How to answer the interview question “How do you manage conflict?”
This is a really popular interview question yet most people I coach find it 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 interview 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.
How to answer the interview question on conflict:
- 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
Possible examples that would work for this interview question:
When you’re giving an example, try to give a recent one and use the STAR method. See my article on competency questions for more information on this.
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
Expect this question to come up in some guise. 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.
About the Author
Laura is a qualified executive coach, EMCC Certified with over 20 years’ experience in executive search and recruitment. She’s recruited at senior management and director level. She’s worked with Accountancy Bodies to provide CPD to their members and has been a guest lecturer with Trinity College Dublin and TU Dublin. Laura has also sat on Public Sector Interview Boards and has been trained by PAS. For a consultation, please call 087 669 1192 or go to https://interviewtechniques.ie/contact/