Interview Answers: How Do You Handle Conflict?


Conflict is a natural part of human interaction, as people are never in complete agreement all of the time. The key is what you do about it, which is why an interviewer nearly always asks how you handle conflict on the job. Your answers should showcase your ability to focus on priorities and get the job done, while maintaining good working relationships.

Honesty is the Best Policy

  • The conflict question nearly always comes up in an interview, according to an April 2012 article on the Vault Career Intelligence website. It’s one of the best ways for an interviewer to get a feel for a candidate's personal style and determine how that person interacts with others. Above all, give an honest answer. The purpose of this question -- as with all behaviorally based questions -- is to determine how well you will fit into the organization. If you pretend to be someone you’re not, it’s likely to mean trouble down the road.

Get Ready

  • Practice giving a response to a question about your conflict-resolution skills. Review your career or -- if this is your first job -- your interactions with friends or teachers. Identify one or more instances in which you were able to resolve a conflict, and pick out the traits or skills that made you successful. Write and rehearse a response, either in front of a mirror or with a trusted friend, coworker or mentor. Ask for feedback on your approach and presentation.

Structure Your Response

  • On the Big Interview website, interview coach Pamela Skillings suggests using the STAR technique to answer how you have dealt with conflicts on the job. STAR stands for situation/task, approach and results. Describe the situation briefly and neutrally, so the interviewer understands the context of the conflict. Then describe what you did. Finally, describe the results. Keep your words neutral and the focus of your reply on the successful outcome of the conflict. Never badmouth other individuals or crow over your success, as the interviewer might think you’re more interested in showing up co-worker than solving the problem.

Turn a Negative Around

  • Not all conflicts end well. If you’ve had a negative experience, describe it and highlight your ability to learn from your mistakes. Ideally, be prepared with a two-part answer -- one about the bad outcome and another later experience in which you successfully resolved a second conflict. Explain what you learned about yourself and how you changed your approach or behavior to resolve a conflict after the negative experience. Remember that your goal is to present yourself as a person the interviewer wants to hire -- a reasonable team player who is able to learn from mistakes.

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