Most people I coach find this question particularly challenging. They assume that the interviewer is looking for an example of a highly charged situation where there’s a complete breakdown of a relationship.
Relax, your examples don’t need to have Hollywood style plots and drama. The key to answering this question well is simply replacing the world conflict with disagreement.
What’s the interviewer looking for?
Every organisation experiences conflict and if managed correctly, this can be a positive thing. Differences of opinion force us to re-examine our assumptions and consider alternative points of view. This can lead to the generation of multiple solutions and thinking outside the box.
Points to include in your answer:
- Focus on the problem not the personality
- Defend your point of view and have back up information to support it. Point out the benefits of your approach
- Be happy to answer any questions and address any concerns raised
- Don’t be afraid to challenge the opposing point of view
- Look for common ground on which to build
- Be open to revising your opinion if you feel it leads to a better outcome
When you’re giving an example, try to give a recent one and use the STAR method.
Good examples could include
- Your involvement in an IT implementation where you and the developers had opposing ideas on how best to proceed
- Your ability to effectively deal with a colleague from a different department with competing priorities (eg finance V sales)
- Your ability to manage people who don’t directly report to you, but on whom you rely to achieve you own goals
Saying you’ve never experienced conflict is not an option. Effectively dealing with conflict, presents you as someone with good negotiation skills and someone who is able to influence the behaviour of others – qualities that are seen as essential for any leadership role.