Conflict resolution interview questions (With sample answers)
Updated 10 March 2023
Preparing how to answer interview questions is one of the steps to getting a job. During interviews, the hiring manager can ask you questions relating to conflict resolution in the workplace. Learning how to answer these questions can make you feel calm and in control during the interview. In this article, we consider different conflict resolution interview questions and how to answer them, along with sample answers.
Conflict resolution interview questions
Employers ask candidates conflict-resolution interview questions to assess how well they can resolve conflict in the workplace and manage stress. The following are some of the questions about conflict hiring managers may ask:
1. How do you handle conflict?
When employers ask this question, they want to assess your ability to work well with other people in a professional and respectful manner. This is because when in the workplace, you may meet other employees with contrasting personalities, opinions and perspectives and it's only natural for the differences to lead to conflict. It's crucial your potential employer ascertains if you have sufficient emotional maturity to handle conflicts.
Try to be honest when answering this question. For example, avoid depicting yourself as someone who can handle conflicts, when in fact you struggle with them. Instead, admit to the hiring manager how you're still working to improve how you manage conflict and provide examples of your efforts.
Example: 'Formerly, I thought everyone had the same pattern of reasoning, but since I started collaborating and networking with people, I realised that we are all unique with our different personalities and thought processes. So, when working with people and conflicting issues arise, I collaborate with others to resolve them so that everyone involved benefits.
I try not to be self-centred, thinking only about my opinions, but instead, try to better appreciate and understand the views of others. I should say that I'm yet to master this, as sometimes I can become defensive when trying to get others to see my perspective. I admit I'm still working on managing this behaviour as I've taken to thinking carefully before speaking and listening to the other party to understand their thought process. In addition, I pause and take deep breaths to stay calm.'
2. Have you ever handled conflict at work? Provide an example.
Your employers may want to hear about an experience you had resolving conflict at work. The question allows you to explain how you utilised your conflict resolution skills and helps employers assess the steps you take when resolving conflict at work and your teamwork skills. You can answer this question by providing an example of a conflict between you and your teammate. You can consider using the situation, task, action and result (STAR) method to answer this question:
Situation: Here, you describe the conflict or challenge.
Task: Explain your role in the issue.
Action: Discuss the contributions you made to resolve the conflict.
Result: Describe the outcome of your contributions.
Example: 'During collaborative work on a team project, I noticed that one of the team members had a habit of challenging every solution I presented concerning the project. He also interrupted other members while they spoke and would only express his own ideas without appreciating the input of others. We ended up arguing because I wasn't pleased with the way he interrupted others. Our respective managers had to intervene and counselled us on our behaviour. As a result, I resolved to change the way I handled this kind of situation.
I realised that I could not change his behaviour and that maybe he was behaving in this manner due to the workload we were handling at that time. I also felt stressed during that period. I believed this also impacted my behaviour, so I decided to apply emotional intelligence. I communicated with more empathy and accepted the interruptions with patience and understanding. I believe the method worked because we were able to complete the project without further heated arguments and we also worked on other projects after that, maintaining polite correspondence.'
Related: 10 online job interview tips
3. Explain a situation where you handled disagreements when working as part of a team
Conflict can arise when working with different people in a team. Every team member brings their own working styles to the project, which may differ considerably from yours, resulting in conflict. Answer this question by explaining how you work with different people to accomplish team goals amidst arguments and disagreements. You can also use the STAR method to break down the resolution step by step.
Example: 'I remember an experience I had when working with a group to prepare a leadership presentation. We were responsible for conceptualising the presentation and developing action plans to implement it.
Two team members suggested that we hold daily meetings to discuss the program and monitor progress during the project. But the other team members and I didn't think it necessary since we already had a log to report and track task progress and completion. We felt that since every team member understood their own contribution, it would be more effective to spend time completing the project than attending unnecessary meetings. After much deliberation, we decided to hold the daily meetings, but limit them to fifteen minutes. '
4. Explain a situation where you managed a disagreement with your supervisor
There are times when you might disagree with your supervisor over a task or decision. This question assesses how you respond to and resolve conflicts with an authority figure. When answering this question, explain the event one step at a time so that you don't rush and miss the essential details, as this is a sensitive question.
Example: 'I was preparing data from past successful projects to aid our department's request for funds for a new project. My supervisor then suggested that we delete the projects that weren't as successful. I told them that deleting the records could make the data unreliable, but she insisted. After considering it and discussing the issue with another manager who saw nothing wrong with it, I removed the data from unsuccessful projects. I changed the statement in the data report to show that the current data only represented the successful projects.
I also put in writing that we removed the less successful data from the reported result. I had to document it in case of an audit in future. While my supervisor had reasons to request the data removal, I also didn't want to be in a situation where they might question my integrity and I wouldn't have evidence to defend myself. Thankfully, we received the funding for our new project.'
Related: 44 Engineering interview questions
How to answer conflict-resolution interview questions
During an interview, there are many potential questions relating to conflict resolution. Here are some general principles for answering them:
1. Explain step-by-step
Following the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique: start by briefly describing the situation that led to the conflict, followed by your role. Next, explain how you became involved in the conflict and what you wanted to accomplish. Afterwards, try explaining how you responded to the problem, describing the actions you took. In addition, discuss the steps you took to resolve the conflict.
Finally, let the interviewers know the consequences of the actions you took to resolve the dispute. Describe the exact result, such as a promotion, increase in sales, approval of project funds, successful delivery of the project or a positive review.
2. Ensure your answer is relevant to the question
Listen carefully to the hiring manager when they ask their questions and ask them to clarify when you don't understand. Avoid giving irrelevant answers or long stories that don't address the question. Likewise, avoid vague or generic answers; they might have heard the same answer from ten other candidates and you aim to stand out. Instead, provide specific responses that are clear to the interviewer so they can understand your approach to conflict resolution.
3. Practise your answer
While you may not know the exact interview questions they may ask about conflict management, you can take the few you've researched, develop your answers and practise before the day of the interview. You can ask a friend or family to pose as the interviewer, asking you the questions while you answer. You can also practise in front of a mirror. Keep practising until you learn the words and remember them. Practising can make you confident during the interview and you can remember every important detail.
4. Ensure you answer the question
Avoid the temptation of saying you've never encountered any conflict. This is why it's necessary to prepare because you have enough time to think about and remember the conflicts and how you managed them. Also, avoid mentioning conflict you didn't handle well as the information serves no purpose either to you or the interviewer. They only want to know how well you can work with people, handle disagreements and find a way to resolve issues and work together again productively.
Explore more articles
- What are housekeeper duties in a hospital? (Plus jobs)
- How To Write an HR Assistant CV, With Tips and Examples
- How To Write an Effective Nursery Assistant Cover Letter
- Pharmacy assistant skills: definition and examples
- How to write an engineering student CV (with example)
- How to write an artistic CV (With template and example)
- How To Write an Effective Assistant Buyer Cover Letter
- How to write a supermarket cashier cover letter (with tips)
- How to write a picker packer CV (With steps and example)
- Writing a legal secretary CV (with template and example)
- Guide to a career break in a CV: how to explain it to employers
- How to write work experience on a CV (Tips and example)