also suggested to my manager that I would be better about formalizing my plans in writing in the future. After a stressful week, the client was happy and my manager and I had a better understanding of how we should communicate in the future.
Behavioral interview questions require well-thought-out, specific responses to questions that are more abstract in nature. This makes preparation and practice vital before every interview.
1. How do you deal with a stressful situation?
This is a common interview question. Prepare an answer in advance of your interview, one that includes an example that you can walk an interviewer through, and which shows you resolved the stressful situation in a positive, productive manner. Be sure to show both sides of the situation, and consider using the STAR method to answer.
2. How do you deal with a difficult person?
When you answer this question, prove that you can maintain professional composure when dealing with a difficult person.
The key to successfully answering this interview question is to prepare an answer in advance. The STAR method can help you formulate a solid response—describe the Situation/Task, then talk about the Action you took to deal with the difficult person, and from there, go into the Result, which should always reflect a positive outcome.
3. How do you deal with confrontation?
When responding to questions on how you deal with confrontation, emphasize your talents with remaining cool, calm, and collected in the face of tense situations. Then, talk about how you aim to resolve confrontations by making sure all parties involved in the confrontation are heard. Finally, ensure that an agreed-upon resolution is in place, one that works for all parties involved in the confrontation.