This interview question is commonly asked to gain an understanding of your personality and interpersonal skills. By probing your attitude and approach to conflict, the interviewer can judge how you will interact with stakeholders involved and decide whether you are a good fit for their company. When answering behavioural questions, the CARL technique proves to be helpful:
Example Answer (Experienced)
Context: “Oh, I actually handle it quite well. A recent example of this is when I was working as a [Job title] at [Company XYZ]. I reached out to a prospect via email without knowing that my coworker had already been in contact. Once I closed the deal, I was confronted by my coworker who was clearly upset.
Action: To alleviate negative emotions and understand my coworker’s perspective, I started asking questions. I apologized for the inconvenience and arranged a short meeting later that day to check the CRM and see where it went wrong.
Results: Apparently, my coworker forgot to log the activity so I was unaware about her interaction with the potential client. She understood it was a genuine mistake and we decided to share the commission.
Learning: What I’ve learned from this situation, is to so-called ‘move past positions‘. Often the position is “This is my client!” or “This coworker is impossible to work with!”. To resolve this specific conflict, I had to put effort into understanding my coworker’s perspective, check the CRM and offer a reasonable solution.”
Example Answer (No Experience)
“Well, I am naturally a calm and positive person who wants to get on with everyone, so I don’t get into conflicts that much. I do, however, remember this one time when I had to work in a 5-person team for a particular project at [University XYZ].
It quickly became apparent that one team member acted out of character. She would dismiss my contributions and ignore me during team meetings. I started out by assessing my own and her actions to see if the situation was accurate or over exaggerated.
I then decided to speak to her in private to clear the tension. As soon as I raised my concerns, she immediately apologized and said she found it difficult to adapt to new situations and concepts. From then on, everything was fine and we collaborated closely together.”
Interview Question Tips
- Don’t say you’ve never experienced conflict in the workplace and therefore can’t answer the question. You need to provide a real-life OR hypothetical situation to prove you actually obtain the necessary qualifications to deal with conflict.
- Do highlight your ability to remain calm and composed, emphasize the effectiveness of listening AND the power of a rational and reasonable approach to conflict.